The public are being asked to revisit the voyages of World War One Royal Navy warships to help scientists understand the climate of the past and unearth new historical information.
Visitors to OldWeather.org, which launches on 12 October 2010, will be able to retrace the routes taken by any of 280 Royal Navy ships including historic vessels such as HMS Caroline, the last survivor of the 1916 Battle of Jutland still afloat.
By transcribing information about weather, and any interesting events, from images of each ship’s logbook web volunteers will help scientists to build a more accurate picture of how our climate has changed over the last century, as well as adding to our knowledge of this important period of British history.
‘These naval logbooks contain an amazing treasure trove of information but because the entries are handwritten they are incredibly difficult for a computer to read,’ said Dr Chris Lintott of Oxford University, one of the team behind the OldWeather.org project. ‘By getting an army of online human volunteers to retrace these voyages and transcribe the information recorded by British sailors we can relive both the climate of the past and key moments in naval history.’
Dr Peter Stott, Head of Climate Monitoring and Attribution at the Met Office, said: ‘Historical weather data is vital because it allows us to test our models of the Earth's climate: if we can correctly account for what the weather was doing in the past, then we can have more confidence in our predictions of the future. Unfortunately, the historical record is full of gaps, particularly from before 1920 and at sea, so this project is invaluable.’
Dr Robert Simpson of Oxford University, one of the OldWeather.org team, said: ‘Luckily, these observations made by Royal Navy sailors every four hours without fail – even whilst under enemy fire! – can help to fill this ‘data gap’. It’s almost like launching a weather satellite into the skies at a time when manpowered flight was still in its infancy.’
Citizen Journalism is established now - even though the old guard hate it. And now Citizen Science is emerging - here is a very interesting Oxford project that asks for volunteers to go through ship log books to record old weather patterns. Asks by the way on Facebook!.
In the field of Astronomy, citizen science is long established. Like in the oil industry, amateurs are usually the ones who find the asteroids etc and then their finds are taken up by the "Majors".
The advent of social media will surely change science as it changes all fields. The irony is that the great achievements of science were mainly made back in the day when it was all Citizen Science!
It is so refreshing to get the "professional" out of telling stories, teaching and now science.