Principal Investigator: Professor Graeme Morton (University of Dundee)

Funding Body: The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada)

Funding Competition: Insight Development Grant (2013-2016)

For most months in the year, Scotland is the wettest and the cloudiest part of Britain, and it can be windy, too: the Hebrides and Shetland experience on average 35 and 42 days respectively of gales each year. Even though it's a narrow country, Scotland's coast is sunnier than its interior, with the highest days of average sunshine recorded each year in Moray and the Outer Hebrides at around 1,300 hours (although Shetland measures only around 1,100 hours). And while the northernmost parts of Scotland can average four hours more daylight than London during the height of the summer, on average Scotland's crops are warmed less by the sun than the crops in England, with the southern coast of Britain benefiting from over 1,750 hours of sunshine on average each year.

Emigration agents routinely presented the attraction of a 'better' climate to potential Scots migrants. The two full-time agents appointed by Canada's post-Confederation Department of Agriculture used pictures of the gleaming sun above the prairies to persuade Scots of the advantages of a life free from near constant cloud cover and persistent rain. Those promoting Canada were also known to disparage the heat of Australia for any Western European migrant, claiming it especially inhospitable to the fair-skinned Gael. Historians have collected these kinds of evidence alongside irregularly recorded accounts of weather in the New World. Simple meteorological observations are found in migrant letters and on-board diaries as well as noted in emigrant guides, emigration promotion literature and in government reports.

No systematic attempt has been made to establish if correlations exist between meteorological extremes and patterns of overseas migration, yet Scotland offers one of the world's best case studies: Europe's longest run of gale data are logged in one of Europe's leading emigrant nations. Measured per head of the population, and if migration to England is included, then Scotland was Europe's greatest exporter of people during the age of European migration. Spanning the two centuries under investigation, a reduction of 22 gale days per year is recorded along with various peaks of activity. The evidence also points to a year of increased gale activity being followed by a further year of above average stormy weather. Combined with regional meteorological data, collated together for the first time, this project will test for relationships between extreme weather and migration flows, focusing on the main periods of heightened emigration: 1840s, 1881-90, 1911-30, 1950s-1960s.