14 February 2018

Cryospheric and Polar Processes Seminar: Florence Fetterer

Cryospheric and Polar Processes Seminar
East Campus, RL-2, room 155, 11:00 a.m.

A simple definition of the cryosphere is “where the world is frozen,” or where water takes the form of snow and ice. The cryosphere is shrinking as the Earth warms. Data, particularly old data, document this in often eye-opening fashion. A photograph of Alaska’s Muir Glacier taken in 1902 next to one taken in 2005 has impact that a line graph of air temperature anomalies from a weather station can’t match, even though temperature data are fundamental to climate research and to understanding the glacier retreat captured in the photographs. Whaling logbooks from the late 1800s, maps of sea ice shared internationally in the 1930s, and satellite images of the polar oceans from the 1960s are not as immediately thought-provoking as are glacier photographs, but when preserved and documented they provide a record of sea ice coverage that is more than 100 years long. We developed a data product from these and other sources that is used in meteorological reanalysis and to answer questions about ice in the Arctic prior to 1978, when commonly used satellite-data-derived sea ice records begin. Preserving glacier photographs and making them available online, and publishing a gridded sea ice data product that builds on the preservation work of others are examples of data rescue projects that benefit scientific research and mobilize knowledge. These and other case studies suggest that, even absent secure funding and an organizational setting that supports data rescue, important data make the transition from someone’s office to archived and online with metadata because scientists are impassioned about the data they collect and want others to be able to use these data. In these cases from the cryosphere, student interns, collaborations with librarians, and cooperation with colleagues in other data centers have made it possible to preserve data at low cost.

Presentation includes  contributions from Athea Merredyth, University of Colorado Libraries and Kevin Wood, NOAA and University of Washington-Joint Institute for Study of Atmosphere and Oceans