Today’s Solutions: December 01, 2021

The Rainfall Rescue Project was launched in the UK just last week to help scientists understand past rainfall variations—and a big part of doing that requires digitizing old written records. In what can be considered a little silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists have been amazed as self-isolated public volunteers have blitzed their way through rain gauge data from the 1950s, 40s, and 30s in just four days.

Project leader Prof Ed Hawkins had suggested the work might be a good way for people to use self-isolation time. It seems he was right as nearly 12,000 volunteers signed up to help scientists sift through data and previous research articles. Buried in this mass of data is information that can inform flood and drought planning.

The data is also accompanied by notes that explain certain statistics. There are stories of data being interrupted by trampling animals, and of children throwing stones at gauges. On one sheet from 1948, the abbot says his monastery’s time series was interrupted because the gauge had a bullet hole in it and needed repair.

The importance of recovering old weather records can’t be overstated. It’s only by putting the present in the context of the past that we can plan properly for the future.

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