Blog Posts
Introducing DRAW Members: Nathan Leuranguer
Albert J. Kelly: McGill’s Weatherman and DRAW
Convocation 1922
On the Home Front: Convocation Day 1916
A Snowy Convocation: April 30, 1909
Lady Dawson and the Waterspout
Introducing DRAW Members: Lori Podolsky
Anna Lois Dawson Harrington’s Stormy Weather Observation
Introducing DRAW Members: Yumeng Zhang
Lawrence Mysak’s Memoirs - Part Three
Lawrence Mysak’s Memoirs - Part Two
Lawrence Mysak’s Memoirs - Part One
William Bell Dawson's Weather Observation
March: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb
Irish Meteorologists
Montreal's Winter Sports
Weather and Poetry: Henry David Thoreau
Transcription Tips: Relative Humidity Average
Vicky Recommends
Meet the Meteorologists: Toronto
A Frosty Montreal Christmas
Weather and Poetry: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Interview with Renee Sieber: What is Citizen Science?
Meet the Meteorologists: Hudson's Bay Company
Rainfall
Introducing DRAW Members: Jazmine Aldrich
Meet the Meteorologists: Montreal
Interview with a Scientist: Operational Meteorologist Dov Bensimon
Disinfecting with Ozone in Pandemics
Weather and Poetry: E. Pauline Johnson
Montreal as an Island
Meet the Meteorologists: Quebec City
Introducing DRAW Members: Drew Bush
Heatwaves: Blasts from the Past
Measuring Humidity: A Long and Difficult Process
Rare Weather Phenomena - Part 2
Rare Weather Phenomena - Part 1
Crafting the Weather
Don't Miss Our New Educator's Corner, Years in the Making...
Superb Super-Users: Thank you!
A Day in the Archives
Calling All Weather Enthusiasts - We Challenge You!
Rainbow Wonderland
The Flood of 1886
Weather Forecasting: Vennor's Bulletin
Introducing DRAW Members: Robert Smith
DRAW February Funnies
On This Day: Winter Carnival 1883
DRAW and Student Projects: ENVR 401
On This Day
Weather Symbols in Real Life: Part 2
Introducing DRAW Members: Gordon Burr
Observing During the Wars
Weather in the History of Science
BOOK REVIEW: Climate in the Age of Empire
DRAWn into Education
Introducing DRAW Members: Rachel Black
Sleighing
Introducing DRAW Members: Renée Sieber
Horizontal and Vertical Montréal
Handwriting Help
Guest Post: Air Quality in Montréal
Weather Symbols in Real Life
Who Were the Observers?
Communicating Weather: Storm Warnings and Telegraphs
Introducing DRAW Members: Vicky Slonosky
Marginalia in the Ledgers
International Communication: Weather Symbols
Clouds, Cloud Types and Abbreviations



DRAW Blog

Exploring weather and all it entails

Welcome to the DRAW Blog! Our focus here is to introduce topics related to DRAW and weather. This could be background information about parts of the project (such as symbols), discussion on weather issues (such as climate change), or may simply be a way to get to know the DRAW team further. Check in every other week for new posts!




Introducing DRAW Members: Nathan Leuranguer

by Jazmine Aldrich       on June 17th 2022


Introducing…


Who:

Nathan Leuranguer


                      Nathan Leuranguer

From:

France


Role at DRAW:

Data Analysis Research Assistant


Favourite part of DRAW?

Getting to be immersed in information and data dating back to 150 years ago. There's something about digging into old books and materials that has always interested me, perhaps because it seems like it was a completely different world back then. Looking at weather data from an old ledger book makes you think about what they might have been thinking or experiencing that day.


Favourite Season?

Summer


                      aurora


Favourite Cloud Type? Why?

Cirrus clouds - I remember reading an encyclopedia-type book on geography when I was very young, and that cloud is the only cloud type I remembered since then (until now); so that stuck with me. I like them because they look like waves on a coastline, but in the sky.

                      cumulus


Coolest thing you’ve learned while participating in DRAW?

Apart from the technical skills I've picked up and refined (databases, ER models, programming for data science), I've loved learning about details about the history of Montreal and McGill, like how Leacock building used to be where the observatory was built. Reading through the 'Teachable Timeline' webpage on the DRAW website has lots of those interesting stories.


And of Course:


Sweet or Salty?

Salty


Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars


Cats or Dogs?

Dogs


Favourite Animal?

Penguin


Favourite place in Montreal?

Saint Helen's Island







Albert J. Kelly: McGill’s Weatherman and DRAW

by Gordon Burr       on June 8th 2022

The following text was originally written by Gordon Burr for the McGill University Bicentennial Historical Unsung Heroes Exhibit. You can read about nine other McGillians deemed Historical Unsung Heroes, here: https://200.mcgill.ca/staff-recognition/historical-unsung-heroes/. The text has been slightly modified for this blog post.


Albert J. Kelly nicknamed “McGill’s Weatherman,” was born May 15th, 1888, in Edmonton, Alberta to Georginia and John E. Kelly. He graduated from McGill University with a B.Sc in Civil Engineering in 1911, and went on to join staff the next year as assistant to Professor C.H. McLeod, at the Observatory and in the Department of Surveying and Geodesy. He later became Director of the Observatory, an incredible feature of McGill’s contribution to academic research on weather and climate. A McGill Research project DRAW (Data Rescue: Archives and Weather continues to honour this legacy in the 21st century by making his weather observations available in database form to help enable research into climate change.

When war broke out, he, like many “unsung heroes,” quickly volunteered to join the war effort. He served in 6th University Company reinforcing H.R.H. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Kelly kept his war diary diligently. As a preface to the pocket-sized, brown suede diary, he wrote “Be it noted, whoever may glance at this, the story of an infantry officer, serving in France, that though the intrinsic value of this book is not large, it is highly prized by its owner, firstly as a Xmas gift from H.R.H Princess Patricia of Connaught.” He quietly noted changes in weather, the dates of his granted leaves, his participation in campaigns, and solemnly inscribed the names of fallen comrades. He was appointed Scout Officer in May 1918. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery and was demobilized in March 1919, with the rank of Lieutenant.

scanned diary cover

Diary in Albert J. Kelly Fonds. MG3054. McGill Archives. McGill University.


scanned handwritten diary pages

Page for September 25-27, 1918. Diary in Albert J. Kelly fonds. MG3054. McGill University Archives.


After the war, he returned to McGill and served as an Assistant Professor, where he became a meteorology authority. He was portrayed as a wizard, navigating tools like the barograph, the marine chronograph, and time signal relays transmitted all over Canada.

scanned newspaper clipping

Newspaper Clipping: Weather Wizard at Work, A.J. Kelly seated with his equipment, Albert J. Kelly fonds. MG3054, Acc. 1397 ref 3. McGill University Archives.


Upon his passing in 1945, Kelly was warmly remembered by his McGill community at a memorial service and eulogized as a “well-balanced personality, a sympathetic listener, a valued, sincere and understanding friend of both students and colleagues.”





Convocation 1922

by Hayley Horvath and Matthew Lawrence       on May 25th 2022

Convocation season is upon us once again! In celebration of the upcoming 2022 graduates, we are happy to resume our series on historic convocation ceremonies. These blog posts were written by students of the McGill University School of Information Studies as one part of an assignment focusing on DRAW, in the GLIS641 Archival Description and Access course (Winter 2022 semester). These students have graciously offered to share their blog posts with our readers. This week, we’ll be delving into the convocation that took place 100 years ago, in 1922.


1922 was a year of building in Montreal. The famous Clock Tower was completed in the city’s Old Port, while on McGill campus the Biology building (now James Administration Building) was built on Sherbrooke Avenue (Old Port of Montreal, n.d.; McGill University, n.d.) That spring, McGill conferred over two hundred degrees to undergraduate and graduate students (“McGill conferred”, 1922).

Biology building

McGill University, Old Biology Building (1922)


As participatory archivists who will receive our own McGill degrees one century later, we are interested not just in the ceremony or the weather on that fair spring day, but also in the context of what 1922 must have felt like.

In the United States, May 1922 marked the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (May 30) and the birth of Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur (May 13) (“1922”, 2022). Canadian preacher Aimee Semple McPherson made weather headlines on May 29 when she appeared to generate her own meteorological feat, allegedly stopping a rainstorm during a visit to Kansas (“Faith healing ministry”, 2022).

Aimee Semple McPherson

Aimee Semple McPherson (1922), courtesy of the Toronto Public Library


At McGill, the temperature peaked at 63 degrees (17.2°C) during the afternoon after reaching a low during the early hours of 42 degrees (5.5°C). The day was partly cloudy, with cirrocumulus clouds foretelling an impending change in the weather. This pattern is sometimes called a mackerel sky, a buttermilk sky, or un ciel moutonné (Met Office, n.d.) By evening the sky was completely overcast, while over the course of the day the wind shifted from a light northeast breeze to a gentle wind originating in the west. Overall there were 9.2 hours of bright sunshine and the weather was dry, with humidity ranging comfortably from 55 to 63 percent. The weather was, in the words of the Montreal Gazette the following morning, “most propitious” (“McGill conferred”, 1922).

