Citizen science on ice

By December 21st, 2010 at 1:49 am | Comment

Keep scientists at IceWatch up to date about the snow and ice in a lake near you!  Photo: David Shelly

Keep scientists at IceWatch up to date about the snow and ice in a lake near you! Photo: David Shelly

Now that half the country is blanketed in snow for the holidays, we wanted to point out a cool new project to join: IceWatch USA!

As a child in the woods of New Hampshire, my siblings and I kept a keen eye on the weather, and “ice on” events at our back pond were a major cause for celebration. Once ice had crept across the whole pond (and swamp), we’d start our annual pestering ritual in an effort to get Dad out there to check the ice thickness. The instant he gave his ok, we’d jam on our skates and zoom across.

Curious citizen scientists who live near a body of water (lake, pond, stream, river, estuary, or bay) are encouraged to join IceWatch and send in observations of their own “ice events.” Researchers at IceWatch want to know whether or not your body of water is covered in ice (and how much is covered) as well as what date the ice appears and disappears.¬†For extra credit, send in reports of snow depth, air temperature and wildlife observations.

To become an IceWatcher, register online and choose your waterbody of interest. Reporters can send in observations by email or snail mail (and simple point-and-click online reporting is in the works). Your data will be aggregated with observations from fellow IceWatchers and shared with interested scientists.

In addition to the impact on budding hockey stars, changes in “ice on” and “ice off” events can alter migration and breeding patterns of birds as well as food supplies for other animals. Your icy observations will help scientists investigate how our climate is changing and how ecosystems react to these changes. Information about our changing world is particularly important for climate scientists as they strive to accurately model future weather patterns.

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