Last week, we shared an educational game you can download and play while learning more about ice flows and changes in Greenland and Antarctica. This week, I wanted to share an opportunity for citizen science using a smartphone app: making cloud observations through the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program, which provides the public with an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to our understanding of the environment and how it’s changing.


So, why clouds? They tell us more about day-to-day weather and they’re a major component of the climate which reflect, absorb and scatter sunlight and infrared emissions from Earth, ultimately affecting how energy passes through the atmosphere. Depending on size, height and type of cloud, they can absorb more infrared radiation from the Earth, leading to heating; or reflect away sunlight, leading to cooling. In a nutshell, clouds are complicated and we need to understand more.


NASA satellites are useful in that they provide observations from above. While this offers a big picture look at what’s going on, details are important, too. Clouds in snow-filled areas (like the polar regions) make it difficult for satellites to distinguish cloud and snow, thus, on-the-ground photos, looking up, can help scientists fill in the data gaps and better interpret the satellite data. Once you download the app, you can enable it to send you notifications when NASA satellites pass overhead and overlap your observations at the same time!


GLOBE can be downloaded from the app store (iPhone) and Google Play (Android) by searching for “Globe Observer.” In addition to cloud observations, you can participate in data collection on land cover and trees, as well as mapping of mosquito habitats in this app.


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