A unique volunteer effort for digitizing WWII-era U.S. naval logbooks has been aiding in filling up a crucial gap in the climate record.
To understand in detail how humans have had a role in altering the climate, researchers first must determine what the climate was like earlier, and vessel logbooks are also key to this work, offering a detailed historical account of weather on high seas. There are, however, considerable gaps in the weather record during WWII, when the hostilities reportedly stifled commercial shipping.
To fill the gap, scientists digitised recently declassified logbooks from 19 U.S. battleships stationed in the Pacific during the war.
Among the warships were the battleships USS Tennessee and USS Pennsylvania, which suffered losses during the attack on Pearl Harbor but stayed in service until the end of the conflict.
Scientists successfully enlisted the aid of about 4,000 volunteers who, working online, could transcribe over 630,000 weather records that contained over three million observations, spanning the breadth of the Pacific Ocean and parts of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The effort, spearheaded by researchers associated with the University of Reading, is detailed in a paper published in the Geoscience Data Journal.
The data could aid in resolving a longstanding question regarding the past climate. Research further suggests that the Earth was warm during WWII, but the data from the eastern Pacific is sparse and flawed. Sailors, presumably aware of shining light at a hostile vessel after dark, were expected to record temperature data during the day, introducing a bias into the weather record.
The U.S. Navy data, thoroughly recorded at designated hourly intervals all day and night, will help the scientists gauge temperatures better during the war.
The authors mentioned that the vessels experienced actions in the Indo-Pacific and the Far East, taking the observations at times as well as to places where few or no other digitized observations even exist. The observations and metadata will be priceless for enhancing the reconstruction of past climatic conditions.
References: Yahoo! News, e360.yale.edu
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