Help complete Australia’s longest daily weather record

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) are launching a new citizen science project to create Australia’s longest daily weather record beginning in 1838. 

The researchers are looking for citizen science volunteers to help turn back the pages of history in order to discover more about Australia’s pre-industrial climate. 

Volunteers will have the chance to digitise observations from the 1840s and 1850s which have been previously unused in climate change research. 

“Recently, we discovered 170-year-old weather journals taken at the Adelaide Surveyor General’s Office that will complete an eight-year gap to create Australia’s longest daily weather record,” lead researcher Dr Joelle Gergis said.

“Historical weather records like these can give us an accurate picture of the range of climate extremes experienced in the past. This can help improve climate risk assessment needed for future climate change planning and adaptation.

“The journals are some of the oldest weather records in the southern hemisphere.”

Caitlin Howlett from ANU says citizen scientists will help digitise over 150 handwritten pages of weather observations taken in Adelaide from 1 April 1843 until 1 December 1856.

"This will fill the remaining gap in the record from 1848 to 1856," Ms Howlett said.

“The variables that volunteers will be working on include instrumental observations of temperature, air pressure, cloud type and wind. And they could include unknown details of Australia’s social and climate history – such as snowfalls, floods, heatwaves or bushfires.”

According to Mac Benoy, the Australian Meteorological Association’s citizen science project manager, Australians have a long history of being “obsessed” with the weather.

“The invention of accurate thermometers and barometers allowed their passion to become a science, leading to ideas that one day they would be able to forecast the weather,” Mr Benoy said.

"These records were created at this critical time, but little did the observers realise that nearly 180 years later, their data would help with climate change research.”

To get started, volunteers can use this link to access the project on the citizen science platform, Zooniverse:

Are you obsessed with the weather? Is this the sort of project that you would like to volunteer for?




A good start would be Captain Watkin Tench's "A Complete Account of The Settlement at Port Jackson". The author embarked in the First Fleet which sailed to found the establishment at Botany Bay. He shortly after published a Narrative of the Proceedings and State of the Colony. He resided in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) for nearly four years from 20th January 1788, until 18th December 1791. 

He noted weather occurrences, penetrated the surrounding countryside in order to examine its nature and ascertain its relative geographical situation. 

He recorded Summer temperatures at Port Jackson of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (well into the low 40's Celsius) including mention of birds and bats falling dead from trees due to the excessive heat. These high temperatures were recorded despite the settlement being rural, comprising about 1,200 Europeans, and several hundred indigenous people living in the vicinity of Sydney Harbour. 




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