Observations of temperature, rainfall, humidity, etc underpin our understanding of our climate and its short- and long-term variations. Such observations have been made for well over a century, but they are not always accessible to us in the form needed for different uses.
Many historical observations are not available digitally, but are kept in original paper records; we aim to unlock the potential of this data by imaging and keying the information. This will enable us to develop a better understanding of how East Asian climate has changed over the historical past and how it might change in the future.
Because we don't have observations everywhere and because the way observations are made has changed over time, we have to be careful to understand and quantify the amount of certainty we have in our analyses. This means understanding things like the way different rain gauges collect rainfall, the impact on temperature measurements of urbanisation around a meteorological station, or the uncertainty that arises from having few observations in a particular region, for example. We will be exploring these kinds of questions both for East Asia and other parts of the world.
We can extract extra value from historical observations when they are brought together and, perhaps, combined with recent information collected by satellites in a "dynamical reanalysis". This uses a weather forecasting model to help us to understand what happened in the past in places or times between the observations where no information is available. These reanalyses can give us detailed information about climate variations and extreme events that is useful for helping people to understand their vulnerability to weather and climate change. We will enable such reanalyses to make the best use of the new data and understanding we collect.
When an extreme climate-related event does happen, e.g. a flood or a drought or a heat-wave, people often want to know whether or not we should expect such events to happen more or less often in the future to help them in their planning. We will develop a collaborative programme on the attribution to likely causes of climate-related extreme events and long-term trends in the East Asian region.
There are five components to the work we are undertaking at the Met Office in collaboration with our partners in China:
Six contracts were placed in Year 1 to help to unlock the potential of historical observations for the East Asian and surrounding regions:
Two contracts were placed in Year 1 to further our understanding of attribution of climate-related events and long-term trends:
Together with our partners in the UK and at CMA, we have already made a difference to the availability of historical daily observations in the East Asian region. Daily pressure and temperature data have been keyed for six Chinese meteorological stations for the pre-1950 period. Complete daily records of weather variables have been keyed for 1920-1930 for 19 island and coastal locations in and around the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Working with scientists at CMA-NSMC and ECMWF, we have been assessing the quality of data from instruments on board the new FY-3C satellite, launched in 2014. This will enable information gathered on atmospheric temperature and humidity to be used in weather forecasting, in producing new dynamical reanalyses and in climate research.
Last updated: 27 February 2015