Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Help NASA create a global cloud atlas with their new CloudSpotter app

Smartphone users worldwide are being asked to help NASA develop a world cloud atlas, and assist in calibrating their Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System instrument. This app is used to take photos of clouds and identify their type, and the results are coordinated via the Cloud Appreciation Society. The instrument is installed on three satellites, and measures the amount of heat/light our planet reflects back into space. A major factor affecting this process is cloud cover and type. This knowledge is vital in the context of understanding the role clouds play in Earth system dynamics, and particularly in providing baseline data for future climate change studies.

Schools have been assisting NASA with this calibration process since 1997, but now anyone with a smartphone and the app can help ensure that the results from the satellite are tallied with the level of cloud cover below. NASA plans to use the CAS database to find photos taken when one of the satellites was above, and using the information given by the photographer such as variety and density of cloud to calibrate CERES. They hope to find trends in satellite mis-identification of clouds to gain a clearer understanding, and also to gradually develop a global cloud atlas.

Image credit: NOAA.

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