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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The voyages of British Royal Navy warships from World War One will be used to reconstruct past weather patterns to help understand climate change, scientists at the UK's Met Office said on Tuesday.
The Old Weather project (www.oldweather.org) is looking for volunteers to extract data and weather observations from digital versions of handwritten historical ship log books, which are difficult for a computer to read.
"If we can correctly account for what the weather was doing in the past, then we can have more confidence in our predictions of the future," said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office.
"Unfortunately, the historical record is full of gaps, particularly from before 1920, and at sea, so this project is invaluable."
On the website, volunteers can track a specific warship, recording specific weather events or temperatures. Each log book can be looked at by more than one person, allowing mistakes to be filtered out.
Covering 280 ships between 1905 and 1929, the information will enable scientists to reconstruct wind speed, weather, cloudiness, precipitation and pressure for a better understanding of the current and future climate.
"By getting an army of online human volunteers to retrace these voyages and transcribe the information recorded by British sailors we can relive both the climate of the past and key moments in naval history," said one of the project's team Chris Lintott at Oxford University.
Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Steve Addison