Archive for the ‘weather’ tag

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs and CoCoRaHS Wants to Know Where and How Many Fell

By March 11th, 2017 at 9:31 am | Comment

You may have noticed some strange weather recently where you live. For example, in February, it reached 100o in Mangum, Oklahoma when 56o is the average. For the first time ever, temperatures in Antartica rose to the high 60s. And when was the last time you saw a headline reading Hawaii Has Had More Snow than Chicago or Denver in 2017? Some may link these strange events to a changing climate, and although climate influences weather patterns, it’s important to make a distinction between the two to fully understand the impacts of global climate change.

Neil Degrasse Tyson communicates this distinction with an analogy of a man walking his dog, and another common analogy states: “weather influences what clothes you wear on a given day, while the climate where you live influences the entire wardrobe you buy.” Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Science to track weather and climate change

By March 2nd, 2017 at 11:05 am | Comment

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Many scientists rely on “small data” from  volunteers to understand local and global weather patterns and climate change. Collectively, the data are used to calibrate weather instruments on NASA satellites, or by the National Weather Service to refine forecasts or flood warnings.  Below, we highlight five projects turning small data into big impacts.  You can find more projects on SciStarter to do now or bookmark your favorites for later.  Learn more about small-to-big data in citizen science.

The SciStarter Team

Install a rain gauge and start measuring precipitation with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. The data are publicly available and used by weather forecasters, scientists, farmers, and more.
Get started! United States, Canada, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Photo: Osvaldo Sala
International Drought Experiment
This ambitious global experiment is attempting to measure drought effects in different ecosystems. You’ll need to build or purchase “drought shelters” making this an ideal, long-term project for schools and community groups.
Get started! Global

MIT Climate CoLab
Climate CoLab uses collective intelligence and creativity to find ways to counteract climate change. When you join the project, you collaborate with people from across the world to develop proposals to combat climate change.

Photo: USFWS
Picture Pile
A huge array of online photographs awaits you. By sorting and classifying the images, you will help researchers study issues including global climate change.
Get started! Online

Photo: USFWS
NASA Globe Observer: Clouds
Satellite images convey important information about the earth, but on-the-ground data are also needed to “ground-truth” satellite data. You can help by taking photos of clouds and sky conditions, identifying the types of clouds you see, and sharing the information with NASA.
Get started! Global

Excited about urban nature? The City Nature Challenge will be happening in cities across the United States this Spring. Find one near you in the SciStarter Event Finder!  Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

Citizen Science in the City

By February 17th, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Comment

unnamed (2)Do you live or work in a city? Well, have we got the projects for YOU! Below, we highlight research projects in need of your help in cities.  Find more projects on SciStarter to do now or bookmark your favorites for later!
The SciStarter Team

Read the rest of this entry »

The Poetry of Science at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

By October 26th, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Comment

Carl Sandburg Home National Historical Site stretches over 246 rolling acres in Flat Rock, N.C. The writer and poet Sandburg moved to the property in 1945 for the solitude the natural landscape provides. Today, it is a place where nature, science, and creativity intertwine.

By measuring tree canopy cover, visitors to the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site citizen science trail contribute to research showing how differences in sunlight affect the ecosystem. Photo Credit: Russ Campbell

By measuring tree canopy cover, visitors to the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site citizen science trail contribute to research showing how differences in sunlight affect the ecosystem. Photo Credit: Russ Campbell

Five miles of trails meander throughout the site – some leisurely strolls on walking paths, others intense climbs that summit onto a bucolic overlooks. One trail in particular offers a new and innovative experience that marries the beauty of the setting with the investigative opportunity that inherently exists in nature. The first Kids in Parks Citizen Science TRACK Trail, a program of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, was designed to create and interactive trail experience for children and the adults with them to stop, observe, and reflect on their surroundings.

A canopy of hemlock, maple, and pine shade the mile-long loop that encircles a lake. The citizen science trail guides participants through a series of interactive stations where visitors can measure the age of a tree by counting the rings, test the quality of the water, and observe the weather by reading a thermometer and making observations. Another station provides a bench for visitors to look out across the lake and simply record whatever nature they see. There’s also a place to record your own poem–a nod to Sandburg and the recognition of this site as a tribute to American literature and a reminder of the inexorable link between nature, science, and art.

