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Climate scientists are to publish the largest ever collection of temperature records, dating back more than a hundred years, in an attempt to provide a more accurate picture of climate change.

The UK Met Office is leading the project to create a new set of temperature records from around the world.

The move is being seen as a response to criticism by global warming sceptics of the withholding of data used in climate change research.

The records, taken from land-based temperature recording stations around the world, will be made open to the public and researchers to carry out analysis to help answer key questions about how climate change will affect individual countries and local regions.

Climate scientists have come under intense pressure following the Climategate scandal at the University of East Anglia, where researchers were criticised for withholding crucial information, meaning their research could not be independently checked.

Sceptics have also attacked climate change research over the quality of the records being used as evidence for the impact mankind has had on the world’s climate since the industrial revolution.

But the Met Office, which is hosting an international workshop with members of the World Meteorological Organisation to start work on the project, is now planning to publish hourly temperature records from land-based weather stations around the world.

Until now, most climate change research has had to rely upon average daily and even monthly temperature records which has made it impossible to assess extreme changes in weather that occur at local levels.

They plan to negotiate with weather services from around the world to make all of their data publicly available and hopefully fill in some of the blank spots where scientists have been unable to obtain accurate data, including the Amazon and parts of Africa.

Dr Peter Thorne, a former Met Office climate scientist who is chairing the International Organising Committee for the project, said the current data sets were “patchy” and that if all the available data was added to them, they could double in size.

He added: “We don’t necessarily have the tools available to provide local data which can allow us to tell the effects of heat on human health, or which crops farmers should plant or what temperature tolerance buildings should have.”

Members of the public will also be recruited to help compile the new set of data by converting hundreds of thousands of handwritten records dating back to the early 1900s into a searchable database that will be available on the internet.

This data has been virtually unusable due to the time it takes to sift through the data held on these records, leaving holes in many of the temperature records used by scientists when researching climate change.

The Met Office hopes that adding them to the electronic database will allow a more accurate picture of how the climate has changed over the past 100 years.

Dr Thorne said: “Currently at the national climate data centre, we are sitting on digital images that would take 20 full time staff nearly a century to key in. On top of that, we know there are lots more paper records out there that we could get our hands on.”

The Met Office has also been speaking with internet giants Google about ways of placing the data online and making it accessible to the general public, including mapping the temperature records onto the Google Earth application.

Climate scientists have faced increasing scepticism from the public following the leak of thousands of emails and other documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in November 2009.

Although the researchers at the unit were cleared of allegations that they had manipulated data, they were criticised by official inquiries for failing to make the raw data they used publicly available despite repeated requests.

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