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 Weather Detective The    Australian    project    was    configured    like    Oldweather,    but    concentrated    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.

Data Rescue: Archives and Weather (DRAW)

Volunteers   participate   in   this   Canadian   project   by   transcribing   the   data   contained   in   historical   weather logs   held   at   the   McGill   weather   observatory.   Going   back   to   1874,   the   data   will   be   made   available   for scientific   research.      The   project   team   includes   atmospheric   science   experts,   information   scienctists experts, archivists, programmers, volunteer coders and students.

Australian Weather Folios Project

For   the   past   20   years,   The   Australian   Meteorological   Association   has   a   self-directed   team   of   citizen science   volunteers   hosted   by   the   Adelaide   office   of   the   Australian   Bureau   of   Meteorology.   Working with   the   South Australian   Weather   Folios   and   records   (1879-1957)   and   numerous   Lighthouse   journals, they   rescue   weather   records   that   cover   Australia   and   the   southwestern   Pacific.   They   have   created 110,000   images   of   the   records   and   recovered   almost   ½   million   data   points,   mainly   covering   the   latter half   of   the   19th   Century.   The      team   specialises   in   creating   and   curating   commercial-grade   images   of weather   journals,   including   badly   degraded   paper   records.      The   original   journals   contain   so   much handwritten   data   (possibly   a   billion   data   points),   contemporary   digitising   events   will   never   be   able   to capture   it   all.   Thus,   the   images   must   be   curated   in   digital   form   for   future   reference   and   capture.   The journal   images   are   available   at   the   team’s   website , A   smaller   set   of   19th   century   Canadian   images    are also hosted for the DRAW Project.

Operation Weather Rescue

Operation Weather Rescue This   citizen   science   activity   is   aimed   at   rescuing   land-based   station   observations   using   volunteers. Phase   1   recovered   1.5   million   hourly   weather   observations   from   three   nearby   sites   in   Scotland between   1883-1904,   with   more   than   3500   volunteers   contributing.   Phase   2   rescued   1.8   million   sub- daily   and   daily   observations   from   more   than   70   stations   across   the   UK,   Ireland   and   western   Europe that    were    recorded    in    the    UK    Met    Office’s    Daily    Weather    Reports    during    1900-1910.    Phase    3 completed   the   rescue   of   0.5   million   observations   from   the   UK   Daily   Weather   Reports   for   1861-1875. The   project   will   be   relaunched   in   2020   to   recover   more   data   from   pre-1900,   with   a   focus   on   pre-1850 temperature observations from both land and sea.
“Consolidating the paper record presents a major challenge…”
“Crowd sourcing citizen scientists to recover 1.6 million data items…”