The conferring of degrees took place in the Capitol Theatre at 11am and was open to the general public. This marked the first time that the convocation ceremony did not take place on campus. The Capitol Theatre had opened a year earlier on Ste. Catherine Street, billing itself as “Canada’s finest playhouse” (Capitol Theatre, 1921.) The playhouse screened films continuously until the early 1970s, at which point it was demolished for the construction of an office building.

Advertisement for the Capitol Theatre

Montreal Gazette, April 2, 1921, p. 10


One hiccup did make the ceremony perhaps unusually memorable. While Dr. Gordon Laing, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, read his address, the theatre filled with an odour of smoke. According to the Montreal Gazette:

“At first disregarded, the smoke grew heavier and thicker. More nervous members of the audience fidgeted and many began to leave. In some sections of the hall groups deserted their seats, about 150 in all moving out or to the entrances. One of the marshals called out ‘Keep your seats. There's no fire,’ from the back, while others, as well as the theatre attendant, reassured those who were still disposed to leave. The cause of the supposed fire was searched for and was at last discovered to be the fact that the ventilating fans which furnish free air to the theatre were drawing in smoke from a nearby chimney… The dignitaries on the stage, and the graduates who occupied the body of the lower floor, did not show a sign of nervousness, and it was probably due to their sangfroid that no panic occurred” (“McGill conferred,” 1922).

An honourary degree was conferred to General John Pershing, G.C.B., General of the Armies of the United States, and leader of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. The Gazette reported that when Pershing took the stage, “the khaki and scarlet-clad figure stood rigidly at attention [while] the audience broke into cheers that were sustained for some time.”

General Pershing in uniform

General Pershing, 1918, via the Library of Congress"


The McGill yearbook for 1922 is notable for the range and quality of illustrations noting each of the school’s departments. Additionally it contains some amusing comics, such as this rendering of a sloth skeleton with the caption: “Picture of prominent Prof. at dance, on being told that all the sandwiches had been eaten.” Notable alumnae that year include five women graduates from McGill’s Faculty of Medicine. One of them, Dr. Jessie Boyd Scriver, later became Montreal’s first female pediatrician (McGill University, n.d.).

McGill Science illustration

The McGill Year Book, 1922, p.21


Sloth skeleton illustration

The McGill Year Book, 1922, p.148


References

“1922”. (2022, February 6). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=1922&oldid=1070197106.

Bain News Service, P. (1918) Gen. Pershing, 1918. [Sept. 7] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2014708132/.

Capitol Theatre (1921, April 2). Capitol will open at 8 o’clock tonight with Cecil B. DeMille’s triumph of triumphs Forbidden Fruit [Advertisement]. The Gazette, Montreal, 150(80), 10.

“Faith healing ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson”. (2022, February 7). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Faith_healing_ministry_of_Aimee_Semple_McPherson&oldid=1070457178.

“McGill conferred over 2014 degrees: First regular convocation outside academic walls notable affair”. (1922, May 13). The Gazette, p. 10.

McGill University. (n.d.) Blazing trails: McGill’s women. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from https://www.mcgill.ca/about/history/features/mcgill-women.

McGill University Department of Biology. (n.d.) History of the biology department. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.mcgill.ca/biology/about-us/history.

McGill University. (1922). The McGill Year Book [Yearbook]. https://yearbooks.mcgill.ca/viewbook.php?campus=downtown&book_id=1922.

Met Office. (n.d.) Cirrocumulus clouds. Retrieved February 20, 2022 from https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/learn-about/weather/types-of-weather/clouds/high-clouds/cirrocumulus.

[Old Biology Building (1922)]. [Photograph] (1922). McGill University Canadian Architecture Collection. https://cac.mcgill.ca/campus/buildings/James_Administration.html.

Old Port of Montreal. (n.d.). Clock tower. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.oldportofmontreal.com/activity/clock-tower.

Witzel, I. (1922). The gift: Aimee Semple McPherson, known as Sister Aimee, had some personality, some depth and some complexity, says playwright Bill Butt. [Photograph]. Toronto Public Library. https://digitalarchive.tpl.ca/objects/291114/the-gift-aimee-semple-mcpherson-known-as-sister-aimee-had.





On the Home Front: Convocation Day 1916

by Kristen Howard and Ariane van Doorn       on May 11th 2022

Convocation season is upon us once again! In celebration of the upcoming 2022 graduates, we are happy to resume our series on historic convocation ceremonies. These blog posts were written by students of the McGill University School of Information Studies as one part of an assignment focusing on DRAW, in the GLIS641 Archival Description and Access course (Winter 2022 semester). These students have graciously offered to share their blog posts with our readers. This week, we’ll be delving into the convocation that took place on May 12, 1916.


The sun rose early over Montreal on Friday, May 12, 1916: Convocation Day. The Gazette, Montreal’s newspaper and precursor of today’s Montreal Gazette, forecasted the day’s weather as “Fair and Cool.” As McGill’s newest graduates rose to greet their momentous day, they likely pulled on an extra layer before donning their traditional regalia as the temperature was a brisk 8.8C (48F) at 7:50 am.

The Gazette, May 12, 1916, p. 8

The Gazette, May 12, 1916, p. 8


The graduates met at the Royal Victoria College at 2:30 pm. According to weather observations made at the McGill Observatory that afternoon, the temperature was 10.67C (51.2F), on the cooler side for this time in May. Fluffy cirrocumulus clouds – usually associated with fair weather, as predicted by the Gazette – covered the entire sky. A strong breeze came from the northwest, likely ruffling the gowns of the graduates.

Annual Convocation Programme, 1916, p. 10

Annual Convocation Programme, 1916, p. 10


But the cool weather and overcast sky weren’t the only things casting a shadow over the McGill campus. It had been nearly two years since the outbreak of what was then known as the Great War, and although the battles were fought an ocean away, WWI deeply impacted the McGill community. This influence is demonstrated in the 1916 Convocation Programme, in which several graduates are identified as “on active service.” For example, two of the fifteen graduates awarded bachelor’s degrees in Civil Law, Eric Almon Lovett and Henri Etienne Vautelet were on active service.

Yearbook profile of Lovett

Yearbook profile of Vautelet

Yearbook profiles of Lovett and Vautelet, Old McGill 1916 Yearbook, pages 99 and 100


Men who had not yet enlisted were encouraged to join the No. 6 McGill Overseas Battery Siege Artillery, a unit organized in April 1916. (Voluntary recruitment would soon be replaced by conscription the following year, in 1917.) The academic year’s final issue of the McGill Daily, the student newspaper, devoted the entire back page to recruiting male students to the artillery unit. As this 1916 photo shows, over 150 men associated with McGill, whether students, graduates, or otherwise friends of the university, joined the unit before it deployed to England and then France.

The McGill Daily Special Battery Issue: April 25, 1916

The McGill Daily, Special Battery Issue: April 25, 1916


W. G. MacLaughlan

W. G. MacLaughlan, “No. 6 (McGill) Overseas Battery, Siege Artillery,” 1916. British Library.


During WWI, only men were allowed to enlist as soldiers to serve on the front lines; however, women also contributed to the war effort either on the frontlines as Nursing Sisters or from the home front, which would eventually lead to changing the roles of women in society. The 1916 yearbook reveals that McGill women engaged in one of the main home front efforts of WWI: relief knitting. McGill students established a chapter of the Red Cross Society at Royal Victoria College where they first knit “mufflers, mittens and socks” to send overseas and keep male soldiers warm, and later switched to creating “hospital supplies” such as bandages. The yearbook stated the upshot of the McGill Red Cross chapter, appealing to imperialist ambitions and Canada’s Dominion status: “It is very satisfactory to know that in the midst of their busy lives our girls are able to do some small thing for the comfort of the men who are risking their lives for the Empire.”

W. G. MacLaughlan

Women of Royal Victoria College, Old McGill, 1916, p. 38


The Great War marked daily life for McGill students graduating in 1916, as evidenced by the enlisted graduates fighting on foreign soil, the newly-established McGill Red Cross Chapter, and the dedication of the 1916 yearbook “to our heroes at the front.” Despite the excitement of Convocation, the graduates of 1916 were surely still worried about their fellows on the frontlines as they faced the cloudy day and an uncertain future.

References

The Gazette. (1916, May 12). https://news.google.ca/newspapers?nid=Fr8DH2VBP9sC&dat=19160512&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

Government of Canada. (2017, March 29). “Women Veterans: Timeline.” https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/women-veterans/timeline

Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. (No date) “Artillery.” https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/Documents/artillery.pdf

MacLaughlan, W.G. (1916). “No. 6 (McGill) Overseas Battery, Siege Artillery.” Made available via the British Library. http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=HS85/10/31991

McGill University. (1916, April 25). The McGill Daily, Special Battery Issue. https://archive.org/details/McGillLibrary-mcgill-daily-special-battery-issue-april-25-1916-5943/

McGill University. (1916). Old McGill 1916. https://yearbooks.mcgill.ca/viewbook.php?campus=downtown&book_id=1916.





