NOAA 99-R315
Contact: Pat Viets


Millions of global environmental records -- including handwritten ships' logs from the 19th century and weather observations from America's early years – are being saved from the ravages of time, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

The records, located primarily in the NOAA's three national data centers, include millions of paper, film and tape records. The paper is deteriorating, the acetate-based film is degrading, and the tape is becoming obsolete. As the media deteriorate with age, records are in danger of being lost. To remedy the situation, NOAA has implemented an environmental data rescue program, which rescues data sets by converting them to more stable storage media.

"The goal of the data rescue program is to preserve the meteorological, climatological, geophysical, oceanographic and biological data stored in NOAA's national data centers, and throughout NOAA," said Tim Roberts, program manager. "The records are vital to preserving the nation's environmental record, which provides the foundation for scientific, engineering and economic decisions. We plan to make this information more accessible to researchers and the general public by placing it on-line."

Under the massive data rescue project, begun in 1996, the following data sets have been rescued thus far: 732,000 oceanographic surface and profile observations recorded on paper, 13.5 million paper meteorological forms, 440,000 microfiche cooperative weather observation forms, 131,000 pages of coastal data recorded on paper, 250 bathymetric maps on paper, 4,000 geophysical observations on paper, and 88,000 reels of microfilm containing meteorological data. But these accomplishments represent only a small portion of the data in need of rescue. Under the current program, the overall effort will take more than a decade to complete.

The records are housed at the: National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.; National Oceanographic Data Center, Silver Spring, Md.; National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder, Colo.; Coastal Services Center, Charleston, S.C.; National Ocean Service, Silver Spring, Md.; and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, Silver Spring, Md.