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Louise Cook

2019-03-12 17:10

Brit’s weather obsession to power citizen science project for British Science Week 2019

Today marks the launch of the 25th anniversary of British Science Week, a ten-day national celebration of the best of British science, technology, engineering and maths. The week is coordinated by the British Science Association, and this year we have partnered with Operation Weather Rescue – a citizen science project that is asking the public to help unlock answers about the weather of the past to help us understand our climate in the future.

Research we're releasing today shows that on average we Brits spend the equivalent of a typical working day thinking about, talking about or checking the weather each week. And our data shows a third of us ensure we look at the forecast before we leave the house. With the weather occupying so much of our thoughts, it may come as no surprise that 40% of Brits say the weather impacts their mood.

Tapping into our passion for the weather, we at the British Science Association are hoping to inspire a nation of 'sofa scientists' to participate in a large-scale citizen science project during British Science Week – Operation Weather Rescue.

Alongside the Weather Rescue team from University of Reading, we have identified two decades' worth of historically significant data covering the period of 1860-1880 which are currently only in hand written format. The public are being asked to transcribe this data on to a computer to build a picture of how the weather in that period changed over time.

One of the biggest challenges that researchers face is access to historical data sets – there are millions of pages of data held in archives around the world that have never been digitised. By understanding the patterns in this historic weather, scientists can build a more accurate picture and look at implications for climate change today.

If we can better understand how the weather has already changed, we'll be able to better predict what's coming – and we need as many records as possible to do that. By analysing some of the most severe weather events that occurred in the past, we can improve our understanding of the range of possible weather we might expect to see in future.

Without the public's contribution to digitising these records, it would take the research team years to enter the information themselves, and so the BSA hopes that, during British Science Week, we can make a real contribution to this important research. Through uploading these data records, scientists and meteorologists across the globe will have access to historic raw data from this period for the first time. It's an opportunity for everyone to get involved in science.

British Science Week is the perfect way for people of all backgrounds, ages and interests to take part in a project like Operation Weather Rescue. We hope to inspire a nation of sofa scientists – igniting that spark that encourages people to take action and make a real difference.

If you want to take part in British Science Week and help Operation Weather Rescue – find out more and get involved at and on social media with #WeatherRescue #BSW19