A Snowy Convocation: April 30, 1909

by Giuliana Garofalo and Madelyn Martin       on April 27th 2022

Convocation season is upon us once again! In celebration of the upcoming 2022 graduates, we are happy to resume our series on historic convocation ceremonies. These blog posts were written by students of the McGill University School of Information Studies as one part of an assignment focusing on DRAW, in the GLIS641 Archival Description and Access course (Winter 2022 semester). These students have graciously offered to share their blog posts with our readers. This week, we’ll be delving into the convocation that took place on 30 April 1909 for the faculties of Arts, Science, and Law.



In the days leading up to the convocation, Montreal experienced gloomy and cool spring weather. Clouds and overcast skies graced the city between the 26th and 29th, with only brief periods of clear skies. On the 29th of April, as McGill graduates eagerly awaited the next day’s ceremony, where they would be celebrated for their accomplishments, they were met with temperatures of a high of 38.1ºF (3.4ºC) and a low of 29ºF (-1.7ºC). This coolness would persist to the day of the ceremony, with an additional surprise. By 7:40 am, as the graduating class of 1909, otherwise known as the “Naughty Nines”, woke and began to prepare their caps and gowns, snow had begun to steadily fall upon the city. It would not be long before Montreal was almost completely covered in white.

                      Naughty Nine poem

Poem in the McGill yearbook in honor of the 1909 (“Naughty Nine”) graduates.


Those familiar with McGill’s current convocation traditions, where ceremonies take place in a tent on campus’ Lower Field, will be relieved to know that the 1909 convocation was an indoor affair and took place in Royal Victoria College (RVC) on Sherbrooke St. West (now known as the Strathcona Music Building). While attendees would be spared the elements during the ceremony, graduates nevertheless needed to bear the peak of the storm. Indeed, they were instructed to meet in the RVC Library in their academic dress at 2:35 pm in preparation for the ceremony. By the afternoon, however, 2.9 inches (7.4 cm) of snow had accumulated and strong south-easterly winds would have made the trek to RVC particularly challenging.

                      Gazette article

Announcement in the Montreal Gazette for McGill 1909 graduates attending the convocation ceremony.


In spite of the less-than-ideal and blusterous weather, the convocation ceremony proceeded promptly at 3:00 pm and degrees were conferred to the Naughty Nine graduates with much merit. The 1909 convocation is also a significant moment in history as a law degree was granted to Peter Hing, the first Asian-Canadian to attend McGill University. As the proceedings came to a close, students exited the shelter of RVC to once again brave the elements. Over the course of the ceremony, the snow had turned to rain, making their first moments as university graduates particularly slushy. At least they could take solace in knowing that they had, after years of hard work, graduated. Finally.


Do you have a weather-related topic that you would like to share with your fellow citizen scientists? Send us an email with your idea to draw.mcgill@gmail.com for a chance to be featured on the DRAW blog!


References

Montreal Gazette. (1909, 30 April). https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/april-30-1909-page-9-16/docview/2149589268/se-2?accountid=12339.

Montreal Gazette. (1909, 1 May). https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/may-1-1909-page-11-20/docview/2149500969/se-2?accountid=12339.

Old McGill. (1909). McGill Yearbooks. https://yearbooks.mcgill.ca/viewbook.php?campus=downtown&book_id=1909#page/18/mode/1up.



Lady Dawson and the Waterspout

by Giuliana Garofalo       on April 6th 2022

This week on the DRAW blog, we’re returning to the Dawson-Harrington fonds and exploring an especially remarkable weather observation made by Lady Dawson!

Margaret Dawson (née Mercer), otherwise known as Lady Dawson, was the wife of geologist (and McGill Principal!) Sir John William Dawson. In the late-nineteenth century, Lady Dawson would summer at the family cottage (Birkenshaw) in Métis-sur-Mer, a popular destination on the St. Lawrence River for McGill professors and their families. Summers in Métis, although idyllic, were also laden with storms and, sometimes, extreme weather phenomena. In fact, in a letter to son George, who was then in British Colombia with the Geological Survey of Canada, Lady Dawson recounts a particularly frightening weather observation.

                      letter

Lady Dawson describing the waterspout occurring over the St. Lawrence River in Métis-sur-Mer.


The observation begins with Lady Dawson describing how the summer residents of Métis experienced “miserably cold, stormy weather.” “It began to rain on the evening of Sunday the 28th June,” she laments, “and four days & nights, it poured without an hour’s cessation.” The rain cleared by July 5th, only for Lady Dawson to witness quite a sight. She writes:

“A few miles from shore a most wonderfully dense dark, almost black, slate-coloured fog bank in the form of a high mountain sloping off towards the south shore. Shortly after a tall symmetrical pillar of light fog, like smoke, steamed away from a little below the summit, giving an exact representation of a volcanic mountain. Then the solid-looking black mountain moved down the gulf, unrolling behind it a more distant range with bays & inlets, part of them sunlit & sparkling & beyond farther […] a great thunder cloud rushed on & heavy rain & thunder dropped a curtain over our new ‘wonderland’.”

While she confesses that both she and daughter Anna were initially startled by (what seems to have been) the waterspout, Lady Dawson also mentions that it was “very remarkable.” Waterspouts, columns of wind rotating as a funnel-shaped cloud over a body of water, occur only rarely on the St. Lawrence, making the Métis waterspout a remarkable sighting indeed!

                      waterspout

Engraving of a waterspout from James Pollard Espy’s The Philosophy of Storms.


References 
Dawson, Margaret Mercer. MG 1022-6-023-0011. 6 July 1885. McGill University Archives. https://archivalcollections.library.mcgill.ca/index.php/letter-6-july-1901
Espy, James Pollard. The Philosophy of Storms. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1841.

Do you have a weather-related topic that you would like to write about for the DRAW Blog? Send us an email with your idea to draw.archives@mcgill.ca for a chance to be featured.
 



Introducing DRAW Members: Lori Podolsky

by Jazmine Aldrich       on March 16th 2022


Introducing…


Who:

Lori Podolsky


                      jazmine aldrich

From:

The Prairies (Manitoba and Saskatchewan)


Role at DRAW:

My role is a few different things. I am the archival liaison and provide support on the archival aspect of DRAW. I also help with metadata and other general areas.


Favourite part of DRAW?

I like all aspects of DRAW and think it is a great initiative. I wish I understood and knew more about the IT and coding part of DRAW.


Favourite Season?

Summer


Favourite Weather Symbol?

The aurora. Growing up on the Prairies I would see the Northern Lights dancing across the night sky. These were magical moments in my childhood and deeply cherished memories.

                      aurora


Favourite Cloud Type? Why?

I like the white fluffy cumulus and the dark, stormy nimbostratus clouds. The cumulus clouds are a symbol of the perfect idyllic summer day. Lazing in the sun and enjoying the warmth of the day. The nimbostratus clouds represent Prairie storms with vibrant lightening and deafening thunder. Both are perfect times to curl up with a good book.

                      cumulus


Coolest thing you’ve learned while participating in DRAW?

It's difficult to pick the coolest thing I learned while participating in DRAW. The more I participate, the more cool things I learn. I have learned about our meteorological history and the importance of studying weather (that's cool!) and what people thought of weather in the comments and remarks in the weather ledgers (they also had to change from summer to winter treads every year just as we do now). It was cool to learn how the app and website got developed and to participate in that. I also enjoyed training students on how to transcribe and in transcribing myself. I guess the coolest thing I have learnt is that with DRAW I am always learning something!


And of Course:


Sweet or Salty?

Salty


Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars


Cats or Dogs?

Dogs


Favourite Animal?

My dogs <3


Favourite place in Montreal?

Hanging out on my balcony with my dogs







Anna Lois Dawson Harrington’s Stormy Weather Observation

by Giuliana Garofalo       on March 8th 2022

Surprise! In honour of International Women's Day, we are bringing you an extra blog with a woman's weather observations. This week on the DRAW blog, we are once again delving into the Dawson-Harrington fonds and examining a weather observation from another Dawson child; Anna Lois Dawson Harrington.

Anna Lois Dawson Harrington was the daughter of geologist (and McGill Principal!) Sir William Dawson, wife of mineralogist Bernard Harrington, and a naturalist in her own right. Between the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Anna would summer in Métis-sur-Mer, where she collected botanical specimens (sometimes with the assistance of her children) and painted natural landscapes. She would also vividly describe the weather in letters to her husband (whose work in Montreal often kept him from joining the family until later in the summer). In July of 1878, for instance, she recounted the progress (and ensuing damage) of a particularly violent storm.

