Scientists ask public for help to prepare for future extreme weather


Weather-obsessed Brits are being asked to help unlock the secrets of a treasure trove of historic data and allow scientists to prepare for extreme weather events of the future.

The public is invited to get involved in a different citizen science project each and every year, and this time round it is the turn of Operation Weather Rescue.

It is that hoped tens of thousands of people will help input information into computers from records taken between 1861 and 1880 – building a legacy of environmental information that will contribute to new discoveries.

The project is part of British Science Week and is being led by Professor Ed Hawkins from the University of Reading.

“We have been recording very detailed observations of the weather for over 150 years here in the UK, but many of those observations are in dusty archives all over the country,” he said.

“We need to public to help us unlock that information and bring it to life so that climate scientists like myself can use it to better understand changes to our weather.

“We have seen very extreme weather in the past, so learning about what caused those extreme events can help us make important decisions about our future – how big do our flood defences need to be, for example.”

The data being digitised comes from the first ever weather records started by Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy after he returned from captaining the Beagle on Charles Darwin’s famous voyage.

His first forecast appeared in The Times in 1861.

Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association (BSA), said: “It would take researchers or computers decades to get to the position of being able to understand and interpret the 2.5 million pieces of data that are in this particular data set, so the public can really advance research in a really short space of time.”

The project is getting under way as research by the BSA revealed that discussing the weather is seen as the most stereotypical British trait – above drinking tea and queuing.

But Faruq Bilbe, out and about in Reading, was not surprised.

“It’s the first thing you can say to anybody that we have all got in common,” he said.

“We all suffer the same as everybody else!”

(c) Sky News 2019: Scientists ask public for help to prepare for future extreme weather

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