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Current Climate Data Rescue Activities in Australia

doi: 10.1007/s00376-016-6189-5

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  • Adamson P., 2003: Clement Lindley Wragge and the naming of weather disturbances. Weather, 58( 9), 359- 363.10.1256/ page of article
    Allan R., P. Brohan, G. P. Compo, R. Stone, J. Luterbacher, and S. Brönnimann, 2011: The international atmospheric circulation reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) initiative. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc.,92, 1421-1425, doi: 10.1175/2011BAMS3218.1.10.1175/ abstract available.
    Ashcroft L., J. Gergis, and D. J. Karoly, 2014: A historical climate dataset for southeastern Australia,1788-1859. Geoscience Data Journal, 1(2), 158-178, doi: 10.1002/gdj3.19.10.1002/ Top of page Abstract Dataset Introduction 1Historical data sources 2Data quality control and homogenization 3SEA climate variability, 1826–1859 4Discussion and conclusion Acknowledgements References There is a significant lack of historical climate data in the Southern Hemisphere compared to the northern latitudes. To address this data scarcity and to improve understanding of regional climate variability, historical instrumental observations were recovered for southeastern Australian (SEA) for the 1788–1859 period. Instrumental observations of temperature, atmospheric pressure, rainfall and raindays were rescued from 39 archival sources, and examined to identify observer biases and inhomogeneities. The rescued data provide continuous information on SEA climate variability from 1826 to 1859, with short periods of observations identified between 1788–1791, 1803–1805 and 1821–1824. Quality control and homogenization of each data source indicates that the historical observations successfully capture regional interannual climate variability. The historical records exhibit high correlations between neighbouring observations and related climate variables. The instrumental observations also display very good agreement with documentary climate reconstructions, further verifying their quality. As an example of how this new historical dataset may be used, regional averages of the observations were calculated to estimate interannual climate variability across SEA from 1826 to 1859. Prolonged dry conditions were identified in various parts of the region during 1837–1843 and 1845–1852, while wet conditions were noted from 1836 to 1838, primarily in southern SEA. Anomalously cold periods were also identified in 1835–1836 and 1848–1849, in general agreement with temperature reconstructions from other regions of the Southern Hemisphere. This new dataset provides a valuable source of subdaily to monthly information on SEA climate variability for future climate analysis, palaeoclimate reconstruction verification and historical studies.
    Benoy M., 2011: The birth of a familiar, everyday map. The Globe: Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Map Inc., No. 67, 9- national weather map we view daily in the electronic and print media had a distinct period of birth and development during a 3-5 year period spanning in the early 1880s. The Government Astronomers of the established colonies experimented with the creation of local weather maps based on the real-time data they gathered through their new colonial telegraph systems. With the establishment of a national telegraph system that included the Overland Telegraph, the Astronomers and their meteorological assistants were able to build weather maps that stretched across the Continent and beyond. This article traces the development of the modern weather map as told by the weather folios kept for 31 years by Sir Charles Todd, the Government Astronomer of South Australia. Todd's folios are possibly unique in Australia for their breadth in both time and content. The early weather maps were one symbol of the rapidity of change brought by new technologies to the Victorian Colonies. Time and geographic boundaries were re-defined as weather maps showed the true continental reach of weather systems and their ability to change on a daily basis. A volunteer group has imaged all 11,000 days of the Todd weather folios. They are now preparing to take the data buried in these folios into the digital age to help establish historical benchmarks for climate change analysis.
    Brunet M., P. Jones, 2011: Data rescue initiatives: Bringing historical climate data into the 21st century. Climate Research,47, 29-40, doi: 10.3354/cr00960.10.3354/ currently limited availability of long and high-quality surface instrumental climate records continues to hamper our ability to carry out more robust assessments of the climate. Such assessments are needed to better understand, detect, predict and respond to global climate variability and change. Despite the wealthy heritage of past climate data and recent efforts to improve data availability and accessibility, much more surface data could be digitised. Additionally, some long records are not of the quality needed for more confidently supporting any climate assessment, service, or application. The present paper discusses the usefulness of undertaking integrated data rescue (DARE) activities by showing several climate assessments as examples. It describes emerging DARE activities worldwide, with a focus on the World Meteorological Organization Mediterranean Data Rescue (MEDARE) and the Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) initiatives to assess the benefits historical instrumental climate data can bring to studies of climate variability and change that consider the 21st century.