“The morning opened wet, cold & stormy,” she begins, “the wind continued to rise till the waves were tremendous.” As the storm worsened, Métis’ summer residents, consisting mainly of McGill professors and their families, hastened to the beach in the hopes of salvaging their sailboats. “Oh how cold it was,” Anna continues, “rain drawing into our faces like sharp bits of glass, wind howling.”

In addition to describing the damage sustained by various families’ schooners, she regales Bernard with an especially perilous rescue attempt: “We came back just in time to see another nondescript large-looking vessel break loose & the crew after a faint attempt to head to the open, determined to see her ashore & in she rushed just opposite the Majors’, they threw out a rope wh[ich] Percy Selwyn dashed in through the foam & boulders to catch […] When the men got safely in, a poor little dog was descried on the stern […] and though we shouted at him not to, Percy w[oul]d go & get the poor little beast – it really was dangerous among the waves….”

                      cumulus

Anna Lois Dawson Harrington describing the ensuing damage of the storm to husband Bernard.

The account concludes with Anna dryly remarking, “As you may suppose the wet-day was not of the monotonous order.” While it is unclear when Bernard received his wife’s letter, Montreal experienced consistent periods of rain, cloud, and lightning, within a week of its composition. You might say that Anna sent the storm (or some of it, at least) along with her letter!

                      cumulus

Weather observation taken at the McGill Observatory on 23 July 1878, featuring periods of clouds and heavy rain.

Do you have a weather-related topic that you would like to write about for the DRAW Blog? Send us an email with your idea to draw.archives@mcgill.ca for a chance to be featured.

References 
Harrington, Anna Lois Dawson. MG 1022-5-014-0013. 22-23 July 1878. McGill University Archives. https://archivalcollections.library.mcgill.ca/index.php/letter-23-july-1878
McGill Observatory. 22-24 July 1878. DRAW: Data Rescue: Archives & Weather.



Introducing DRAW Members: Yumeng Zhang

by Jazmine Aldrich       on March 1st 2022


Introducing…


Who:

Yumeng Zhang


                      jazmine aldrich

From:

Beijing, China


Role at DRAW:

Secondary developer of the DRAW website


Favourite part of DRAW?

The interdisciplinarity! It's so exciting that I can learn so many things from different fields in this single project.


Favourite Season?

Summer


Favourite Weather Symbol?

Aurora

                      aurora


Favourite Cloud Type? Why?

Cumulus. This is the kind of fluffy cloud that makes me think of cotton candy.

                      cumulus


Coolest thing you’ve learned while participating in DRAW?

The coolest thing I've learned is to develop a web-application using Ruby on Rails. I've learned so many things such as how to add features and how to troubleshoot.


And of Course:


Sweet or Salty?

Sweet


Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Trek


Cats or Dogs?

Cats


Favourite Animal?

Bear


Favourite place in Montreal?

Old Port


Keep checking out the blog to see more DRAW Member Introductions in the coming weeks alongside our usual content!





Lawrence Mysak’s Memoirs - Part Three

by Lawrence Mysak       on February 16th, 2022

As you will have read in our last two blog posts, we have the privilege of publishing three extracts from the memoirs of McGill Emeritus Professor Lawrence Mysak, who made enormous contributions to 20th and 21st century climatology, especially in oceanography, climate variability, climate modelling, and other fields we’ve read about in this series. Professor Mysak supervised Professor Andrew Weaver, former leader of the BC Green Party and now once again a Professor at the University of Victoria, and DRAW member Victoria Slonosky as graduate students, among the many students he supervised over the course of his career. We both agree that he was an inspiring teacher and mentor! 

The McGill University Archives has recently received Professor Mysak’s papers, which will be available for future researchers and historians of science.

Caught in a Rip Current, Waikiki Beach, Honolulu (written May 2018)

The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel is at the eastern end of Waikiki Beach. The landmark Diamond Head volcano rises steeply just behind the hotel. The setting of the crimson sun is a marvel to watch from the hotel’s Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant. Janet and I had a romantic dinner there in February 2014 after I proposed to her. But I didn’t tell her that I nearly drowned in front of the hotel in the early 1990s.

In February 1991, an international climate committee invited a group of us to Honolulu to write a scientific report on our understanding of the mechanisms that produced mid-latitude climate variability on the decadal timescale. The committee asked us to answer the following questions: What is the source of this variability? Is it due to strong El Nino-type oscillations in the tropical Pacific which propagate to the mid-latitudes? Or are strong air-ice-ocean interactions that occur in the Arctic able to force decadal climate changes at lower latitudes?

I and a few others believed in the second mechanism, but a distinguished climate scientist from Boulder, Colorado said, “Mysak, you are full of beans. There is no way those Arctic interactions in such a small area can significantly affect lower latitude climate.

Most of the workshop attendees sided with the Boulder scientist and hence supported the first mechanism. Consequently, I left that afternoon with disappointment written all over my face. I lost the debate. I then retreated to the Kaimana Beach hotel for a relaxing swim. 

In the 1980s I collaborated with Hawaiian Professor Lorenz Magaard on subsurface Rossby waves in the North Pacific. These waves impact on submarine detection, a topic of obvious interest to the US Navy. Thanks to the Navy’s support, my late wife Mary and I were frequent visitors to Honolulu and guests at the hotel. Lorenz often joined us for dinner at the Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant.

One day, Lorenz said, “Why don’t we swim out to the coral reef? It’s just 200 m offshore from the hotel.”

We did this with ease and rested our bums gently on the edge of the sharp reef. There the waves splashed warm, salty water over our faces. The trade winds cooled our faces. The murmur of the breaking waves was soothing. “What bliss!” I shouted.

In February 1991, my swim to the reef from the hotel beach turned into a nightmare. As in the 1980s, I swam out to the reef and rested there. Then I decided it would be fun to go around the corner of the reef and head out to the open ocean. I could see wind surfers having a ball out there, and I wanted to join them. This was an easy swim as there was a rip current that flowed past the side of the reef. I simply swam with the flow, happily washing away my disappointment of the day. It did not occur to me that I might have trouble getting back to shore.

A good swimmer can normally do one body length per second – for a tall person that means 2 m/s. I can keep up this speed for maybe 50 to 100 meters. However, rip currents are much stronger, generally being around 4 to 5 m/s. This was certainly the case here. I quickly decided I had better start swimming back to shore. But I could not make any progress. Despite my strongest efforts, I was slowly drifting farther out to sea. I started to panic.

“Is this it for me?” I asked myself. There were no life guards or other swimmers near the shore, and so a cry for help would be futile. I was scared as hell.

I thought of three possibilities. I might drown right there – I could only tread water for so long. Then I thought I could try swimming along the offshore side of the reef, going parallel to the shore, which would take me towards downtown Honolulu. But once past the reef I would still need to swim back to shore a great distance – about one kilometer. I did not have the strength to do such a long swim. Finally, in desperation, I decided to work my way along the side of the reef toward shore, using my hands to claw myself forward. While doing this, however, I drew blood on my hands, which reddened the water. I looked a mess. I looked over my shoulder to see if a shark was sneaking up behind me.

Thankfully, after about 15 minutes of this hard and painful work, I did get back to the inshore side of the reef. There I rested my weary body and washed my wounds. My hands stung. The minutes of rest seemed like hours. But I finally swam back to shore from the reef.

To this day, I have never told anyone of this near-death experience. I was foolish to do what I did, especially having studied ocean and wave dynamics. But I learned my lesson well.






Lawrence Mysak’s Memoirs - Part Two

by Lawrence Mysak       on February 2nd, 2022

As you will have read in our last blog post, we have the privilege of publishing extracts from the memoirs of McGill Emeritus Professor Lawrence Mysak, who made enormous contributions to 20th and 21st century climatology, especially in oceanography, climate variability, climate modelling, and other fields we’ll read about in this series. Professor Mysak supervised Professor Andrew Weaver, former leader of the BC Green Party and now once again a Professor at the University of Victoria, and DRAW member Victoria Slonosky as graduate students, among the many students he supervised over the course of his career. We both agree that he was an inspiring teacher and mentor! 

The McGill University Archives has recently received Professor Mysak’s papers, which will be available for future researchers and historians of science.


El Niño and Me (written July 2018)

A sweet but mysterious fragrance hits our nostrils as we drive away from Tel Aviv airport in April 1983. “Its from the orange trees, now bursting with ripe fruit,” my wife’s friend Mikael says. “We’ll see many of these trees around Rehovot, where I live. We’ve not had fruit crops like these for many years. It’s probably because we’ve had a huge amount of rain this spring. And the deserts are blooming with bright red and yellow flowers.” 

We didn’t think much further about these unusual conditions during our family visit to Israel. Instead, we focused on touring the historic sights of Jerusalem, Masada and the Dead Sea. Also, I was preparing presentations on theoretical oceanography to be given in Rehovot and Haifa. 

