I have tremendous admiration for the people involved with Weather Rescue in digitising all the Ben Nevis observations from the old paper records for the years between 1883 and 1904, which is now I see 88% complete. Weather Rescue are now encouraging people to get involved with the even bigger project of transcribing all the daily weather reports issued by the Met Office from 1860 to 1950. Obviously this is a massive undertaking, but the records have all been scanned and made available by the Met Office on their website to make this happen.
From what I can see from the Weather Rescue website (fig 2) most of the data in the DWR before 1950 have not been digitised. The one simple question that I have about this new projects is:
Shouldn’t this be the Met Office’s job?
As each daily weather report was published, they were obviously produced by copying from the original record that had been telegraphed into the Met Office. I imagine that the original record was then filed away as subset of a much more extensive collection of daily climatological records that they collected by post at the end of each month. You would think that the Met Office, as one of the first government departments to early use of computers in the 1960’s, would have moved to digitised all such climatological records to magnetic disk as quickly as possible. I think this latest undertaking of the Weather Rescue volunteers throws up some awkward and embarrassing questions about the Met Office as custodians of the nation’s climatological records:
- What have they been doing sitting on a mountain of paper climatological records for the last 50 years?
- As custodian, isn’t it their responsibility to get these paper records digitised?
- Why do we have to depend on Weather Rescue to do the work that should have already been done by them?
- If records before 1950 haven’t been digitised that means they aren’t being used, and that makes the efforts of past generations worthless – Isn’t climate data from the past just as important as recent data in verifying the accuracy of climate models?