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Keynote 3 The Value of Archives for Australian Climate Science

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Presentation Description

The year 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest on record. The past eight years have all been in the warmest 10 years on record. But what does ‘on record’ mean? And what about before that time, when our official climate record hadn’t yet began? 
 
Until recently, meteorological information from archival sources has been largely overlooked in Australian climate studies. This means we still have limited knowledge of Australia’s weather and climate before our ‘official record’ begins at the turn of the 20th century. 
 
However, there are reams of information—both scientific and societal—about the weather experienced in the 18th and 19th centuries, waiting to improve understanding of our land of droughts and flooding rains. 
 
Using case studies of sources and past weather events, I look forward to demonstrating the value of historical weather information to shed light on Australia’s past, present and future climate change. I will share details of the efforts being made to rescue and analyse data from our climatic past, and the care that must be taken to ensure they are interpreted accurately. Finally, I will explore how a greater understanding of the past can help us meaningfully prepare for a warmer and wilder future. 

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