Two researchers, respectively from the Centre for Climate Change at the University Rovira i Virgili (URV) in Spain and the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the United Kingdom, have found that 80% of global climate data cannot be used by scientists in digital format. Only 20% of the available data can be used for assessment purposes.
The study is funded in part by the EURO4M (European reanalysis and observations for monitoring) project, which has clinched almost€4 million (US$5.74 million) under the Space Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The findings, published in the journal Climate Research, underline the need to recover all data recorded in perishable formats as soon as possible.
The Scientific Information and News Service (SINC) quotes the lead author of the study, Manola Brunet, the head of URV’s Centre for Climate Change, as saying that while some climate data in Europe goes as far back as the 17th century, “not even 20% of the information recorded in the past is available to the scientific community”.
But the situation with European-based data is not as dire as it is in other continents, the researchers say. African and South American data are not accessible because weather observations only began there in the middle of the 19th century.
Besides Spain, only Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States have given scientists the right to partially access the countries’ historical climate data. All other countries around the globe will not allow such access for scientists nor for the public at large. And the refusal comes despite suggestions made by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to change their position.
The duo contends that weather services in all nations must deal with converting all their paper-based historical climate information into digital format. The data are currently stored in archives, libraries and research centres. The manner in which the information is stored makes it a lot harder for people to access.