Data Rescue


Millions of weather observations taken over a century ago are not available to climate scientists as they only exist as hand-written measurements in various logbooks stored in archives around the world. GloSAT will use a 'citizen science' approach to recover observations and make them usable. The focus is on measurements taken on board ships travelling through the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific ocean basins.


There are three strands to the data-rescue activities:

1. Standardizing data transcribed by the ACRE project

National and Thematic affiliates of  The Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) project conduct data-rescue by engaging individual researchers. A large number of logbooks have been transcribed and are stored in individual spreadsheets (figure 1). However, these observations are recorded in various formats, frequencies and units, rendering them unusable for systematic research. As a part of the GloSAT data-rescue effort, the data in these spreadsheets is standardised, quality checked, and formatted into a widely used research format (IMMA).

Figure 1: Ship tracks of HOPE, travelling westward was part of the first Russian Circumnavigation Expedition (1803-1806), with sea-level pressure (SLP) measured through the journey (inset)


2. Processing Old Weather – WWII data

The Old Weather - WWII citizen science zooniverse project, led by NOAA, involves the transcription of US cruiser and destroyer logbooks (deployed during WWII) by volunteers. These logbooks contain 4-hourly meteorological observations, with parameters including Sea-level pressure (SLP), air temperature (AT) and sea-surface temperature (SST). These vessels traversed mainly the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (figure 2).  The transcribed data generated through the zooniverse platform is processed and quality controlled, producing invaluable WWII daily weather data.


Figure 2: Ship tracks of the US Navy Ship Salt Lake City, 1941


3. New citizen-science project

A new citizen-science project is being created on zooniverse, which aims to fill-in gaps in space and time in global climate datasets by strategically prioritizing logbooks. Focusing on logbooks containing at least air temperature (AT) or sea-surface temperature (SST) observations. Logbooks (figure 3) archived at the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) are best suited to produce data in the early-industrial time period with global coverage. They contain six, 4-hourly, meteorological observations per day.


Figure 3: Sample logbook image used in the new citizen-science zooniverse project


The data generated through the GloSAT project will help fill many crucial gaps in the large climate datasets (e.g. the International and Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set, ICOADS,, which will be used to generate new estimates of the industrial and pre-industrial era baseline climate. More generally, these data and data from other historical sources are used to improve the models and reanalysis systems used in climate and weather research.