The GLOBE/S’COOL Partnership: Citizen Scientists Validate Satellite Data

Category: 
Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Toolkit

Clouds are beautiful and familiar sights, but closer observation can yield many surprises due to their constantly changing forms. Clouds are of abiding interest to scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because they are so important in shaping the Earth’s climate.

Citizens have long contributed to scientific studies of clouds. Since 1994, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment Program has been engaging students around the world in observing and reporting about clouds. Since 1997, NASA’s Students’ Cloud Observations Online (or S’COOL) Project has used cloud observations by students from every continent to verify findings by a NASA cloud-observing satellite.

These two projects are now joining forces in a GLOBE/S’COOL partnership to sponsor cloud observation campaigns by citizen scientists.

Participants in the projects observe clouds as a NASA satellite passes overhead, using a one-page form to record their observations. Then they report that data to NASA or GLOBE through a Web form. Participants can make and report observations at any time, whenever schedules permit.

Observations reported to S’COOL are matched with satellite data, where applicable, within about a week. Observers then receive a return email inviting them to analyze the comparison between the two points of view.

Both the GLOBE and S’COOL websites include information about the project, about clouds, and about the importance of understanding this highly variable aspect of the Earth system. Plans are in development to merge the two projects during fiscal year 2016 to create a single resource for citizen science observation of clouds. A cloud observation mobile app, currently in development, will help citizen scientists make and report their observations

GLOBE is jointly sponsored by U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Department of State. Internationally, GLOBE is implemented through Government-to-Government agreements with each Country Partner responsible for in-country activities. As the lead agency for GLOBE in the U.S., NASA has the primary responsibility for administering the Government-to-Government agreements, and the management of the GLOBE Implementation Office and the data and information system that support the worldwide implementation.

Welcome to The GLOBE Program

Goals: 

Vision: A worldwide community of students, teachers, scientists, and citizens working together to better understand, sustain, and improve Earth's environment at local, regional, and global scales.

Mission: To promote the teaching and learning of science, enhance environmental literacy and stewardship, and promote scientific discovery.

High Level Impact: 

Since 1994, GLOBE has received more than 2.3 million cloud reports from nearly 15,000 locations around the world. Since 1997, S’COOL has received more than 135,000 observations from around the world, of which more than half could be matched to satellite overpasses. These data have helped scientists understand the spatial and temporal variability of clouds, leading to several publications while also providing a rich resource for citizen scientists to explore. The GLOBE/S’COOL partnership is a vast source of information about clouds, engaging citizens around the world in authentic science. Observers become more aware of the sky above them while learning about the importance of clouds.

Point of Contact: 

Lin Chambers Email: lin.h.chambers@nasa.gov

Ming-Ying Wei Email: mwei@nasa.gov