NOAA, National Archives team up with citizen-scientists to reconstruct historical climate of the Arctic

A page from the log book of the US Navy steamer Bear, June 22, 1884. The Bear's logs are included in the Old Weather-Arctic citizen science project. (Credit: National Archives.)

Before there were satellites or weather data transmitters or computer databases, there were Arctic sea voyages and sailors dutifully recording weather observations in ship logs. Now a new crowdsourcing effort could soon make a wealth of weather data from these ship logs available to climate scientists worldwide.
NOAA, National Archives and Records Administration, Zooniverse — a citizen science web portal — and other partners are seeking volunteers to transcribe a newly digitized set of ship logs dating to 1850. The ship logs, preserved by NARA, are from U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Revenue Cutter voyages in the Arctic between 1850 and the World War II era.

“We hope to unlock millions of weather, sea ice and other environmental observations which are recorded in these documents,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “These observations represent one of the largest and most underutilized collections of meteorological and marine environmental data in existence. Once converted into digital formats, new analyses of these data will help provide new insights.”

Organizers hope to enlist thousands of volunteers to transcribe scanned copies of logbook pages via the Old Weather project – The principal aim of the project is to improve understanding of global climate, but the information recorded in these logbooks will also appeal to a wide array of scientists from other fields – historians of many specialties, genealogists, as well as current members and veterans of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

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