Philip Brohan, Volunteer online transcription of historical climate records

Interested in observation, and particularly extreme weather such as torrential rain, storms.

Morning of 16 Oct 1987, Great Storm in SE England, have weather records for that day, coloured by pressure. Low pressure – storminess. Can we understand its dynamics, can we predict it? Take observations and model them.

Previous big storm was 1703, so if we’re interested in climatology of storms, we need 100s years of records, and need them for everywhere in the world. Europe is well represented, but, say, Antarctica is not. Even in 1987, we didn’t have good records for there.

1918, rather badly observed period of time. People were distracted from weather observations (!).

This is the problem we’re trying to solve. We need more weather observations from 1918. Easy part of the problem: Public Records Office has a tremendous amount of info in their archive. Weather data potentially available if we can extract data.

Ship’s log of HMS Invincible, covers 1914 – 1915. Records actions each hour, and takes weather observations every 4 hours, six per day. Full weather obs. World’s collective archives have millions of these observations, and they are tremendously useful.

Started photographing the logbooks, 250k images. Tried OCR, doesn’t work. Using citizen science project to solve this problem.

Working with the people at Zooniverse, collaborating with them for 5 months. Funded by JISC.

At the moment developing the systems, Old Weather won’t be live for another month. You can pick a ship, join the crew of that ship and start to extract that information from its logbook: date, location, weather information. Doing some beta tests at the moment, hope that in a few weeks time it’ll be launched as a real project.

There is other information in these log books that might be of more interest to others. Expecting to find a lot of this sort of data, e.g. Invincible on 8 Dec 1914, at 5am it was engaged with Battle of the Falkland Islands.

Mostly, don’t know what is in these log books, so need to find out.

[I’m personally very excited about this project as I’m working with the Zooniverse chaps on a small part of it, so very please to see it’s close to launch!]