NASA Wants People to Look at the Clouds

woman on ladder looking at clouds through a telescope

MJgraphics / Shutterstock

Are you up for the Fall Cloud Challenge?

It must be a certain type of person who follows the moon on Twitter – and NASA must have our number, because the below tweet came through my feed and I was like, "YES!"

I mean, I am the author of "Take time to look at the clouds" article on TreeHugger, afterall. Of course I am going to want to help NASA look at clouds, for heaven's sake.

So here is what's happening. The NASA GLOBE Clouds Team at the agency's Langley Research Center have announced the Fall Cloud Data Challenge. Cloud watchers can enter up to 10 observations per day of clouds, dust, haze or smoke from October 15, 2019 to November 15, 2019.

Participants enter their data using any of GLOBE’s data entry tools including the clouds tool on the GLOBE Observer mobile app, which looks like the screenshots below.

Globe cloud app / Public Domain

Observers with the most entries will be congratulated by NASA scientists with a video posted on the NASA GLOBE Clouds website. Imagine the glory! But if you aren't looking for that kind of legacy, an even cooler "prize" is that NASA will be matching cloud observation data with satellite data. They explain:

"To increase your chances of getting a satellite match to your observations by using the satellite notification option on the GLOBE Observer app or use the satellite overpass website to see the schedule when satellites will be right over your location. If your observation is made within 15 minutes (either before or after) the time a satellite will be over your area, you have increased the chances of getting a personalized email from NASA comparing your observations to satellites! Satellites that you could match to include geostationary satellites, Terra, Aqua, and CALIPSO."

I love all of this for a number of reasons. First of all, citizen science is just cool. But NASA has also created a really great project and is providing ample resources to learn more about clouds, and the planet in general. They have tips about cloud types, discerning between clouds and obscurations, and advice for how to photograph different types of clouds. One can learn a lot just by observing the clouds, but these tools provide the structure and information to learn even more.

Get the Globe Observer app at the App Store or on Google Play. Happy cloud spotting!