18 The CDMP “Forts” project from A to Z -- keying historic 19th century weather data

Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Salon B (Asheville Renaissance)
Raymond T. Truesdell, IBM Corporation, Asheville, NC; and N. E. Westcott, L. Stoecker, M. Spinar, D. L. O'Connell, and B. Mayes Boustead

As global climate change gains attention, world leaders, planners, and citizens alike are looking to climate science to predict the direction our climate is going. But to forecast our climate's future, we have to know more about its past. That's where the “Forts” project comes in. NOAA's Climate Database Modernization Program (CDMP), part of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC, oversees this ongoing task of key-entering weather observations from 19th-century observers' hand-written forms. As they are converted into digital datasets, the Forts data extend the period of weather records for many U.S. locations back to the early 1800s, making critical historic data available to researchers worldwide. This paper will present an “A to Z” look at the creation of this dataset. The history of the Forts-era observations and their current state are part of the story. So too are the efforts of CDMP meteorologists to prepare the data for keying, preserve critical metadata, and develop station histories. Data keying by CDMP contractors, and quality control and distribution of the data at the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, are still more integral steps. No dataset is truly valuable unless it can be used, and the paper will present some real-world research performed using the newly prepared Forts data.
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