    Callaghan J., S. B. Power, 2014: Major coastal flooding in southeastern Australia 1860-2012, associated deaths and weather systems. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal, 64, 183- A new historical database describing major floods and associated weather systems that occurred in coastal catchments, from Brisbane in southeastern Australia to Eden approximately 1500 km further south, is described. In order to produce a homogeneous record of major flood and weather-type frequency we restrict attention to the period 1860-2012, when the region (i) is extensively populated, (ii) has an extensive coverage of meteorological stations, (iii) is extensively connected by telecommunication, and (iv) when there is busy coastal shipping offshore. A total of 253 major floods over this period are identified. A flood is considered here to be `major' if it causes inundation of a river within approximately 50 km of the coast or if there is non-riverine flooding over land near the coast, extending 20 km or more along the coast. All major floods are associated with either (a) East Coast Lows (ECLs) or (b) Tropical Interactions (TIs). Three types of TIs are identified and described. ECLs triggered more major floods than TIs (57 per cent versus 43 per cent), but TIs caused more deaths from freshwater flooding (62 per cent versus 38 per cent) and they tended to cause over twice as many deaths per event (3.6 versus 1.7 deaths/event on average). Some of the most extreme events identified occurred in the 19th century and early-to-mid 20th century. If such events were to occur today they would have catastrophic impacts due to the massive increase in urban development in the study region since that time.
    Cram, T. A., Coauthors, 2015: The international surface pressure databank version 2. Geoscience Data Journal,2(1), 31-46, doi: 10.1002/gdj3.25.10.1002/ International Surface Pressure Databank (ISPD) is the world's largest collection of global surface and sea-level pressure observations. It was developed by extracting observations from established international archives, through international cooperation with data recovery facilitated by the Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) initiative, and directly by contributing universities, organizations, and countries. The dataset period is currently 1768-2012 and consists of three data components: observations from land stations, marine observing systems, and tropical cyclone best track pressure reports. Version 2 of the ISPD (ISPDv2) was created to be observational input for the Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project (20CR) and contains the quality control and assimilation feedback metadata from the 20CR. Since then, it has been used for various general climate and weather studies, and an updated version 3 (ISPDv3) has been used in the ERA-20C reanalysis in connection with the European Reanalysis of Global Climate Observations project (ERA-CLIM). The focus of this paper is on the ISPDv2 and the inclusion of the 20CR feedback metadata. The Research Data Archive at the National Center for Atmospheric Research provides data collection and access for the ISPDv2, and will provide access to future versions.
    Gergis J., D. J. Karoly, and R. J. Allan, 2009: A climate reconstruction of Sydney Cove, New South Wales, using weather journal and documentary data, 1788-1791. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal, 58, 83- 98.10.3137/ study presents the first analysis of the weather conditions experienced at Sydney Cove, New South Wales, during the earliest period of the European settlement of Australia. A climate analysis is presented for January 1788 to December 1791 using daily temperature and barometric pressure observations recorded by William Dawes in Sydney Cove and a temperature record kept by William Bradley on board the HMS Sirius anchored in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) in the early months of the First Fleet’s arrival in Australia. Remarkably, the records appear comparable with modern day measurements taken from Sydney Observatory Hill, displaying similar daily variability, a distinct seasonal cycle and considerable inter-annual variability. To assess the reliability of these early weather data, they were cross-verified with other data sources, including anecdotal observations recorded in First Fleet documentary records and independent palaeoclimate reconstructions. Some biases in the temperature record, likely associated with the location of the thermometer, have been identified. Although the 1788–1791 period experienced a marked
    Gergis J., D. Garden, and C. Fenby, 2010: The influence of climate on the first European settlement of Australia: A comparison of weather journals, documentary data and palaeoclimate records, 1788-1793. Environmental History, 15( 3), 485- 507.10.2307/ essay introduces a new technique to improve the reliability of the interpretation of how weather and climatic factors have influenced past societies. Using the case of first European settlement in Australia, we argue that historians have largely ignored or misconstrued the influence of climate on past societies. We discuss how cool, wet weather during 1788–1790 (a La Ni?a) and the drought conditions of 1791–1793 (an El Ni?o) compromised initial settlement and agricultural development in the colony. We compare meteorological and palaeoclimatic data with historical sources to investigate how water scarcity has profoundly shaped Australian society since 1788.
