Interested in the future of Earth's climate? Some of the answers might lie in the past, and you can help find them by making notations the weather logs from 238 Royal Navy vessels (like gunboats and battleships) from the turn of the years surrounding the first World War. Old Weather, a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the International Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth,and the UK National Archives and others, makes use of citizens like yourself to transcribe logs from which computer projects will be made.

How can you help?

Using the Old Weather flash interface, participants digitize scans of Royal Navy records from over 200 ships. Just as we have trouble when converting scans of easy to read handwritten text to a searchable pdf, the problem with converting ship records is even more complex, as these Naval records are written in ornate script, and transcribing them is a task that can be performed much more accurately by a human. The study calls for each portion of a ship's log is to be digitized in full by at least three people, so that the results can be compared for accuracy. There are over 250,000 daily logs in this project alone, a talk that would take over 28 years if it was performed by a single individual.

How do you starting recording data?

Pick a ship (I picked the HMS Dublin), and you will be asked to digitize information like wind direction, temperature, and general weather conditions like cloud cover. These notations were taken every few hours in most logs, with the frequency increasing when poor weather conditions were present. Some logs included more advanced information like barometric pressure and interesting landmarks. Additionally, the position of each ship was recording once a day using longitude and latitude coordinates obtained by triangulating radio frequencies. This allows the climate data to be plotted in geographic manner, and observe if any trends were present in the area and compare them to weather data collected over the past century along with current weather information. To help you record data, a text entry box is present with drop down cues to remind you what to look for in the logs.

Informing Climate Projections

This data will be used to inform current climate models, particularly in situations where extreme weather witnessed, and possibly make better predictions as to when and where such weather might occur again due to historical variability. They also help inform sets of climate projections for Earth's near future. So, if you don't want to stare at Greek letters and would like something a little more recent, take a look at a couple of these weather logs and help out some scientists researching climate change, something impacts all of us.

Images courtesy of Old Weather.