After returning to Zürich, where I had been on sabbatical since September 1982, I continued developing mathematical models of varying current patterns in the Swiss lakes. In May 1983, I gave a seminar on this topic at the marine institute in Kiel, Germany. There Professor John Woods, a distinguished oceanographer from England, showed me recent maps of the sea surface temperature of the tropical Pacific. In a wide swath along the equator, the ocean temperatures were a remarkable 2 to 3 ͦC above the long-term average. 

“This is the El Niño of the century,” said John. “This huge pool of warm water generates long atmospheric waves which propagate around the globe at mid-latitudes. These dramatically alter the precipitation patterns in North America, Europe and the Middle East.” 
 
So, this is probably what produced the unusual crops and flowers in Israel. Clearly, I had to learn about El Niño, and I looked forward to doing so after returning in September 1983 to my academic home in the Mathematics Department at UBC, where teaching maths was my livelihood. 

El Niño is a warming event in the tropical Pacific Ocean that occurs every three to seven years and lasts about twelve months. El Niño means “the Christ child” in Spanish and is used to describe these warming events since they start around Christmas. Alternating with El Niño is La Niña, a cooling event of the tropical Pacific Ocean. 

In late 1983, I became even more intrigued about the 1982-83 El Niño when Cornelis Groot, a fisheries scientist from Nanaimo, showed me the latest statistics on the salmon migration routes in the northeast Pacific. In fall 1983, 85% of the Fraser River Sockeye salmon came home to spawn via the northeast end of Vancouver Island. The remainder returned to the Fraser River via Juan de Fuca Strait, to the south of Vancouver Island. In the past, returning Sockeye mostly took the southern route. The 1982-83 El Niño event caused unusually warm water west of Vancouver Island. Since salmon prefer cold water, the returning Sockeye were farther north than usual, close to Alaska, and hence came home via the northern route. This was good news for Canadian fishers since treaty agreements do not allow American fishers to catch Sockeye in Canadian waters east of Vancouver Island. 

I was hooked. El Niño (EN) became my focus from that point on. While boning up on El Niño, I learned about an atmospheric circulation pattern in the tropical Pacific called the Southern Oscillation (SO) which is coupled to it to create a complex climate phenomenon known as ENSO. I wrote a review entitled “El Niño, interannual variability and fisheries in the northeast Pacific Ocean” about ENSO and El Niño which was published in 1986. It is now one of my most highly cited papers, which may sound strange since I knew nothing about ENSO before my 1982-83 sabbatical. In retrospect, an observation made during a family visit to Israel sparked a change in my own career. 

In the early 1980s, natural climate variability (like ENSO) and global warming due to our massive burning of fossil fuels caught the attention of the press and the public eye. My Harvard classmate, George Philander, wrote a colorful article about ENSO for National Geographic. I pinched his pictures for my public lectures about ENSO and fisheries. I also started thinking that I would like to work in a place where climate research was strongly supported. UBC was not likely to become active in this field. When approached by Environment Canada about sponsoring a professorship in climate research, the university administration declined to participate because of financial constraints at UBC. This reinforced my thoughts of a mid-career move. I was 44. 

Early in 1985 I sent my CV to colleagues in six attractive places where I might do oceans and climate research, namely, Honolulu, Seattle, Corvallis (Oregon), Zürich, Hobart (Tasmania), and Montreal. This led to two interviews, the first in March at McGill, and the second in May at the National Oceanography Lab in Hobart. In June McGill offered me a newly created Chair in Climate Research in the Department of Meteorology, where I was expected to initiate an internationally recognized climate research program. Shortly afterward, the Hobart Lab offered me the position of Chief Scientist to head up research on oceanography, climate and fisheries. With these two offers, it became clear that my career was going in a new direction and that I could soon be facing interesting challenges. 

But I was in a quandary. I loved the interdisciplinary aspect of the job in Hobart. But this would be in a non-academic setting. On the other hand, at McGill I would be in a department for which I had no formal training. However, McGill was known to attract excellent graduate students. But, would I miss teaching mathematics? When word got out that I might leave Canada for Australia, colleagues pressed me to accept the McGill position. This I did in July 1985. 

The move to McGill provided me many new opportunities. With funding from McGill and the Quebec government, I founded the multi-faceted Centre for Climate and Global Change Research in 1990. This attracted highly motivated graduate students, as well as a steady stream of visitors from abroad. I expanded my research interests to include the Arctic climate system, paleoclimates and modelling future global warming scenarios. I also developed interdisciplinary courses in climate and paleoclimate dynamics, which were popular with the students. 

Having now been retired for eight years, I look back with fondness on the 80 graduate and postdoctoral students that I have supervised or co-supervised. They are my “academic children”. Twenty-one are now professors in about a dozen countries. It is gratifying to know that they are furthering our understanding of the oceans and their role in climate change. In addition, many of them are informing the public about the environmental dangers due to global warming such as rising sea levels, ocean acidification, extreme storm events and intense heat waves. These students are also helping us learn about the mitigating actions that we can take to sustain life on this planet.



Lawrence Mysak’s Memoirs - Part One

by Lawrence Mysak       on January 19th 2022

In the next few posts we have the privilege of publishing extracts from the memoirs of McGill Emeritus Professor Lawrence Mysak, who made enormous contributions to 20th and 21st century climatology, especially in oceanography, climate variability, climate modelling, and other fields we’ll read about in upcoming posts. Professor Mysak supervised Professor Andrew Weaver, former leader of the BC Green Party and now once again a Professor at the University of Victoria, and DRAW member Victoria Slonosky as graduate students, among the many students he supervised over the course of his career. We both agree that he was an inspiring teacher and mentor! 

The McGill University Archives has recently received Professor Mysak’s papers, which will be available for future researchers and historians of science.


Summer 1961: Dr. John Weaver, Supervisor (written April 2018)

“John, this is Lawrence from Montreal. How are you getting along on the balmy west coast?” I ask over the phone.

“Just fine, thanks,” John replies. “I’m still enjoying morning walks with my fellow seniors. Keeps me in shape.”

“That’s great. Janet and I are visiting Victoria and wondered – are you free for coffee tomorrow afternoon?

“Certainly,” he says. “How about at 3 p.m.? I’ll pick you up where you’re staying.”

In December 2017, my wife Janet and I were in Victoria for Christmas with her son and family. Whenever I visit Victoria, I always like to see John and his charming Ukrainian wife, Ludmilla. John is the consummate Englishman – polite, cultured and an accomplished scientist; he’s also keen on soccer. More than half a century ago, he was a game-changer for me when in summer 1961, I worked in Victoria at the Pacific Naval Lab (PNL), a federal research institution.

I had just graduated from the University of Alberta, and the PNL job gave me insight into a possible future career as a scientist. John Weaver, on the other hand, just finished a PhD in geophysics from the University of Saskatchewan and was starting his career at PNL in 1961.

When I arrived at PNL, I started working for oceanographer Dr. Harold Grant. I computed energy spectra of ocean temperature and velocity measurements using a slide rule. This sounds complex, but in fact I just multiplied numbers in one column with the numbers in another column, and then added. I was bored, but I had to make a presentation about my project to the staff. I said diplomatically, “Surely, there must be another task in which I can use my advanced maths and physics.”

Dr. Grant looked stunned. But to his credit, he asked his junior associate Blyth Hughes and the young Dr. Weaver, “Do you think you could find a fluid mechanics problem that Mr. Mysak might tackle for the rest of the summer?” I was grateful to Dr. Grant for understanding my dilemma and allowing me to take on a project of more mathematical interest.

Next day, they suggested I try to solve the equations that describe the flow past a probe used in ocean turbulence measurements. Since I had never taken a course in fluid mechanics, I pored over the treatise Boundary Layer Theory for help to solve this problem. While Hughes was my immediate supervisor, it was Dr. Weaver who tutored me in fluid mechanics, one of his passions. Step by step, he led me through the maths that resulted in an approximate solution to the assigned problem. I was thrilled with the project and wrote a lengthy report at the end of the summer. Dr. Weaver also gave me many tips on how to do research. “You have to always look for another approach if one fails,” he said. At the end of the summer, I thought that a problem in fluid mechanics would be a fascinating topic for a PhD thesis.

Dr. Weaver also added an extra dimension to the lives of us summer students working at PNL. During evenings Weaver taught us the finer skills of soccer, and on weekends we played friendly games with other regional teams. That fall Ludmilla gave birth to a son, Andrew.

After my summer in Victoria and a year of graduate study in Australia, I entered Harvard in fall 1963 for my PhD in applied mathematics and engineering science. Dr. Weaver was delighted that I asked him for a letter of reference for Harvard – it must have been a good one, because in addition to acceptance I received a scholarship which covered my tuition. At Harvard I returned to the topic of my PNL research. In addition to fluid mechanics, I loved studying aerodynamics and, new to me, geophysical fluid dynamics (GFD). My PhD research focused on the GFD topic of continental shelf waves.