    Grab S. W., D. J. Nash, 2010: Documentary evidence of climate variability during cold seasons in Lesotho, southern Africa, 1833-1900. Climate Dyn., 34( 4), 473- 499.10.1007/ study presents the first 19th century cold season climate chronology for the Kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa. The chronology is constructed using a variety of documentary sources including letters, diaries, reports, monographs and newspaper articles obtained from southern African and British archives. Information relating to cold season weather phenomena during the austral autumn, winter and early spring months were recorded verbatim. Each of the cold seasons from 1833 to 1900 was then classified as “very severe”, “severe” or “normal/mild”, with a confidence rating ranging from low (1) to high (3) awarded against each annual classification. The accuracy of the document-derived chronology was verified against temperature data for Maseru for the period 1893-1900. Excellent correspondence of the document-derived chronology with the Maseru instrumental data and also with other global proxy temperature records for the 19th century is achieved. The results indicate 12 (18% of the total) very severe, 16 (23%) severe and 40 (59%) normal/mild cold seasons between 1833 and 1900. The overall trend is for more severe and snow-rich cold seasons during the early part of the study period (1833-1854) compared with the latter half of the 19th century (with the exception of the 1880s). A reduction in the duration of the frost season by over 20 days during the 19th century is also tentatively identified. Several severe to very severe cold seasons in Lesotho follow after major tropical and SH volcanic eruptions; such years are usually characterized by early frosts, and frequent and heavy snowfalls. The blocking of solar radiation and the enhanced northward displacement of polar fronts that are directly or indirectly associated with volcanic events, may account for many of the most severe Lesotho winters during the 19th century.
    Green D., J. Billy, and A. Tapim, 2010: Indigenous Australians' knowledge of weather and climate. Climatic Change,100(2), 337-354, doi: 10.1007/s10584-010-9803-z.10.1007/ the last 200years of colonisation has brought radical changes in economic and governance structures for thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in remote areas of northern Australia, many of these Indigenous people still rely upon, and live closely connected to, their natural environment. Over millennia, livingn country, many of these communities have developed a sophisticated appreciation of their local ecosystems and the climatic patterns associated with the changes in them. Some of this knowledge is recorded in their oral history passed down through generations, documented in seasonal weather calendars in local languages and, to a limited degree, transcribed and translated into English. This knowledge is still highly valued by these communities today, as it is used to direct hunting, fishing and planting as well as to inform many seasonally dependant cultural events. In recent years, local observations have been recognised by non-Indigenous scientists as a vital source of environmental data where few historic records exist. Similar to the way that phenological observations in the UK and US provide baseline information on past climates, this paper suggests that Indigenous observations of seasonal change have the potential to fill gaps in climate data for tropical northern Australia, and could also serve to inform culturally appropriate adaptation strategies. One method of recording recent direct and indirect climate and weather observations for the Torres Strait Islands is documented in this paper to demonstrate the currency of local observations of climate and its variability. The paper concludes that a comprehensive, participatory programme to record Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge of past climate patterns, and recent observations of change, would be timely and valuable for the communities themselves, as well as contributing to a greater understanding of regional climate change that would be useful for the wider Australian population.
    Lorrey A. M., P. R. Chappell, 2015: The "Dirty Weather" diaries of Reverend Richard Davis: Insights about early Colonial-era meteorology and climate variability for Northern New Zealand,1839-1851. Climate of the Past, 11(4), 3799-3851, doi: 10.5194/cpd-11-3799-2015.10.5194/ Richard Davis (1790-1863) was a Colonial-era missionary stationed in the Far North of New Zealand who was a key figure in the early efforts of the Church Mission Society. He kept meticulous meteorological records for the early settlements of Waimate North and Kaikohe, and his observations are preserved in a two-volume set in the rare manuscripts archive at the Auckland City Library. The Davis diary volumes are significant because they constitute some of the earliest land-based meteorological measurements that were continually chronicled for New Zealand.
    Parker D. E., T. P. Legg, and C. K. Folland, 1992: A new daily Central England Temperature Series, 1772-1991. International Journal of Climatology, 12, 317-
    Rayner D., K. Moodie, A. Beswick, N. Clarkson, and R. Hutchinson, 2004: New Australian Daily Historical Climate Surfaces Using CLIMARC. Queensland Dept. of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Brisbane, 76pp.
    Risbey J. S., M. J. Pook, P. C. McIntosh, M. C. Wheeler, and H. H. Hendon, 2009: On the remote drivers of rainfall variability in Australia. Mon. Wea. Rev., 137, 3233- 3253.10.1175/ work identifies and documents a suite of large-scale drivers of rainfall variability in the Australian region. The key driver in terms of broad influence and impact on rainfall is the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). ENSO is related to rainfall over much of the continent at different times, particularly in the north and east, with the regions of influence shifting with the seasons. The...
    Slonosky V. C., 2002: Wet winters,dry summers? Three centuries of precipitation data from Paris. Geophys. Res. Lett., 29(19), 34-1-34-4.10.1029/ measurements taken at the Paris Observatory from the 1680s to the 1750s are presented; these values are blended with modern data until 2001. The most striking change in the precipitation patterns over the past 300 years is the change in seasonal distribution; in the late 17th and 18th centuries, summer precipitation accounted for 60% of the yearly total, changing to a uniform seasonal distribution in the 20th century. Winter precipitation has increased by 24 mm/century, while summer precipitation increased by 4 mm/century. The winter of 2000/2001 was the wettest of the past three centuries; the year 2000 recorded the largest amount of precipitation since observations began.
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Manuscript History