The view from Little Glassy Mountain, part of the citizen science trail at Carl Sandburg National Historic Site. Credit: Russ Campbell

The view from Little Glassy Mountain, part of the citizen science trail at Carl Sandburg National Historic Site. Photo Credit: Russ Campbell

Administrators at Kids in Parks collect the data, explains director Jason Urroz. “It’s a great way to get kids to collect data and be involved in the science learning process,” he says.

As Carl Sandburg wrote, “Nothing happens unless first we dream.” Park staff themselves had a dream to create a new citizen science trail that would engage visitors in all aspects of what the park has to offer. Supported by the National Park Foundation, they turned this dream into an opportunity to discover the rich and unique environment of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.


Russ Campbell heads communication at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a private biomedical foundation located in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He is a volunteer with the Turtle Rescue Team, based out of the North Carolina State University Veterinary School. He is the cofounder of the Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC).

Winter + Citizen Scientists + Twitter = Snowtweets!

By December 8th, 2013 at 2:29 am | Comment

Winter is here! Check out more winter weather themed citizen science projects at Scistarter.

#snowtweets project

#snowtweets – Citizen scientists for cryosphere research

You know what the atmosphere is. But have you heard of the cryosphere? No, it’s not a giant frozen ice-cream sphere, if that’s what you’re thinking. (That’s not what you were thinking? Never mind then!) The cryosphere, as Wikipedia most sagely teaches us, is the portion of the earth’s surface where water is in solid form (snow, ice, etc). Now, if you’re planning to drive home the day before Christmas, you will probably check out how much snow there is on the road on the weather channel or These outlets get their snow depth data from government sources such as the NOAA’s National Weather Service or the Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC). Apart from the safety of your road trip, there are many more uses to knowing what the snow cover will be such as predicting how much water rivers will receive from snowmelt. However, because the data comes from simulated models which use a combination of ground and satellite based snow measurements, their accuracy needs to be tested.

That is what the cryosphere research team at the University of Waterloo is trying to do with SnowTweets. And they want you to help them. Using just a ruler, a Twitter account and a few minutes of your time, you can contribute to cryosphere research. By crowdsourcing tweets about snow depths at various locations, the team hopes to collect frequent and high resolution data and match it with the meteorological data from NOAA & CMC. So how do you get started? Simple!

Make your own snow ruler!

Make your own snow ruler! Image credit:

  1. Get a twitter account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Get a ruler or make your own (like the snowman themed one pictured on the right). Put on your winter gear!
  3. Step out and find one or more patches of undisturbed snow. If you can find a place away from buildings like a nearby park your measurement is more likely to be accurate. But if you can’t don’t worry. Your backyard will do just fine!
  4. Take a few depth measurements to see how it varies in different regions. Then, take the most representative measurement. For example if you measured 3”, 4”, 8”, 4”, 5”and 3” the most representative reading is probably 4” (The 8” would be an outlier). Remember that no snow measurements (i.e. 0 inches) are important to tweet out too!
  5. Tweet the measurement using the #snowtweets along with your zip code or latitude and longitude like this

#snowtweets <snow depth in cm, in or ft> at <zip code or latitude, longitude>

For example #snowtweets 5.0 in. at 20500 or #snowtweets 8.3 cm at 41.500, -120.750

If you’re outside North America, be sure to throw in your country name as well along with the zip code (e.g. #snowtweets 2 cm at 102-8166 Japan). Here’s my snowtweet


  1. Tweet many times a day as you want. Even better, if you’re going on a winter road trip, take a ruler, measure and tweet wherever you stop! Remember, more data = better!
  2. Give it a few minutes. The data will be processed by their automated system and will show up on Snowbird, the special visualization tool that the team has created for this project.

From early stage analyses of snowtweets data, the team has found that it matches pretty well with the data from simulations. Interestingly, the more tweets they get which are in regions close by to each other, the better the data matches. So the more you tweet, the more accurate their analyses will be! You can visit their website for more details on how to measure snow accurately and the SnowTweets team. Now get out there and write some #snowtweets! Image credits: NASA,

Arvind Sureh is a graduate student in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. For his thesis, he has been studying the molecular mechanisms behind uterine contraction during pregnancy. He is also an information addict, gobbling up everything he can find on and off the internet. He enjoys reading, teaching, talking and writing science, and following that interest led him to SciStarter. Outside the lab and the classroom, he can be found behind the viewfinder of his camera.