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Historical weather records collected by NSW farmer to be used in new climate modelling

Jennifer Ingall, Thursday April 12, 2018 - 14:41 EST
ABC licensed image
Mr Belfield's handwritten records have been digitised. - ABC licensed

Meticulous weather records taken by a NSW man between 1877 and 1922 have been digitised thanks to the efforts of people around the world, and will be used to help fill a gap in weather knowledge.

The data was recorded by Algernon Henry Belfield on his farm, Eversleigh, near Armidale in northern NSW.

Family and climate scientists visited his grave recently to pay tribute to the man whose legacy is changing the way scientists look at the weather.

Mr Belfield recorded what was happening at his farm each day, taking note of more than just rainfall and temperature.

"We've got pressure, we've got wind, cloud cover, humidity and remarks as well," Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Linden Ashcroft said.

"Comments about snowfall and the different kind of effects the weather had every day on his farm."

Dr Ashcroft said the records filled a gap in weather knowledge, considering official rainfall figures were only on record from 1900 and temperature from 1910.

"Having 45 years of observations every day at the one place is actually surprisingly rare," she said.

Mr Belfield's records cover El Nino and La Nina events, as well as the Federation Drought of 1897-1903.

Grandson Richard Belfield said Mr Belfield had been "absolutely meticulous".

"He did not suffer fools, he was a man of his word. I wish I had known him," he said.

Richard Belfield may not have known his grandfather, but he recognised the value of his weather records, taken every day at 9am for 45 years.

"We put his weather records out into the public arena so people can now begin to understand what they mean, and how they might help mankind with knowing more about the weather," he said.

Records digitised for use in climate modelling

More than 164,000 entries have now been digitised thanks to the volunteer efforts of people around the world.

"We had 30-odd people from around the world as far away as China put their hands up, and the task was done in about three weeks," Richard Belfield said.

He said he had been astounded by the response from people who were fascinated by all things weather.

The records are now being sent to the United States to contribute to climate modelling, and as comparisons to other extreme weather events.

"These records can really help us understand the drivers behind our climate and how these drivers are changing as we move into a warmer world," Dr Ashcroft said.


© ABC 2018

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