Unearthing ‘lost’ Ben Nevis weather data
Scientists are on a mission to rescue two million pieces of ‘lost’ weather data gathered more than 100 years ago by intrepid volunteers on Britain’s highest mountain. But they need the your help. Join Operation Weather Rescue to bring the past back to life to help understand the weather today and in the future.
For more than 20 years, a team of Victorian meteorologists stationed on Ben Nevis recorded eight pieces of information about the weather every hour, day and night, 365 days a year. Now known as the Weathermen of Ben Nevis, they measured temperature, pressure, rainfall, sunshine, cloudiness, wind strength and wind direction from 1883 to 1904. Hourly data was also taken at sea level at nearby Fort William. All this information was compiled in five hefty volumes published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh between 1890 and 1910.
Today, researchers are asking for people to join Operation Weather Rescue to help ‘digitise’ the data. From the original tables, the information can be typed into a growing database. Unearthing this data will shed light on how our climate is changing, bringing the past back to life to help understand the weather today and in the future.
Operation Weather Rescue is led by NERC-funded climate scientist Professor Ed Hawkins, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the University of Reading.
"The fastest way to collect new weather observations is by looking back in time,” he explains. “Operation Weather Rescue will fill gaps in our knowledge and provide a baseline from which we can measure any changes to the weather today. Unearthing this type of data feeds into the bigger picture; helping international researchers understand climatic changes and make better forecasts for the future.
“The Ben Nevis weather data will tell us more about extreme rainfall which is thought to be becoming more common in the UK. The logbooks also contain records of sightings of the Northern Lights. On top of this, using historic data to better understand mountain weather will be useful to mountain rescue agencies.”
Operation Weather Rescue has launched as part of the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s free public event UnEarthed at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh, from 17-19 November, bringing the world of environmental science to the Scottish public.
Join Operation Weather Rescue to recover weather measurements made on Ben Nevis more than a 100 years ago. Visit weatherrescue.org and follow the instructions in the tutorial. You can tweet about your involvement using #UnEarthed2017 and #WeatherRescue.
For more information about the free public event UnEarthed, and to sign up to email updates, visit unearthed.nerc.ac.uk.
Images courtesy of the Royal Meteorological Society collection, held as part of the Met Office archive at National Records of Scotland.