19th Century Ship Records Being Used to Improve Weather Forecast

19th Century Ship Records Being Used to Improve Weather Forecast

Nineteenth century ship records are being used to improve long-range weather forecasting. The forecasting is essential for agricultural planning and to see extreme weather events like El Niño, La Niña or storms.

The project called as the Weather Detectives is being operated as part of the ABC's National Science Week in combination with the University of Southern Queensland.

It is used to decode tens of thousands of historical weather logbooks, which dated between 1882 and 1903 from ships such as the SS Jelunga.

Former Queensland government meteorologist Clement Wragge gathered the logbooks and involved the ships that travel within the immediate Australasian area.

The logbooks contain the information like sea water temperatures, barometric pressure, cloud cover, wind direction, wind strength and swell. Logs provide information about what life was like at that time, as well as what the weather was like.

Citizen scientists can be any member of the public who has free time and a working internet connection.

To increase the breadth of science, the project makes use of people power, said USQ International Centre for Applied Climate Sciences researcher Christa Pudmenzky. The volunteers will translate raw logbook data and then this translated data will be added to a database called Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE). The ACRE tries to arrange a full history of the planet's weather back to 1850.

"Climate variability leads to economic and food security risks because it has a major influence on agriculture. Predicting the future is easier with the past and gaining as much information about past weather is very helpful for forecasters", Ms. Pudmenzky.

According to Ms. Pudmenzky, climate forecasts made three-six months in advance could give farmers, policymakers and others a future prospect of what to expect in the coming months.

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