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Rescuing historic climate data in the East Asian region

June 07, 2018

Historic instrumental weather observations are critical in extending our knowledge of past weather and climate and for comparison with paleo-proxy data. The potential of such data is shown to best effect when assimilated into dynamical 4D global reanalyses to reconstruct weather and climate patterns and fluctuations over 200+ years; creating a spatially and temporally-complete data base of global weather that is used for improving climate projections and contributing to climate change detection and attribution studies.

For some regions of the world however, a paucity of observational data requires a global, multi-disciplinary effort to source and recover previously unknown repositories of instrumental weather observations. This is the premise behind ACRE (Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth) China -a dedicated effort within the wider CSSP (Climate Science for Service Partnership) China project.

In a recent article, Dr Fiona Williamson (National University of Singapore) and her co-authors from the UK, China, Japan and the US, discuss this project.

CSSP China includes a dedicated effort--ACRE China--which tackles the challenges of recovering, collating, digitizing and working with long-term instrumental weather observations. CSSP China (supported by the UK Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy UK - China Research Innovation Partnership Fund) is enabling this work to go ahead as part of a collaboration between the China Meteorological Administration, the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the UK Meteorological Office amongst others. Project activities are also linked with other regional foci in ACRE Southeast Asia, and the new ACRE Japan.

The region covered by ACRE China covers the mainland of China; Hong Kong PRC; Macau, China; and the wider China seas region. The recovery of instrumental observations for the area entails different stages, sourcing, imaging and digitization of historical data, enabled by cooperation amongst cross-disciplinary investigators from around the globe. Sources of data include weather observations taken on board "stationary ships" in Hong Kong harbour and vessels patrolling Chinese seas; those made on ships during voyages of exploration or naval surveys in Chinese waters or in Southeast Asia; as well as observations made at terrestrial meteorological registering stations, by observatories, government bodies, and port authorities at sub-daily scales.

The effort and collaboration expended by all our partners globally, says Williamson, enables us to contribute to the magnitude and accuracy of important regional and global weather and climate data bases.

Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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