OldWeather.org: Crowdsourcing Climate Change Archives

Island Nation of Kiribati Affected by Climate ChangeThe past decade was the warmest ever on record, according to NASA data and whatever you think about global warming, it is clear from everything between Frankenstorm to our record droughts and ice melting this past summer that some trend of climate change is upon us.

But a new crowdsourcing project is working to give us more (and richer) information than we’ve ever had before on the subject of weather history. The appropriately-named site OldWeather.org is about the crowd working to digitize the logbooks of ship captain voyages in our past and integrate it into our current understanding of climate history.  The hope is that scientists will be able to reconstruct weather patterns and extremes to understand climate change over time.  It’s a rich network of data available to us, since ship captains made regular measurements of such information where few other people have.

Not only will this project help us learn more about the past weather, it may even help to predict the weather of the future.

How does it work?

1. Create a Zooniverse Profile
2. Get started with a page from a logbook and highlight the text to transcribe using the cursor. The text is magnified and area for digital text entry appears.
3. Copy down latitude, longitude, port name and all of the weather reports as well as a variety of other pieces of data (including ship occurrences, animals viewed and more).
4. As a ship’s voyage is transcribed its progress is tracked and the experience is gamified as a user moves from a cadet to an eventual captain.

There’s probably 250,000 logbooks in this country alone and only 7% have been transcribed to date. That leaves a lot of records still to go through.

What else do you think we can learn from these archives? What other Zooniverse projects do you find interesting?

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