Maintaining legacy data: saving Belfast Harbour (UK) tide-gauge data (1902-2010)

Joanne Murdy, Julian Orford, James Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Tide gauge data are identified as legacy data given the radical transition between observation method and required output format associated with tide gauges over the 20th-century. Observed water level variation through tide-gauge records is regarded as the only significant basis for determining recent historical variation (decade to century) in mean sea-level and storm surge. There are limited tide gauge records that cover the 20th century, such that the Belfast (UK) Harbour tide gauge would be a strategic long-term (110 years) record, if the full paper-based records (marigrams) were digitally restructured to allow for consistent data analysis. This paper presents the methodology of extracting a consistent time series of observed water levels from the 5 different Belfast Harbour tide gauges’ positions/machine types, starting late 1901. Tide-gauge data was digitally retrieved from the original analogue (daily) records by scanning the marigrams and then extracting the sequential tidal elevations with graph-line seeking software (Ungraph™). This automation of signal extraction allowed the full Belfast series to be retrieved quickly, relative to any manual x–y digitisation of the signal. Restructuring variably lengthed tidal data sets to a consistent daily, monthly and annual file format was undertaken by project-developed software: Merge&Convert and MergeHYD allow consistent water level sampling both at 60 min (past standard) and 10 min intervals, the latter enhancing surge measurement. Belfast tide-gauge data have been rectified, validated and quality controlled (IOC 2006 standards). The result is a consistent annual-based legacy data series for Belfast Harbour that includes over 2 million tidal-level data observations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-73
Early online date17 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Tide gauge data; Analogue–digital conversion; Legacy data; Belfast Harbour (UK)


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