Help needed with weather data

Te Awamutu Courier - - News -

NIWA cli­mate sci­en­tists are call­ing for vol­un­teers to un­earth weather se­crets from the past — in­clud­ing those recorded by mem­bers of Cap­tain Robert Scott’s doomed trip to the South Pole in 1912.

Scott and his four-man team per­ished in Antarc­tica and their bod­ies were left on the ice — but the weather records they made on their ex­pe­di­tion were re­trieved.

Now those records — plus mil­lions of daily ob­ser­va­tions made by early ex­plor­ers, peo­ple on whal­ing ships, cargo ships and light­houses around New Zealand and the South­ern Ocean be­fore the 1950s — are needed by sci­en­tists try­ing to find out more about cli­mate change.

That’s why NIWA is launch­ing a huge cit­i­zen sci­ence project seek­ing vol­un­teers to key in in­for­ma­tion from hand­writ­ten weather log­books into a com­puter database.

NIWA cli­mate sci­en­tist Pe­tra Pearce says the more we know about our past weather, the bet­ter we can ac­cu­rately pre­dict cli­mate pat­terns to­day and into the fu­ture.

“There are big gaps in weather records be­fore the 1950s. This makes it harder to work out fu­ture changes in our cli­mate,” says Pe­tra.

“But by re­cov­er­ing many of these records and digi­tis­ing them, we can feed the in­for­ma­tion into weather re­con­struc­tions that help us un­der­stand how rapidly this im­por­tant part of the Earth is chang­ing. The more ob­ser­va­tions we have, the more cer­tainty we have about the con­di­tions at the time.”

The weather records — some dat­ing back to the mid-1800s — were nor­mally metic­u­lously kept in log­books, with en­tries made sev­eral times a day record­ing in­for­ma­tion such as tem­per­a­ture, baro­met­ric pres­sure and wind di­rec­tion as well as com­ments about cloud cover, snow drifts or rain­fall.

How­ever, most of this valu­able in­for­ma­tion has never been tran­scribed and has not pre­vi­ously been used by sci­en­tists for modelling.

“We have 150,000 im­ages of log­book pages from ar­chives in the UK and Scan­di­navia that need to be keyed,” says Pe­tra.

“Each image has about six days of data which can in­clude up to 70 pieces of in­for­ma­tion.

“That adds up to mil­lions of ob­ser­va­tions to key over the course of the project.”

Any­one can log on to the South­ern Weather Dis­cov­ery web­site and im­me­di­ately start key­ing in data and do as much or as lit­tle as they like.

Pe­tra says they are hop­ing to have 250,000 com­pleted ob­ser­va­tions by the mid­dle of next year and she is ex­tremely grate­ful for any help.

The weather data will be fed into global daily weather re­con­struc­tions go­ing back to the 1800s to give bet­ter daily weather an­i­ma­tions and a longer-term per­spec­tive of events that oc­curred in the past.

“It will also help us un­der­stand how the weather gen­er­ated form Antarc­tica and the South­ern Ocean im­pacts on New Zealand.”

The project is part of an ini­tia­tive called ACRE Antarc­tica, led by NIWA sci­en­tists within the Deep South Na­tional Sci­ence Chal­lenge, and is also sup­ported by the Coper­ni­cus Cli­mate Change Ser­vice.

Help key in weather data at www.souther­weath­erdis­cov­ery.org

Photo / Sup­plied

Cap­tain Robert Scott's trip to the South Pole in 1912. The ex­plor­ers per­ished and were left on the ice — but the weather records they kept were re­cov­ered.

Photo / Sup­plied

NIWA cli­mate sci­en­tist Pe­tra Pearce is call­ing for the pub­lic to help with a project to digi­tise his­toric weather records.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.