Oldweather.com is one of a handful of online initiatives that marshals the general public to help scientists with cutting-edge research
Kathy Wendolkowski used to make candy in her spare time. for the past year and a half, this mother of three from Gaithersburg, Md., has been spending two to three hours a day on the Web site Old Weather (www.oldweather.org). There she transcribes temperature, pressure and wind-speed records from the logbooks of HMS Foxglove, a British minesweeper that patrolled the South Pacific in the years following World War I. It was a friend, a naval historian, who told her about the site soon after its launch in October 2010, Wendolkowski says. She quickly got hooked—not by the actual weather data but by the narrative of the Foxglove’s journey and crew, a story that played out alongside the thermometer readings in each day’s logbook entries.
The Old Weather project is a collaboration among scientists, including British paleoclimatologist Philip Brohan, and thousands of nonexperts who are helping him plug holes in the planet’s climate record.
Brohan’s volunteers comb through the digitized logbooks of World War I–era ships, which would be difficult for a computer to read, and enter weather data into the project’s Web site.
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