One month in: some preliminary results

Since our launch on 8 September 2020, more than 760 Zooniverse volunteers have digitised over 15,000 weather observations to help create Australia’s longest daily weather record.

The project is now at the halfway point, with 50% transcribed and 50% still to go.

Preliminary temperature results

‘Temperature’, ‘Pressure’ and ‘Attached Thermometer’ observations have all been digitised by our Zooniverse volunteers. While data analysis takes time, we wanted to share our first look at the new data set. Figure 1 below shows the preliminary, unadjusted 4pm temperatures for Adelaide over the 1843-1856 period.

Figure 1: A timeseries* of afternoon temperature observations from Adelaide 1838-1865. This plot includes preliminary data that was collected from the 4pm temperature workflow on Zooniverse (dotted green line). We have also plotted the afternoon observations made by William Wyatt (blue) which covers the period 1836-1847, and temperature observations made at West Terrace (orange) recently published by our team. Once the remaining gaps have been filled, this record will be the longest continuous daily weather record in Australia.

1 A timeseries is a repeated measurement of a variable over time. Here we’ve plotted the daily 4pm temperature observations each day to see how temperature has varied over time.

The results are a fantastic achievement showcasing how close we are to achieving a key goal of this Zooniverse project – to produce the longest continuous historical dataset for Australia. As you can see, there is an overlap between the observations of William Wyatt (published by our team here) and the observations of the Adelaide Survey Department that the Zooniverse volunteers helped digitise. You can also see how similar these observations are and this is great to see. This overlap will also be crucial for connecting the Wyatt record and the Survey Department record with the West Terrace temperature data available from 1858 onwards

Unfortunately, as you can see we still have a small gap in the Zooniverse data. We only have two months (January and February) of weather journals for the year 1851. We’ll keep searching for records to plug this gap, but if you think you have any leads please let us know! Luckily we have some good leads to fill the gap in West Terrace for 1857.

We are really looking forward to sharing more results with you as they become available. We still have to assess the quality of the newly recovered data so this limits what we are able to say about it right now. You can learn more about how we assess the quality of the data recovered for this project on Zooniverse in our blog, How do we analyse historical climate data?

What’s Next?

Now that temperature and pressure are complete, the last few variables to collect are rain data, wind direction and speed, and remarks on the state of the atmosphere. 

If you’re interested in the ‘Rain’ workflows, they’re simple Yes/No/Not Applicable questions that are ideal for those who like to work with words. 

We’ve now uploaded the new ‘Wind Speed’ and ‘Wind Direction’ workflows, which are quick, easy and fun! 

For wind direction, you only need to transcribe the letters as noted, i.e N (for Northerly) or NE (for North-Easterly). For wind speed, you just enter the text as you see it, even if it’s just an abbreviation, i.e Mod (for moderate wind). 

Wind is a great way to help us verify our pressure observations to better understand the weather conditions that influenced Adelaide in the past.

The ‘Remarks’ workflows are great if you like discovering information about extreme events. So far, some of the remarks have revealed events such as flooding. For example:

“The bridges on the Torrens River carried away.” – 22 July, 1847.

“Highest floods. Except that of last year, which carried away the bridges.” – 20 October, 1848.

“High floods. Within a few inches as high as that of the 20th August.” – 29 October, 1848.

There’s more detail on this flooding, and other interesting discoveries from these journals, on the Talk forum on Zooniverse or in the publication Floods in South Australia 1836-2005.

How can I help with climate research?

Anyone with access to a computer and the internet can become a part of this project and help recover these important details about Australia’s climate history. You can spend as little as a few minutes, or as much time as you can spare to help with this important climate research.

There’s ‘Easy’ sections for beginners, and volunteers can work up the levels as they want a challenge. To get started, visit:

Sign up to our e-news to be notified when we launch new projects soon. This Adelaide citizen science project is highly valuable to understanding Australia’s climate history, and it’s only our pilot! We have other historical digitisation projects launching later this year and hopefully into the next few years.

*Updated 16 October 2020: We have also just plotted up the preliminary, unadjusted Pressure data!