Beginning in 1984, I tried to inspire another young student, in the manner that John had inspired me two decades ago. During 1984-87, I supervised at UBC the PhD research of John’s brilliant son Andrew Weaver. It was a pleasure for me to watch Andrew, with his intriguing British/Ukrainian temperament, go on to an outstanding career as a professor of oceanography and climatology at the University of Victoria. Today he’s the very busy leader of the BC Green Party. Consequently, when I visit Victoria, I don’t see my former student, but instead see his father, my friend John, who was my inspiration in 1961.

John moved to the University of Victoria in 1963, and retired in 1998, but our friendship continued to develop. We had fun serving on research grant selection committees together, and colleagues told me that he was a widely respected Dean of Science before retirement. As we are now both retired, we love to chat about former students and colleagues and discuss the challenges and frustrations of university politics. I hope we continue to meet for coffee for a long time to come.



William Bell Dawson's Weather Observation

by Giuliana Garofalo       on November 17th 2021

This week on the DRAW Blog, we welcome a guest author: Giuliana Garofalo is a second-year student in the Master of Information Studies program at McGill University, and a dedicated DRAW volunteer. 

As we brace ourselves for the first snow to announce the arrival of winter, we’ll travel to November of 1869, where a letter from William Bell Dawson reveals an early start to the season.


Between 1868 and 1872, a series of correspondence was exchanged between William and his older brother George, who was studying at the Royal School of Mines in London. While he often claimed to have little time to write and even less to say, William (who was then fifteen years old) always managed to fill his letters with vivid descriptions of natural phenomena, including the Montreal weather. In one letter dated 17 November 1869, he describes particularly harsh weather conditions. "On the Sunday before last," he relates, "we had a snow storm in which perhaps 10 in of snow fell and last week it froze."

A snippet of a letter from William Bell Dawson to older brother George describing the weather in November of 1869.
William Bell Dawson to older brother George, describing the weather in November 1869. 

As the letter continues, it is revealed that the weather only worsened. "Today it has been hailing all day," he writes, "and it is now changing into snow, so that […] the ground is pretty well frozen." According to data taken that day from the McGill Observatory, which would have been walking distance from the Dawson’s residence in the east wing of what is now the Arts Building, it would ultimately snow a total of 3.10 inches, a considerable amount when added to the previous 10 inches. It is perhaps for this reason that William concludes his weather observation with, "I think we shall have winter in ernest [sic]."


References
Dawson, William Bell. MG 1022-6-007-0027. 17 November 1869. McGill University Archives. https://archivalcollections.library.mcgill.ca/index.php/letter-17-november-1869.
Slonosky, Victoria. "Historical climate observations in Canada: 18th and 19th century daily temperature from the St. Lawrence Valley, Quebec." Geoscience Data Journal 1, no. 2 (2014): 103-120. https://doi.org/10.1002/gdj3.11.

March: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

by Jazmine Aldrich       on March 31st 2021

On this final day of March 2021, we at DRAW are reflecting on the weather proverb “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” The adage implies that the weather at the beginning of March is as fearsome as a lion, characterized by the final winter storms of the year—apart from a few April storms, as we in Southern Quebec can attest—but that the might of the March lion withers away as the month progresses, leaving us as a harmless lamb to enjoy our April showers and May flowers. The saying is also sometimes flipped, stating that “if March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb, but if it comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion;” however, “in like a lion, out like a lamb” is the more commonly heard variation.

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Irish Meteorologists

by Rachel Black       on March 17th 2021

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

For today’s commemoration of the holiday, we thought we would look at two notable Irish Meteorologists who helped inform the practice in Montreal. Descriptions were taken from Climate in the Age of Empire by Dr. Victoria Slonosky.


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Montreal's Winter Sports

by Jazmine Aldrich       on March 3rd 2021

Mr. R.D. McGibbon, at the 1881 Annual Dinner of the Montreal Snowshoe Club, proclaimed the following: “Those who are unacquainted with the real nature of a Canadian winter might be inclined to imagine that a period of some five or six months of perpetual ice and snow, when rivers are frozen and the thermometer almost invariably below freezing point, would be the dullest of the year, and a season of dreary and monotonous gloom for the inhabitants of the country afflicted with such uninviting clemency.”1

After another chilly February—during which many Montrealers sought the comfort of the great outdoors—we thought it would be appropriate to take a look at winter sports throughout history.

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Weather and Poetry: Henry David Thoreau

by Rachel Black       on February 18th 2021

Welcome to the next instalment of Weather and Poetry, where we explore poets who touch on weather in their works. This week we are looking at American poet Henry David Thoreau!

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Weather and Poetry: Ralph Waldo Emerson

by Rachel Black       on December 9th 2020

Welcome to the next instalment of Weather and Poetry, where we explore poets who touch on weather in their works. This week we are looking at American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Interview with Renee Sieber: What is Citizen Science

by Rachel Black       on November 25th 2020


Welcome to this week’s edition of the DRAW Blog! DRAW had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Renee Sieber to discuss 4 questions about Citizen Science:

  • What is Citizen Science?
  • Why Citizen Science?
  • How can Citizen Scientists Contribute to Scientific Research and Discovery?
  • How do you Determine if Citizen Science is Right for a Project?

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Meet the Meteorologists: Hudson's Bay Company

by Victoria Slonosky       on November 11th 2020

Welcome back to Meet the Meteorologists where we look at the individuals around the world who helped to contribute to the creation of meteorology as a field of study and who helped inform the practice here in Montreal.

These individuals were often interested in weather as how it connected to their day jobs. They were often intellectuals, religious figures, engineers, doctors or businessmen in communities and helped contribute to our understanding of weather in the St. Lawrence basin where Montreal resides. All individuals mentioned in this series were taken from Climate in the Age of Empire by Dr. Victoria Slonosky.

This week let’s take a look at those influential individuals from the Hudson's Bay Company, which is the oldest incorporated joint-stock merchandising company in the English-speaking world. Learn more about the HBC here and here

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Rainfall

by Victoria Slonosky       on October 28th 2020

In many ways, rain is both one of the simplest and one of the most difficult of the meteorological elements to measure and record. It is simple to record as all it takes is a rainfall gathering and measuring device – a graduated tube- and rainfall measurements are thousands of years old.

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Introducing DRAW Members: Jazmine Aldrich

by Rachel Black       on October 14th 2020


Introducing…


Who:

Jazmine Aldrich


                      jazmine aldrich

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Meet the Meteorologists: Montreal

by Victoria Slonosky       on September 30th 2020

Welcome back to Meet the Meteorologists where we look at the individuals around the world who helped to contribute to the creation of meteorology as a field of study and who helped inform the practice here in Montreal.

These individuals were often interested in weather as how it connected to their day jobs. They were often intellectuals, religious figures, engineers, doctors or businessmen in communities and helped contribute to our understanding of weather in the St. Lawrence basin where Montreal resides. All individuals mentioned in this series were taken from Climate in the Age of Empire by Dr. Victoria Slonosky.

This week let’s take a look at those influential individuals from Montreal!

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Interview with a Scientist: Operational Meteorologist Dov Bensimon

by Rachel Black       on September 23rd 2020

Welcome to this special edition of the DRAW Blog on Science Literacy Week 2020!

In honour of Science Literacy Week, DRAW has interviewed Dov Bensimon, Operational Meteorologist in the Environmental Emergency Response Section at the Canadian Centre for Meteorological and Environmental Prediction (CCMEP) and Manager of the Montreal Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC).

Dov Bensimon

Dov Bensimon, Summer 2020

We met with Dov to discuss his work and career and of course, to ask some silly questions :)

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Disinfecting with Ozone in Pandemics: A 19th-century Idea comes back for Covid-19

by Vicky Slonosky       on September 16th 2020

I read an article the other day suggesting the use of low levels of ozone to disinfect airborne coronavirus particles. A search suggests a Saskatchewan company was already producing ozone decontamination units back in Mayand research articles investigating ozone as a surface disinfectant for viruses go back at least a decade (Tseng, Chun-Chieh & Li, Chihshan. (2008). Inactivation of surface viruses by gaseous Ozone. Journal of environmental health. 70. 56-62. ). There may be some technical difficulties - balancing a sufficiently high concentration of ozone to be lethal to the virus without it becoming toxic to humans - but this revival of a 19th century medical preoccupation caught my interest.

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Weather and Poetry: E. Pauline Johnson

by Rachel Black       on September 2nd 2020

Welcome to DRAW's latest series: Weather and Poetry! Here we will explore poets who touch on weather in their works. This week we are looking at Canadian poet E. Pauline Johnson.


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Montreal as an Island

by Vicky Slonosky       on August 19th 2020


The spring ice break up season was always a tricky time for Montrealers. Unless you live off-island, we tend not to think too much about the practical geographical fact of the city Montreal as an island in the St Lawrence River these days. When the dire condition of the old Champlain bridge was realized and plans for the building of the new bridge were being drawn up, there was a fair amount of grumbling opinion along the lines of “I never leave the island; why should my taxes pay for all those suburbanites coming into the city?” The Champlain bridge is a vital piece of Canadian infrastructure linking the Atlantic provinces, Eastern Canada and the US to central Canada, and the most heavily travelled bridge in the country. As Montreal is an island, it has always needed goods and supplies brought in across the river. Electricity too: for those who remember the 1998 ice storm, they might also remember that at one point only one of the power lines supplying the city across the water was still functioning.

