NiCHE to host ‘old’ Arctic expert

By Communications Staff
May 10, 2014

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A nationally significant environmental data collection, received on long-term loan by Western from Environment Canada, will be formally presented for the first-time since its arrival at a workshop hosted by NiCHE (Network in Canadian History & Environment).

The Climate is History workshop runs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday at Somerville House (Room 3305).

Kevin Wood from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Old Weather ‘citizen science’ project will deliver a public keynote lecture, Old Weather and the New Climate of the Arctic, following The Climate is History workshop at 7 p.m. in Conron Hall, University College, Room 224.

The lead Arctic investigator for the Old Weather project, Wood is also a professor at the University of Washington Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean. Before joining the faculty at Washington, Wood sailed the world’s oceans for 25 years aboard traditionally rigged sailing vessels. His interest in historical climatology stems from this experience on these ships, much like those used by 19th century explorers, and from working on research vessels in the ice-covered seas of the Arctic and Antarctic.

According to Wood, a vast reservoir of new-to-science environmental data is contained in historical ship logbooks and other original documents that have been preserved for generations by national archives and other repositories around the world, but these data are technically inaccessible. The Old Weather citizen science project is recovering millions of these hand-written observations, converting them into digital format, and integrating them into large-scale data sets where they are used for new research. These data are needed for scientists to better understand longer-term environmental variations in the Arctic and globally, and is vital to our efforts to model and predict future change and its human impact.

The Old Weather project is similar to an initiative led by NiCHE, in which Western Archives received an archival collection of Canadian daily observational weather records spanning the period 1840-1960 earlier this year. Western History professor Alan MacEachern, NiCHE director, and his research team are preserving, digitizing and sharing (for research and teaching) the Environment Canada collection.


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