Climate History document tagging project

What researchers need:

  • National Library of Australia (NLA) text correction volunteers who are interested in exploring early documents, such as newspapers, about Australia’s climate history.
  • Keywords about extreme weather events to be ‘tagged’ in these articles via the NLA Trove database, accessible either at the library, or online from home. There is a Guide to text correcting here.

how Volunteers can help:

  • Examine publications from South Australia between 1840-1860, and from Western Australia between 1880-1900.
  • Tag any articles covering significant weather events and people who took weather observations, according to the keywords:

climatedrought reliefheavy rainhigh seasevaporation
weatherblazing sunfrostswellsmeteorology
temperaturecattle in distressfloodviolent stormCharles Todd
thermometerlosses of stockhailgaleClement Wragge
barometerstarving stockcyclonesquallGeorge Strickland Kingston
observatoriesdry periodhurricanefrostWilliam Wyatt
fireshortage of watertornadosleetRobert Harrison
bushfirepoor harvestsnowicebergsCharles Sturt
droughtloss of maizeblizzardthunderEdward Charles Frome
failed cropshot windthunder stormlake levelGeorge Ormsby
dust stormexcessive heatcold weatherriver levelColonel William Light
hot windpraying for rainlandslidefloodColonel Robert Torrens
heatwaveDays of HumiliationthirstfogCaptain Finniss
abundant harvestfailed cropsdelugerainGeorge Stevenson
dry wellssunstrokecaterpillar plagueMurray RiverSir Arthur Henry Freeling
heatplaguelocust plagueTorrens RiverCaptain James Stirling
ariddry groundlighteningSwan RiverThomas Peel

What we’re trying to find out

We want to know more about significant weather events recorded in our early documents – such as newspapers, maps, photos, weather diaries, personal diaries, letters and more – and how fledgling settlements coped with these extremes, eg:

  • How did drought affect early settlements in Australia?
  • What were settlers’ experiences of floods?
  • How did weather extremes impact on stock and crops?

In particular, we are very interested in any information covering Adelaide from March 1851 to February 1852, and January 1854 to February 1854.

How you can help our project:

  • Your work will enable our research team and other volunteers to access a feed of documentary accounts of weather events during early European settlement.
  • Researchers will combine these accounts with early weather station data and information from palaeoclimate records (eg. tree rings, coral and cave formations).
  • This information will help us reconstruct South-eastern Australia’s climate history, so we can establish how current changes can be viewed in the context of long-term natural variability.
  • This climate history tagging project will complement the excellent work of the NLA’s Trove text correction volunteers and will showcase the historical collection and its importance to our understanding of climate history.

Further information

If volunteers have any queries, or would like to provide voluntary library research assistance to the project in other areas, they can direct questions to the project team.