Studying past climates has actually proven to be rather difficult. Thermometers did not have much of a prominence until about 1850, so the records before that tend to have some major gaps. Scientists have been pretty creative in figuring out past patterns, though. Historical records have proven to be helpful with figuring out the past weather. Logs, diaries, lists of when wine harvests began, reports of ice breaking up and mentions of trees blossoming all help scientists understand past climate patterns.
Scientists can also study tree rings and sediment composition to tell times of growth, changes in chemical composition of soil etc. that all can be affected by the weather.
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