Published: March 14, 2018 10:05 pm
NASA has announced a global cloud observation challenge – inviting citizen scientists to observe and track clouds using their smartphones. From March 15 through April 15, citizen scientists of all ages can make up to 10 cloud observations per day using the GLOBE Observer app.
Challenge participants with the most observations will be congratulated by a NASA scientist in a video posted on the GLOBE Program’s website and on social media. “The GLOBE Program is offering this challenge to show people how important it is to NASA to have citizen scientist observations; observations from the ground up,” said Marile Colon Robles, lead for the GLOBE Clouds team at NASA’s Langley Research Center in in the US.
“We’re going from winter to spring, so the types of storms will change, which will also change the types of clouds,” said Robbles. Researchers use, and value, this citizen science cloud data because it helps to validate data from Earth-observing instruments. Scientists at Langley work with a suite of six instruments known as the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES).
Even though CERES’ instruments use advanced technology, it is not always easy for researchers to positively identify all types of clouds in their images. For example, it can be difficult to differentiate thin, wispy cirrus clouds from snow since both are cold and bright; even more so when cirrus clouds are above a surface with patchy snow or snow cover. One solution to this problem is to look at satellite images from a particular area and compare them to data submitted by citizen scientists on the ground.
“Looking at what an observer recorded as clouds and looking at their surface observations really helps us better understand the images that were matched from the satellite,” said Robles. Citizen science observations are especially needed now because scientists are starting to verify data from a new CERES instrument.