Old Weather

“The climate of New South Wales is extremely uncertain. The rain falls at all seasons some years, and scarcely at all in otlhers. All attempts to reduce the fall of rain in this Colony to definite seasons or other periods, either of months or years have proved abortive; rain will drown the country some years, for two or three years consecutively, and then for twelve and fourteen years there will be a total absence of floods and in lieu, destructive droughts, distressing the pastures and harvests for three or four years in succession.” so wrote E S Hall 1833.


(Image – State Library of Victoria, Calender and history of the past year. Melbourne : [Printed and published by Edgar Ray and Frederick Sinnett]

c.a. 1855)

Looking out the window over the past few days and forwards onto the remainder of the week it seems that Mr Hall certainly had the right of it. I found this piece about our weather while pursuing my new found activity, transcribing historical climate records. Weird I know, but when I heard the tail end of a news item about a project to recover historical climate records I was intrigued.

The Australian Climate History project is being run out of Melbourne University and is one of the so-called citizen science projects that have taken off with the advent of the home computer. In this case you access the records digitised by the National Library of Australia as part of its Trove project, that have been identified as containing weather-related words. You check the record, transcribe any relevant text and answer some standard questions, all in the comfort of your own home. If you prefer words to numbers you can work on that type of record as well. The need for human intervention is obvious when the computer system identifies the ‘hot’ in the name Hottentot (yes their really is a group of people called that) as a potential target.

It may sound dull, but I’ve had a wonderful time so far delving into the early happenings of settler Australia, including duels (quite a number of them) and critiques of local entertainments that make the writings of our contemporary comentatorss look quite bland in comparison.

If more contemporary records are of greater interest then you may want to check out the Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Climate Summary 2011, which was released recently. Apart from that you might just have to stare out the window and watch the rain come down.



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