Manuscript accepted: 08 August 2016
通讯作者: 陈斌,
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Current Climate Data Rescue Activities in Australia

  • 1. Centre for Climate Change, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tortosa, 43500, Spain,
  • 2. Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, EX13PB, United Kingdom
  • 3. School of Environmental and Life Sciences, The University of Newcastle, New South Wales, 2300, Australia
  • 4. School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia
  • 5. International Centre for Applied Climate Sciences, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, 4350, Australia
  • 6. Cultural Collections, The University of Newcastle, New South Wales, 2300, Australia


1. Introduction
  • Recovering historical instrumental climate data is crucial for identifying long-term climate variability and change, putting present climate into context and constraining future climate projections (Brunet and Jones, 2011). In other words, to understand the future, we need to improve our understanding of the past.

    Climate data rescue is a well-established practice in many Northern Hemisphere countries, where the instrumental record can stretch back several centuries [e.g., (Parker et al., 1992) for England, and (Slonosky, 2002) for France]. In Australia, however, the recovery and analysis of historical weather observations has not been the subject of such dedication until recently.

    Indigenous Australians have lived in Australia for thousands of years and, while Indigenous culture is inextricably linked to the land, Aboriginal environmental history is often preserved through oral traditions, with detailed information about seasonal cycles rather than year-to-year changes (Green et al., 2010). This information is important for climate impact studies, but rarely provides sufficient detail for the study of interannual climate variations or particular events. Chronological written records of Australian history therefore only begin with British settlement in 1788.

    Although documented history in Australia may be shorter than that of other regions, there are still many sources of historical climate information waiting to be rescued. Starting with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's push in the 1990s to recover observations within their own archives (Rayner et al., 2004), several dedicated efforts have now begun recovering historical instrumental information about Australia's climatic past. Interestingly, many of these data rescue projects engage "citizen scientists" in the identification and recovery of data, ensuring that the fascinating stories behind Australia's climate history are shared with the public.

2. Bringing Australia's past into the present
  • From 2010 to 2014, the South Eastern Australian Recent Climate History (SEARCH) project brought together historians, climatologists, hydrologists, palaeoclimatologists and volunteers to reconstruct the climate of the highly-populated southeastern region. More than 290 000 instrumental observations were recovered from national and state archives covering 1788-1860 (Ashcroft et al., 2014).

    Observations of temperature, pressure and rainfall were extracted from newspapers, farmers' diaries, government documents and observatory reports, to build an instrumental picture of the first 72 years of British settlement in Australia. This includes observations from Lieutenant William Dawes, an astronomer on the First Fleet, who dutifully recorded the hot and dry conditions experienced by the early settlers in 1790 (Gergis et al., 2009).

    In South Australia, the Australian Meteorological Association has been running one of the country's longest climate citizen science endeavours. For over 10 years the group have been finding and digitising Australian climate data from as far back as 1832. Their efforts include the digitisation of 40 years of weather maps drawn by the famous polymath Sir Charles Todd (Benoy, 2011; Folios/), to the recovery of lighthouse records from the late 19th century across Australia's southern coastline.

    In New South Wales, a team from The University of Newcastle is currently rescuing an extremely detailed weather diary from grazier Algernon Belfield. The transcription of his diary was completed in early 2016 by local and international volunteers. Belfield's journal from his farm in inland New South Wales is unique not only for its high level of detail (40 years of daily observations) but for its location in a region that is very sensitive to ENSO (Risbey et al., 2009). The diary covers 1882-1922, a period of high ENSO variability, and will therefore provide valuable insight into the weather experienced by colonial farmers during tumultuous climatic times.

    Finally, the citizen science project "Weather Detectives", jointly run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the University of Southern Queensland, has engaged over 11 000 volunteers in the digitisation of observations from ship log books ( collected by Queensland's colourful meteorologist Clement Lindley Wragge (Adamson, 2003). More than 485 000 observations have so far been transcribed from the log books of ships that traversed the ocean surrounding Australia, as well as the wider Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans from 1882 to 1903.

3. From Australia to the world
  • These projects are just a few examples of Australia's active data rescue community. The data recovered are already informing historical studies (Gergis et al., 2010), global reanalysis products (Allan et al., 2011; Cram et al., 2015) and long-term climate variability assessments (Callaghan and Power, 2014). There are still many more sources of historical climate data for Australia to be uncovered and a new regional data rescue focus of the International Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth Initiative (ACRE, Allan et al. 2011) —— ACRE Australia —— is planned. In the meantime, these efforts combined with data rescue in other parts of the Southern Hemisphere (e.g., Grab and Nash, 2010; Lorrey and Chappell, 2015) ensure that our global climate past is looking clearer than ever before.




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