Climate History Australia has launched a new citizen science project to create the longest daily weather record for Australia.
In June this year, our team released ground-breaking research that showed an increase in heatwaves, as well as a decrease in cold extremes in Southern Australia, since 1838.
However, there’s currently a gap in the daily data available for the Adelaide region between 1848 and 1856.
“Recently, we discovered weather journals taken at the Adelaide Surveyor General’s Office that will provide the eight-year gap in the record,” says lead researcher Dr Joëlle Gergis.
Dr Gergis says that; “By transcribing these handwritten weather journals, volunteers will help fill the gaps and create Australia’s longest daily weather record.”
The cover of one of the Adelaide Surveyor General’s weather folios, starting in 1843, which is yet to be transcribed. Source: National Archives of Australia.
“We need the help of citizen scientists to digitise the historical weather observations to help piece together Australia’s climate history,” says Gergis.
“These 170-year-old journals are some of the oldest weather records in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s amazing that these observations haven’t been transcribed yet.”
Extending Australia’s instrumental weather records back into the 19th century is very valuable for understanding the history of Australia’s climate, and helps place recent weather extremes in a longer context.
“Historical daily weather journals like these can give us an accurate picture of the range of climate extremes experienced in the past. This can help improve climate risk assessment needed for future climate change planning and adaptation.”
“These Adelaide Surveyor General’s Office records could include unknown details of Australia’s social and climate history–from snowfalls or floods, to heatwaves and bushfires,” says Gergis.
The task for citizen scientists is to transcribe over 150 handwritten pages of weather observations taken in Adelaide from 1 April 1843 until 1 December 1856. This will fill the current data gap from 1848-56, with a few years overlap. Most observations were taken four times a day, six days a week – excluding only Sundays and Public Holidays. They include instrumental observations of temperature, air pressure, cloud type and wind.
This photo of the recently recovered weather observations in Adelaide shows how the detailed weather observations were recorded. It also shows a reference on 10 August 1844 to a “Holiday taken in honour of Captain Sturt’s departure on his Exploring Expedition”. However during this journey, Sturt was stranded for some time by extreme heat. Source: National Archives of Australia.
There is still a considerable amount of data in historical diaries that haven’t been transcribed. Our team is also preparing weather rescue projects for other regions in Australia, such as Perth, later this year.
“We want to learn as much as we can about Australia’s climate before the Bureau of Meteorology’s records began in the early 1900s,” says Gergis. “You can help us discover more about Australia’s weather history by becoming a citizen scientist and transcribing these unique pages from the past.”
To get started, use this link to access the project on the citizen science platform, Zooniverse: www.zooniverse.org/projects/caitlinhowlett/climate-history-australia.
The Government Offices on King William St, Adelaide, in 1845 (left/top), and a view from the roof of the same building after a rebuild in 1865 (right/bottom). This is the most likely building where these Adelaide Survey Department observations were taken – probably from an inner courtyard surrounded by four sides, as it has kept in its modern, much larger form as Adelaide’s Adina Hotel today. Source (both images): State Library of South Australia.