Volunteers are being called on to transcribe records of ships as part of a digital database to help predict the weather.

Weather records taken by 19th- and 20th-century seafarers are being digitised to give scientists a better understanding of the climate.

Thousands of volunteers are being called on to help by transcribing records from the logbooks of ships that entered Australian waters in the 1890s and 1900s.

The information, which includes sea water temperatures, will be added to a computerised climatic records database in the hope it will improve short-term weather forecasting.

The online project will also increase understanding of severe events and help scientists predict weather patterns, such as those during El Nino conditions.

Professor Roger Stone, director for the International Centre for Applied Climate Sciences, says the data will add enormously to what’s known about climate variability.

“Sea temperatures are incredibly important because the global oceans are probably the major engine room of our climate in the first place,” he said.

The logbooks contain detailed records of weather factors, such as barometric pressure, sea temperatures, cloud cover and swell. Prof Stone said all this would help scientists reconstruct climatic patterns and severe events including hurricanes.

The Weather Detective project will run until September 5 and is open to all Australians.

It is an initiative of ABC Science and University of Southern Queensland to coincide with National Science Week (August 16-24).

The existing records database is run by ACRE (Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the earth).