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Retrospect

Pages from time past

Inmet assembles 12 million documents of the oldest meteorological records in Brazil

INMETInheritance: a page from one of the notebooks to be inputINMET

A record of the past climate in Brazil is beginning to take shape, as a result of the recovery of the National Meteorology Library’s documentary collection. The first part of this recovery, which started three years ago, was relatively easy: to restore and organize almost 20,000 books and old publications, some from the time of the Empire and now accessible electronically (www.inmet.gov.br). The second part is more challenging: inputting and making 11,736,387 documents widely available for use containing the first meteorological observations in Brazil. These records of daily variations of temperature, rainfall, wind, pressure, humidity, luminosity for the whole country from the start of the 19th century (1813) are still in notebook and book form and with thousands of pages with tables, graphs and notes, many in a precarious state of conservation, in hundreds of files in the headquarters of the institute in Brasília, and in its units in Manaus, Belém, Salvador, São Paulo and other cities in the country.

This documentation includes rarities like descriptions of the climate in Brazil in the years 1813 and 1814, possibly the oldest in the country, and which were published in London by the magazine O Patriota.  In addition it reveals weather observers, like Alberto Leal, a land and mine official in Jequié, in Bahia (photo alongside). The systematic collection of data began in 1827, with the creation of the Observatory of Rio de Janeiro, the present National Observatory, which has published meteorological annals since 1851. “These data constitute the terrestrial truth about the climate in Brazil and are fundamental for giving a realistic backup when it comes to simulation studies of climate trends in Brazil”, says Antonio Divino Moura, director of the National Meteorology Institute (Inmet). According to Moura, the historical data are also important for giving more consistency and detailing the current climate simulation models, which reflect the weather reasonably accurately, but only on a global scale.

Moura intends to start inputting the documents this year, when the institute celebrates the centenary of its foundation. It will not be simple, because in addition to creating digital images of each page, it will be necessary to manually check the numerical data about variations in temperature, rainfall and wind. He reckons that the project to input the documents is likely to cost around R$ 25 million and take at least three years. “If we begin this year”, he says, “in two years we’ll already have good results, with the possibility of direct consultation, without using the physical documents”.

Inmet has been centralizing the production and distribution of information about weather and climate behavior in Brazil since it started functioning in 1909. Currently, the information is collected in 800 terrestrial stations and sent automatically every hour by Brasilsat satellite to the Institute’s headquarters and to 42 altitude stations spread throughout Brazil and operated jointly with the Aeronautical Command. Inmet’s internet page (www.inmet.gov.br) shows the movement of clouds across the country and the maximum and minimum temperature variations, pressure, rainfall and wind direction during the day, as well as giving a 5-day weather forecast for hundreds of Brazilian municipalities.

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