Friday, 27 February 2015

EnviroHack 2015 kicks off

NERC's Head of Science Information and Data Management Coordinator, Mark Thorley, opened the NERC EnviroHack today.
This 'hackathon' event provides an exciting opportunity to collaborate and create value from environmental data sets. EnviroHack was organised by the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).
Mark Thorley kicks off the NERC EnviroHack ©
Data collected by environmental scientists are being made available for 'hackers' to explore in new ways. The participants, including Justin Buck, Lise Quesnel and Chris Wood from BODC, will be using 'Linked Data' — a means of using web technology to link separate but related data sets.
The event, facilitated by Red Ninja Studios and supported by Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), runs from Friday 27 February until Saturday 28 February at the Digital Catapult Centre, London. The raw data for this event comes from: BODC, CEH, the British Geological Survey (BGS), UK Data Archive, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and the Met Office.
BODC data encompasses measurements made from research vessels, while both underway and at sampling stations; from moorings deployed either on the sea surface, in the water column or on the sea bed; and from land-based stations recording sea level. Over 60,000 data series have been provided; each series consists of a number of data cycles. Data categories include
Dr Clare Postlethwaite, MEDIN Coordinator,  presenting at the NERC EnvirohackDr Clare Postlethwaite, MEDIN Coordinator, presenting at the NERC Envirohack ©
  • Acoustics
  • Bathymetry and topography
  • Currents — horizontal and vertical velocity, Lagrangian currents and water transport rates
  • Meteorology — Radiosonde, Met. stations and data buoys
  • Optical properties — pigments, turbidity, irradiance
  • Sea level
  • Water column temperature and salinity
  • Water column chemistry — nutrients, carbons, oxygen
  • Waves — statistics and spectra
BODC's metadata (information about data) are available as 5* Linked Data from a SPARQL endpoint. These metadata include links to a download service where the data they describe are available under licence.
Throwing ideas around
at the Digital Catapult Centre
Lise Quesnel (BODC developer)
presenting at the NERC Envirohack 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Rescuing historic Maltese tide gauge data

By restoring historic tide gauge data from Malta and making it available to the public, researchers at the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) and the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) hope to shed new light on past tsunamis and climate change in the Mediterranean.

Chart from Valetta, Malta, 2nd April 1872, after undergoing conservation, showing the 'seiching' ©

A tide gauge installed in the Maltese port of Valetta working in 1871 offers the only continuous record of the sea level in the Southern Mediterranean longer than fifty years. However, some of the paper records it produced have deteriorated.
The project coordinator, BODC's Elizabeth Bradshaw said, "there are a limited number of long-term records of climate data in the world, so rescuing and recovering data is vital for answering questions on climate change and oceanography".
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have provided £32,000 from their 'Breakthrough Fund' to BODC and the UKHO in order to restore these records and make them available to the public. They hope to digitise the data via a citizen science activity, once this project is complete. Once digitised, scientists will be able to use the data to look for evidence of past tsunamis and climate change.
While modern tide gauges typically only calculate the sea level once every fifteen minutes, this historic analogue gauge made a continuous recording. It worked using a float on the water that, via a system of pulleys and cogs, moved a pen up and down a paper-wrapped drum in a way that reflected the changing sea level.
The British Navy installed the gauge to ensure ships got safely in and out of the harbour and in 1877 Astronomer Royal George Airy wrote about the particularly interesting tidal signal at Valetta, caused by the ocean water sloshing back and forth across the Mediterranean basin (much as it does in a bath). The gauge remained in action until 1926.
Once the project is complete, in March of this year, the data will be made available on the BODC website as well as on The original records will remain at the UKHO.