Citizens on Patrol

We’re currently working on a Citizen Science scoping project, with the aim of transcribing the data from historical tide gauge ledgers we had scanned last year. A couple of weeks ago I decided to make a trip down south to visit the Met Office and the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), where I could discuss Citizen Science and sea level data archaeology.

At the Met Office, I met with some of the team behind the Old Weather project and also the Met Office Weather Observation Website. I received some really helpful advice about starting up a Citizen Science project, some of which can be found in The Citizen Science guide available from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). They also recommended someone from the team attend the Citizen Cyberscience Summit in London at the end of February.

The view from the train between Exeter and Taunton

The view from the train between Exeter and Taunton

After the visit to the Met Office in Exeter, I went to Taunton to meet the Tides group at the UKHO to discuss what data in their impressive archives might be recoverable. Among other wonderful historical data I saw tide gauge charts from Valetta, Malta, dating back to the 1870s and tide gauge measurements made at Kerguelen by James Clark Ross in the 1840s. The UKHO archives are open to the public, by appointment, but we hope to scan some of the tide gauge records to make them freely available.

The meetings gave me lots of things to think about and also uncovered lots of data. It was great to meet with people that were so enthusiastic about the work they do and very keen to be helpful and share their knowledge.


Conference Call

We would like to announce a forthcoming workshop on Major Research Topics in Sea Level Science. It’s being held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) and will take place at the University of Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery & Museum on the 28th and 29th of October. The workshop is open to all, but free registration is required by the 16th of September.
Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) LogoThe workshop will focus on aspects of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group I), but there will also be a session on Data Archaeology, including talks and a poster session, where we will highlight the work we carried out for this JISC project.

Victoria Gallery, Liverpool

Victoria Gallery, Liverpool (photo credit: Ian-S, flickr)

This workshop precedes the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) Group of Experts (GE) meeting, where we will present a progress report on techniques for the digitisation of archived mareograms (tide level recordings).

Talking Shop

The National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, holds a weekly seminar every Wednesday during university term time. Though the lab specialises in shelf sea and sea level science, the seminar series is broad in scope, covering all aspects of oceanography, climate science and geophysical fluid dynamics. Seminars are attended by Ph.D. students, researchers and senior scientists from NOC and the University of Liverpool.

The Joseph Proudman Building, home of the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool. Image credit: Rept0n1x (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Joseph Proudman Building, home of the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool. Image credit: Rept0n1x (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Next week, I will be giving the seminar, the title of which is “Marine Data Management: Past, Present and Future”.

Read the abstract:

The first section of the talk will focus on data archaeology and I hope to explain the importance of recovering, quality controlling and distributing historic data. I’ll be discussing the JISC Sea level project as an example. It will also help raise awareness of this project within the lab and at other organisations and let people know there will be more data available soon.

Tide up in a meeting

Last Wednesday we had a visit from the External User on our project board, Dr Ivan Haigh, from the University of Southampton. Ivan had come to give the weekly seminar at the National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool – his was entitled ‘Timescales for detecting a significant acceleration in sea-level rise.

Will the rate of sea level rise accelerate throughout the 21st century?

Will the rate of sea level rise accelerate throughout the 21st century?

While he was here, there was time for a brief project meeting with most of the members of the board. The board discussed the sustainability of the project, the possibility of future work and also coordination with other sea level data archaeology projects going on around the world.

Ivan highlighted the work being carried out in the USA, including the identifying of data at risk, by Dr David Jay and Dr. Stefan Talke at Portland State University.

Ivan is composing a proposal to digitise historical sea level data for Poole Harbour and is investigating various lines of funding, including looking at the possibility of Lottery funding, which would require developing links with the local community. BODC will archive, store and deliver any data generated by this future project.

ACREs of data

Next week the 5th Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) Workshop will be taking place in Toulouse. The ACRE initiative has been very active in the international data rescue of historic meteorological observations and has been involved in Citizen Science through the Old Weather project.

On Thursday, Guy Wöppelmann from the University of La Rochelle LIttoral ENvironnement et Sociétés group will give a presentation on “Historical Sea Level”. We have prepared a poster that will accompany this workshop based on our efforts for the JISC content programme.

We hope this is the first step in forging closer links with the ACRE community, and we can learn from their experiences to improve data archaeology in the global sea level community, through our work with the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) programme.

Sustainability suggestions

On Friday I attended a JISC Sustainability workshop in Bristol. It was for both the Content Programme 2011-13 and the Digging into Data programme. The workshop was led by Rebecca Griffiths and Nancy Maron of Ithaka S+R.

Bristol Temple Meads (image taken from Russell Ede′s Flickr photostream and used under Creative Commons)

One of the first questions asked was “What is your goal for the end of this project?”

We would like to carry on with digitising analogue records. We have more historic charts in our archive, and we want to work with international programmes such as The Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) data archaeology group to explore future opportunities and make use of emerging technologies.

We would also like to ensure that the digitised data and resources that we have created under the JISC eContent programme are being made use of. I managed to pick up a few pointers on how to embed our OERs in academic teaching at the workshop. It’s not enough just to make our resources available; we need to put them where the users are. As well as putting the OERs on our website, we will look at putting them on university websites as a start. If we are to produce OERs for a wide range of academic users, from schools and colleges to universities, we need to make sure that the lesson plans will fit in to the curricular and the subjects being taught and are tailored to the right audience.

Some of the documentation provided at the workshop can be found on the JISC Business Modelling and Sustainability webpages.

Why We Try to Extend Sea Level Records

BODC have been involved in a number of previous projects aimed at extending historic sea level records. I thought we could use this post to discuss one of the scientific studies that have come about from using these data.

In 2006, Ivan Haigh contacted BODC. He was working on a Ph.D at the University of Southampton with the topic ‘Extreme sea levels in the English Channel’. The study relied on analysing high-frequency sea level data (for data to be ‘high-frequency’, the readings
need to be an hour or less apart). He would then analyse the data and attempt to calculate

  • Mean Sea Level (MSL)
  • The probability of future extreme sea level events

This kind of research requires long time series. As Ivan says on his blog:

“The study of extremes is more difficult than research into MSL changes owing to the general lack of access to long, high frequency and quality-controlled datasets. Records of about 35 years (i.e. about two 18.6 nodal cycles) are needed to accurately determine changes in extreme levels, as the influence of the nodal cycle can significantly bias trend estimates in shorter datasets. At the start of the study, there were only two tide gauge stations on the UK south coast (Newlyn and Dover) with sea level records matching these requirements and a further seven sites on the northern French coastline.”

For background on the 18.6-year nodal cycle, see this Wikipedia entry on tidal analysis.

In order to increase the timespan of data series available for study, Ivan carried out a data archaeology exercise. The first step was to identify what data existed in analogue formats. He asked BODC about sea level data for Southampton that he knew we held in chart form. He then took these charts and had them digitised, converting the data into a useable format.

Mean sea-level trends from English Channel tide gauge records and their wider context

Taken from Haigh, I.D., Nicholls, R.J., Wells, N.C., 2009a. Mean sea-level trends from English Channel tide gauge records and their wider context. Continental Shelf Research, 29, 2083-2098

The data archaeology exercise was very successful and in total 173 years worth of digital data for the South Coast were created. The record for Southampton was extended back to 1937.