Historical Weather Data

Taking historical weather data from ship’s logbooks

By looking at old weather data we can contribute to the information used to improve climate and sea ice data sets used by scientists every day.

Old Weather and Castaway are two projects which invite members of the public to assist in digitising weather observations recorded in U.S. logbooks from the mid-19th century onwards. Old Weather requires an installation of software and is slightly more involved while Castaway is on the Zooniverse platform which many of our centres may be familiar with already.

Citizen Science is a great way to use the power of the crowd for analysing unusual data (like hand written ships logs) that computers can struggle to read. It’s also important for getting people actively involved and engaged with the science and it can occasionally lead to unexpected observations.

With the Old Weather data, participants are encouraged to note anything they find notable in the ships logs with a particular focus on the weather. Several transcribers made notes about the number of people recorded off sick in the logs and there’s evidence of one ship being struck very badly by an outbreak of Spanish flu in 1918. Who knows what you might find when you start looking at this data?