With 2.5 million pieces of data from between 1860 and 1880 not stored in digital form, scientists are unable to quickly access and compare measurements from the past.
Undertaking the task among the research community alone would take too long, so people are being urged to help out with the two decades of data using a computer at home.
Digitalisation of the Met Office records will enable meteorologists to use modern tools that can reconstruct weather patterns over Europe, allowing them to make new discoveries and unlock answers to questions about the world’s weather and changing climate.
“It’s a great opportunity for the public to contribute to real scientific research,” said Professor Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, who is leading the Operation Weather Rescue project with the support of British Science Week and the British Science Association.
“As the world warms, the data will provide a baseline to help us measure weather changes and monitor climate change, which will have impacts for people, communities and environments across the world.”
The general public will be able to offer their help through a special website during British Science Week from March 8 to 17.
“We’re hoping that the buzz of the week will give this important project a huge boost and are looking forward to seeing what progress can be made through these two decades-worth of data,” Prof Hawkins added.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of British Science Week, which used similar people power last year to map out plastic rubbish on the country’s beaches.