Researchers assemble climate data for the 20th Century Reanalysis Project

January 26, 2011

Researchers assemble climate data for the 20th Century Reanalysis ProjectClimate researchers from around the world have created “a comprehensive reanalysis of all global weather events from 1871 to the present day, and from the earth’s surface to the jet stream level.”  The project required over 80 million processing hours using super computers.  The 20th Century Reanalysis Project will provide climate scientists with a longer timespan to study, improving climate models for future predictions.

According to the outline of the 20th Century Reanalysis Project (the Project) found in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, the project consisted of 27 international scientists and support from over 36 research institutions.  The Project builds on prior works like the U.S. Historical Weather Map Series produced by the U.S. Weather Bureau. 

The information for the project was collected from a variety of sources.

“Producing this huge dataset required an international effort to collate historical observations and recordings from sources as diverse as 19th century sea captains, turn of the century explorers and medical doctors, all pieced together using some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the US Department Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in California and the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility in Tennessee,” said lead author Dr Gil Compo.

“The resulting weather maps, called reanalyses, provide a much longer record of past weather variability than is currently available to compare present and projected weather variability in a warming climate. They also provide a valuable insight into extreme weather and climate events that were historically important, such as the 1930’s Dust Bowl.”

The work of the Project scientists will allow climate scientists to determine patterns over a longer time span.  Such issues as the number and severity of natural disasters can be compared with over a century’s worth of data to compare our present day climate changes with the past.

The compilation of all of the data was made possible by the Department of Energy (DOE) giving the Project grants of supercomputing time at different DOE scientific computing centers like National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.

"The 20th Century Reanalysis project is a great example of how dedicated supercomputing time and technical support can significantly advance research in an area that has significant impact on our lives," said NERSC Director Kathy Yelick. "In addition to furthering his own research, Gil Compo’s team has also made their data available to the wider climate research community, giving his work even greater reach.

The data may also settle one controversy.  If the newly compiled data shows that what is being called global warming is actually a normal climate cycle, then climate deniers will be vindicated.  However if the data shows that what we are experiencing is unprecedented and out of the ordinary, it would boost the most prevalent view of climate scientists today.


Dr. Gil Campo discusses the 20th Century Reanalysis Project from ASCR Discovery


The above graphic is of the The Köeppen Climate Classification System by FAO-SDRN-Agrometeorology Group 1997

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