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Meet the Meteorologists: Quebec City

by Vicky Slonosky       on August 5th 2020


Today we are kicking off a new series on the blog: Meet the Meteorologists! Our aim is to look at the individuals around the world who helped to contribute to the creation of meteorology as a field of study and who helped inform the practice here in Montreal.

These individuals were often interested in weather as how it connected to their day jobs. They were often the intellectuals, religious figures, engineers, doctors or businessmen in communities and helped contribute to our understanding of weather in the St. Lawrence basin where Montreal resides. All individuals mentioned in this series were taken from Climate in the Age of Empire by Dr. Victoria Slonosky.

So let’s kick things off with New France and the people who called Quebec City home.


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Introducing DRAW Members: Drew Bush

by Rachel Black       on July 22nd 2020


Introducing…


Who:

Drew Bush


From:

Lyndonville, Vermont


Role at DRAW:

Education Team Member

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Heatwaves: Blasts from the Past

by Vicky Slonosky       on July 8th 2020

Heatwaves and cold snaps have always been a feature of Montreal and Quebec weather. Jean-François Gaultier (1708-1756), who was royal physician in Quebec City from 1742 to 1756, left vivid descriptions of heatwaves and hot summers in the mid-18th century, mentioning “les chaleurs excessives presque continuelles” (“the nearly continual excessive heat”; July 1746).

Answering questions like ‘Which was the hottest day or warmest summer on record?’ is not always straightforward when dealing with complicated historical data. Both mean temperature and maximum temperature need to be considered to provide a complete view of historical summer weather and heat waves.

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Measuring Humidity: A Long and Difficult Process

by Vicky Slonosky       on June 24th 2020

Why is it that some days it feels hotter than others? Or that we have difficulty breathing? It's all thanks to humidity, or water vapor in the air. This week let's dive into how humidity is measured.


Humidity has long been one of the most difficult atmospheric variables to measure objectively. Indeed, it took some time to recognize exactly what the role of water vapour was in the precipitation cycle, and it was in attempting to quantify just how precisely water vapour, humidity, clouds and precipitation were all related that John Dalton, a passionate meteorologist, became the discovery of atomic theory through his gas law of partial pressures and revolutionized chemistry.

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Rare Weather Phenomena - Part 2

by Rachel Black       on June 10th 2020

As promised, today's blog post is a followup from last week. We'll be delving into rare weather phenomena connected to clouds and snow.


While snow and clouds are a common feature of our days, especially if you reside within Canada, the following phenomena are not often experienced by the everyday individual. The snow and cloud based rare weather seen in today's post need specific conditions to exist!

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Rare Weather Phenomena - Part 1

by Rachel Black       on May 27th 2020


This week on the DRAW Blog: Rare Weather Phenomena!


With this week’s forecast in Montreal looking intense (30C-33C, humidex 35C-38C, chance of thunder) we at DRAW thought it would be apt to delve into some rare weather phenomena. This will be a two part series, with this week looking at rare weather connected to storms!

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Crafting the Weather

by Rachel Black       on May 13th 2020

Today on the blog let's take a look at an alternative way of recording observations about the weather!

The creative macramé community has come up with a neat way of tracking and logging weather observations. The two that I am aware of are Sky Scarves and Temperature Scarves. They are considered conceptual knitting or crafting, where projects go beyond the pattern to “become a small act of performance, community outreach or experimentation”. We’ll briefly go over each project below, with examples, and some suggestions for further exploration.

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Don't Miss Our New Educator's Corner, Years in the Making...

by Drew Bush       on May 5th 2020

You may have noticed a new tab on our website meant just for teachers and educators who want to bring Canada’s history and citizen science into their classrooms. With classes now occurring online for the foreseeable future, we hope you will add the Data Rescue: Archives and Weather (DRAW) project by asking your students to help with real scientific research that concerns their own heritage.

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Superb Super-Users: Thank you!

by DRAW Team       on April 29th 2020

We want to say a super thank-you today to our super-users. We have four transcribers who have each transcribed over 100 pages: Josée, Kathy, Jean-Paul and Louis. Together, these four transcribers have contributed 83% of our transcriptions! In a strange coincidence, this is the same percentage that the 10% of the contributors dubbed superusers were found to make in Online Citizen Science and the Widening of Academia. Another 15 users have completed over ten pages each, and we’re nearly at the half a million mark for the number of data points transcribed- 452 575 and counting! We still have a long way to go, though. Will we get there?

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A Day in the Archives

by Brittany Nolan       on April 15th 2020


For this week’s blog, we wanted to give you a behind the scenes look of some of the archival research we have been doing here at DRAW. This week we were looking at the Dawson-Harrington Fonds that is held at the McGill University Archives.

Most of the research conducted was centred around Anna Dawson Harrington. Anna was the daughter of John William Dawson, who was a principal at McGill in the 19th century. Anna married  Bernard James Harrington in 1876. Together they had 9 children: Eric, Edith, William, Bernard, Ruth, Clare, Constance, Conrad and Lois. Later in the post, we will get a chance to see some letters written by Anna’s daughter Ruth.

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Calling All Weather Enthusiasts - We Challenge You!

by DRAW Team       on April 8th 2020

Looking for something to do while you’re self-isolating and social-distancing? Would you like to contribute to weather, climate science, and history? Come help us transcribe weather records from the past on DRAW: https://citsci.geog.mcgill.ca.

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Rainbow Wonderland

by Rachel Black       on April 1st 2020

Good Morning Readers! While we tried very hard to discover a cool weather themed April Fool’s Day hoax to discuss, there’s surprisingly very few weather themed hoaxes out there! Instead we are going to chip in with spreading some hope and talk about Rainbows!

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The Flood of 1886

by Brittany Nolan       on March 18th 2020

This week on DRAW learn more about the flood of 1886, brought to us by one of our archival students, Brittany Nolan!


In the 19th century, the coming of spring was often accompanied by floods in Montreal. The floods of 1886 were particularly bad; some parts of the city were covered by over 4 feet of water!

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Weather Forecasting: Vennor's Bulletin

by Rachel Black       on March 4th 2020

This week in the blog: weather forecasting at the height of our ledger creation!

It’s likely not surprising to our readers that humans have been trying to forecast the weather, for a variety of reasons, for a long time. It’s not too different from what we do today in fact, as ancient weather forecasting methods usually relied on observing events and seeing the patterns that came from them (called pattern recognition).

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Introducing DRAW Members: Robert Smith

by Rachel Black       on February 19th 2020


Introducing...

Who:

Robert Smith

From:

L’anse au Loup, Labrador

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DRAW February Funnies

by Rachel Black       on February 5th 2020

To help alleviate any February blues, this week on DRAW we are going to liven things up with some weather themed jokes! Let us know which one is your favourite or tell us your favourite weather themed joke/pun/story on Facebook or Twitter!

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On This Day: Winter Carnival 1883

by Rachel Black       on January 22nd 2020

Did you know this Friday, January 24th, is the 137th anniversary of the first winter carnival held in Montreal? In honour of this anniversary, let’s take a look at what the weather in Montreal was like that day.

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DRAW and Student Projects: ENVR 401

by Rachel Black       on January 8th 2020

Welcome to our first blog post of the new year! Everyone at DRAW hopes you had a happy end to 2019 and we are looking forward to bringing you more interesting and engaging content in the new year!


ENVR 401: Environmental Research is an undergraduate course offered by McGill’s School of Environment. Offered in the Fall Semester, the course has students “work in an interdisciplinary team on a real-world research project involving problem definition, methodology development, social, ethical and environmental impact assessment, execution of the study, and dissemination of results to the research community and to the people affected.” (Course Description)

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On This Day

by Rachel Black       on December 18th 2019

For this week’s blog we are going to look at the weather this time 100 years ago: December 18th 1919. We won’t have time to fully immerse ourselves in what was happening 100 years ago, but to set the scene:

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Weather Symbols in Real Life: Part 2

by Rachel Black       on December 4th 2019

Weather symbols are important to the transcribing of weather data as they explain without words weather phenomena that is being experienced. We have dedicated a section of our website to exploring the different weather symbols we use in our transcription interface (Meteorological Observations) and a couple months ago looked at the history of weather symbols on this very blog (International Communication: Weather Symbols). But do we really know what the symbols mean when they are defined as ‘hoar frost’ or a ‘solar corona’?

This series will explore real life images of the weather symbols - taken by our own team!

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Introducing DRAW Members: Gordon Burr

by Rachel Black       on November 20th 2019


Introducing...

Who:

Gordon Burr

From:

Montreal

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Observing During the Wars

by Victoria Slonosky       on November 11th 2019

In commemoration of November 11, Vicky Slonosky talks a little bit today about the effect war has on meteorology.

