Arctic Climate Project Looking For Citizen Scientists
October 25, 2012

Citizen Scientists Asked To Help Look At Historical Arctic Sea Weather Data

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is asking citizen scientists to come together to help reconstruct the historical climate of the Arctic.

NOAA is teaming up with National Archives and Records Administration and Zooniverse, a citizen science web portal, to find volunteers to transcribe a newly digitized set of ship logs dating back to 1850.

The ship logs are from the 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.”

The organizers are hoping to get thousands of volunteers to help in transcribing scanned copies of logbook pages through the Old Weather project. Information in these logbooks will appeal to a wide variety of scientists from other fields, as well as historians, genealogists and members and veterans of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

“We are delighted to be working with NOAA and Zooniverse so that our historical records can enable scientific discovery in the 21st century,” said David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. “While the data extracted from these records will be useful to scientists, these documents are also a treasure-trove of information for historians, genealogists, and others interested in the experiences and accomplishments of seafaring people.”

The collaboration will provide free online access to primary documents, new data resources and analysis tools.

Old Weather is one of a suite of projects produced by the Citizen Science Alliance and accessible online through Zooniverse.

These projects use the ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers deal with large amounts of data, according to Philip Brohan, UK Met Office climate scientist and leader of the Old Weather project.

The collaboration not only makes the logbooks available to Old Weather citizens scientists and NOAA researchers, but also anyone with Internet access who wishes to explore the diplomatic, scientific, technological and military aspects of the voyages.

“The logbooks not only capture operations of U.S. government ships,” Ferriero said. “They are an important cornerstone to researching U.S. and global history of any type."

Image 2 (below): 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