Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions  over the Earth
Data Rescue Citizen Science

The Hunt for Historical Data

Since   the   1960s,   most   weather   and   climate   records   have   been   routinely   computerised.   Before   that,   all records   were   written   on   paper.      Scattered   and   often   lost   in   old   cupboards,   stacked   on   shelves,   all-but forgotten   in   archives,   there   is   a   rich   source   of   documents   containing   weather   observations   going   back more   than   250   years.      These   include   extensive   ship-based   measurements   and   observations   taken   at weather    stations,    observatories,    on    ships,    in    schools,    at    churches    and    farms    and    towns.    This storehouse   of   old   data   can   help   us   understand   today’s   weather   and   climate   and   predict   how   climate might   change   in   future.      Once   digitised,   the   data   can   be   fed   into   computerised   weather   reanalysis systems,   such   as   those   run   by ACRE   partners   and   facilitated   by   data   collected   and   digitised   by ACRE,        which dynamically recreate in great detail 4D global weather going back 150 years or more. Locating,   imaging   and   digitising   old   weather   data   is   a   time   consuming   activity.   One   of   ACRE’s   core activities   is   to   support   citizen   science   initiatives   that   carry   out   the   vital   work   of   building   a   global database of historical, dense and quality-checked climate data. Citizen    science    is    scientific    work    conducted    generally    by    amateur    or    nonprofessional    scientists.      Citizen   scientists   are   typically   volunteers   who   donate   their   time   to   projects   that   have   short   to   medium timelines,   some   working   from   home   and   others   working   in   an   office.   Citizen   scientists   are   crucial   to ACRE   as   few   funding   sources   would   cover   the   extensive   costs   of   paid-staff   required   for   the   10,000’s hours   involved   rescuing      millions   of   historic   weather   readings.   Without   the   help   of   citizen   scientists, much of our climate heritage would be lost.

Examples of ACRE-allied citizen science initiatives are:

Old Weather

This   web-based   initiative   uses   a   form   of   citizen   science   called   ‘crowd   sourcing’,   a   format   that   attracts citizen   scientists   to   contribute   their   work   over   the   Internet.      It   specialises   in   recovering   data   from   ship logbooks,   data   which   is   needed   to   complement   historical   observations   from   land-based   readings.   The internet   volunteers   “join   the   crew”   of   a   ship   that   once   plied   the   oceans   and   work   to   digitise   it’s logbooks.   As   images   are   presented   on-screen,   the   “crew   members”   type   the   data   they   see.      In   this way   they   have   recovered   1.6   million   new   weather   observations   from   28,000+   pages   of   Royal   Navy logbooks   covering   1914-1923.   Their   work   has   considerably   added   to   the   historical   depth   of   the        International   Comprehensive   Ocean-Atmosphere   Data   Set   (ICOADS)   marine      data   repository.   In   the second   phase   of   this   project,   volunteers   are   transcribing   the   logbooks   of   US   Government   ships   that travelled   in   the Arctic   and   other   destinations   in   the   mid-19th   century.      To   date   over   85,000   pages   have been transcribed adding  marine weather readings to our climate history. How crowd sourcing helps climate analysis (video) Oldweather digitises whaling ships Oldweather digitises US naval ships Also   see   the   Australian   Weather   Detective ,   configured   like   Oldweather,   but   concentrating   on   the logbooks   of   commercial   ships   sailing   to   and   from   Australia   in   the   1890’s   to   early   1900’s.      To   date 400,000 lines of weather data have been digitised. First outputs  (video)

International Environmental Data Rescue Organization (IEDRO)

IEDRO’s    mission    is    to    locate,    rescue,    image    and    digitize    historic    climate    data,    particularly    in developing   countries.      Run   by   volunteers,   the   organization   works   on   site   with   owners   of   climate   data, providing   “in-a-box”   solutions   to   image   and   digitise   their   historical   weather   records.      The   data   owners, typically    national    meteorological    services,    are    provided    with    computers,    camera    equipment    and training   to   image   their   records.      Data   on   the   images   is   then   digitised   by   data   entry   personnel,   or   if   the images   are   strip   charts,   the   digitising   is   done   automatically   by   software.      The   data   are   then   made available worldwide through environmental World Data Centers.

Canadian Historical Climate Data

Volunteers   working   remotely   type   up   historical   weather   data   from   early   Canadian   observers.   These observations   going   back   to   the   1740s   are   sourced   from   newspapers   and   diaries   kept   by   explorers, commercial agents and military establishments.

Australian Weather Folios Project

The Australian   Meteorological Association,   working   from   the Adelaide   offices   of   the Australian   Bureau of   Meteorology   is   imaging   and   digitising   data   from   the   South   Australian   weather   folios,   1879-1959.     Over   the   past   8   years,   the   team   of   12   volunteers   have   created   80,000   images   of   the   records   and recovered   350,000   data   points,   mainly   covering   the   SW   Pacific   for   the   latter   half   of   the   19th   Century. A subset   of   the   project’s   images   are   available   on   their   website   while   the   data   have   been   included   in   the ISPD and the ISTI for access by researchers.
“Consolidating the paper record presents a major challenge…”
“Crowd sourcing citizen scientists to recover 1.6 million data items…”