Meteorology is an important aspect of war, and during the two World Wars in the 20th century, weather observing was affected in a number of ways. Weather forecasts and reports had military strategic value, and the international exchange of weather observations, so laboriously and slowly organized over the course of the 19th century, was stopped during the world wars.

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Weather in the History of Science

by Victoria Slonosky       on November 6th 2019

Today we will be taking a quick look at the intersection between the history of science and weather observations/meteorology.

The movie The Aeronauts was shown at the Toronto Film Festival last month, dramatizing the lengths meteorologist James Glaisher went to in his exploration of the atmosphere, taking instruments such as thermometers and barometers up in hot-air balloons. The first balloon ascents with meteorological interests in mind were made in 1784 by Dr John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard. In 1804 French scientists Joseph Gay-Lussac and Jean-Baptiste Biot ascended above Paris with their barometers and thermometers to investigate the behaviour of the atmosphere, atmospheric gases, and the magnetic field at high altitudes. They later became renowned for their work in chemistry and physics, Gay-Lussac especially for his work on the gases laws and chemical composition.

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BOOK REVIEW: Climate in the Age of Empire

by Rachel Black       on October 23rd 2019

In today’s edition of the DRAW Blog we will be looking at the book Climate in the Age of Empire: Weather Observers in Colonial Canada. This book, written by our own Victoria Slonosky, looks at the history of weather observations in Canada between the mid 18th century and the early 20th century. This examination as a result also traces the development of meteorology (a branch of science concerned with the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere as a means to forecast the weather) and climatology (the scientific study of climate). It also inadvertently traces the history of Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto during this time, showing another facet of the history of Canada.

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DRAWn into Education

by Rachel Black       on October 9th 2019

Bad puns aside, we’ve focused so far on historical weather, our ledgers and our members as well as the transcription process on the Blog so today we will explore other aspects of the DRAW project - namely fostering education and awareness.

DRAW, as you know, is a project dedicated to making the data from the old McGill Observatory ledgers available widely to the scientific community. We decided to do this by digitizing the pages of the ledgers and then making a platform in which the public (you!) can transcribe the data into datasets for further analysis. As part of this, we field questions about the process, troubleshoot any issues, and try to keep our users informed/interested in various topics through this Blog site. In addition, DRAW works with educators to inform students about not only the project, but to use the project as a case study in order to help students learn about not only weather but also the scientific process.

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Introducing DRAW Members: Rachel Black

by Rachel Black       on September 25th 2019


Introducing...

Who:

Rachel Black

From:

Ontario

Role at DRAW:

Records Management, Social Media, Outreach - Jack of all trades!

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Sleighing

by Victoria Slonosky       on August 28th 2019

It’s hot and humid outside, and has been another sizzling summer. But before we complain too much, we should remember the past winter…

All Montrealers agree that this past winter was a difficult one, with the freezing rain and freeze-thaw giving us lots of ice everywhere. This ice then hardened making walking a dangerous activity, with the risk of slipping and spraining or breaking a limb high. But how unusual was it in historical terms?

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Introducing DRAW Members: Renée Sieber

by Rachel Black       on July 31st 2019

Ever interested in who is behind our project? In this series learn about our members!


Introducing...

Who:

Renée Sieber

From:

Ontario by way of Michigan and New Jersey

Role at DRAW:

Multifaceted - To answer citizen science related questions ; to look at non-experts collaboration with scientists to influence science policy ; To get people interested in the site and remain interested in the site ; To assess the quality of contributions and broader value of the contributions within science ; science literacy to help individuals become more educated about the world


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Horizontal and Vertical Montreal

by Victoria Slonosky       on July 17th 2019

This week on the DRAW blog : look at how the vertical and horizontal city can affect weather!

The urban heat island effect is one that’s well known to many city dwellers- the fact that heat tends to accumulate in large (and even not-so-large) built up areas, partly due to land use and partly due to heat sources from energy use by people. Roads, concrete, asphalt, buildings and other man-made structures all have different heat and water absorbing or shedding characteristics than do natural surfaces such as forests, grass and wetlands.

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Handwriting Help

by Rachel Black       on July 3rd 2019

Old handwriting can be difficult to read and interpret, even for the experienced. Are you having difficulty reading the pages you are transcribing? Look no further - today’s post is about tips and tricks to reading old handwriting.

I wasn’t aware of this before, but the study of old writing in fact has its own name : Palaeography! This discipline focuses on the reading, deciphering, dating and context of old documents throughout history. It is crucial for historians and philologists to be familiar with this discipline because language and the way we write is constantly evolving over time - to understand a document you are studying you need to know how it was created! This of course, is not to be confused with Graphology, which is the study or analysis of a person’s handwriting in order to identify personality, emotional state, or the person itself. Graphology is a little more controversial and seen as a pseudoscience in some circles.

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Guest Post: Air Quality in Montréal

by Geoffrey Pearce       on June 19th 2019

Please join me in welcoming Geoffrey Pearce to the DRAW Blog!
Geoffrey Pearce has been teaching in the department of geography at Dawson College since 2011. Prior to that he completed a master's degree in planetary science at the University of Western Ontario with a research focus on the geology of the northern plains on Mars. His attention has since shifted to Earth and helping students to engage in urban field studies and citizen science projects. Today he will be talking about Air Quality in Montreal

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Weather Symbols in Real Life

by Rachel Black       on June 5th 2019

Weather symbols are important to the transcribing of weather data as they explain without words weather phenomena that is being experienced. We have dedicated a section of our website to exploring the different weather symbols we use in our transcription interface (Meteorological Observations) and a couple months ago looked at the history of weather symbols on this very blog (International Communication: Weather Symbols). But do we really know what the symbols mean when they are defined as ‘hoar frost’ or a ‘solar corona’?

This series will explore real life images of the weather symbols - taken by our own team!

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Who Were the Observers?

by Victoria Slonosky       on May 22nd 2019

This week we will explore a little about the individuals who were taking the observations we are transcribing.

The McGill observatory was originally founded by Dr. Charles Smallwood. An emigrant from England, Smallwood arrived in Montreal in the 1830s and set up a country practice in St Martin on the island north of the island of Montreal, then called Ile-Jesus, and now called Laval. By the 1840s, he had built an observatory with an impressive array of home-made instruments and arrangements for automatic recording. In 1863, he was invited to move the Observatory to McGill College. For some time it was known as the Montreal Observatory.

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Communicating Weather: Storm Warnings and Telegraphs

by Victoria Slonosky       on May 8th 2019

This week we will look at how weather, especially dangerous weather, was communicated in a time before telephones, cell phones and the internet. It is no surprise that weather observations played a significant part!

Space and Time: the Observatory, The Transit Telescope and Longitude

One of the most important functions of the McGill Observatory, and one which brought in much needed revenue to help pay for the meteorological and other scientific observations, was timekeeping. Timekeeping is fundamental to any kind of observing. In the 19th and early 20th century, timekeeping relied on observing the transit of certain stars. Midnight was defined as the moment certain stars, depending on the season, passed overhead. The transit telescope was one of the most important instruments in the observatory, although for timekeeping purposes it didn’t need to be as sophisticated and powerful as for astronomical discovery.

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Introducing DRAW Members: Vicky Slonosky

by Rachel Black       on April 24th 2019


This week we will explore who is behind our project, starting with Vicky Slonosky!



Introducing...

Who:

Vicky Slonosky

From:

Montreal (south shore) via England, France and Toronto and back to Montreal

Role at DRAW:

General wrangler & worrier, and historical weather data expert

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Marginalia in the Ledgers

by Rachel Black       on April 10th 2019

Welcome to the third installment of the DRAW Blog! This week we will be discussing Marginalia and the incidences of marginalia which we have found in our own ledgers.


Have you ever encountered a book in which someone wrote in the margins? Or did you ever draw or doodle in the margins of your class notes as a student or while in a meeting? If you have, you have either encountered or created marginalia.

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International Communication: Weather Symbols

by Victoria Slonosky       on March 27th 2019

Welcome to another DRAW Blog post! This week we will be looking at the why and how of weather symbols.


While transcribing you may have come across little symbols used to depict different types of weather, rather than writing. It was one of the most difficult challenges we faced in designing our interface in fact. We can’t just ask our citizen scientists to type them in - there are no keys for these symbols after all! Do we provide a table to consult? Do we ask them to type them in as “rain” or “snow”? What sort of standard should we use that is both accurate and easy for citizen scientists to transcribe?

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Clouds, Cloud Types and Abbreviations

by Victoria Slonosky       on March 13th 2019

Clouds or the lack of, are an ever present part of our skyscape. It is no wonder then that when the classification of the world around us began during the 18th century Enlightenment, with Carl Linne in Sweden developing the binomial system of plant classification (still used today for all living things) that the classification of clouds wouldn't be far behind. The classification began in the early 19th century with Luke Howard.

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