How to Be an Online Blizzard Scientist

The Atlantic

Calling all lazy nerds getting snowed in by "Nemo." Helping researchers collect snowstorm data has become so insanely easy, anyone with a smartphone and 30 seconds can be a citizen scientist during the blizzard.

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Here's how Snowtweets works. All participants have to do is tweet the snow depth measurement from their backyard, some geolocating info like a postal code or coordinates, and the hashtag #snowtweets. Essentially, you're just helping the research team led by Prof. Richard Kelly neatly organize big data about snow depth. They'll use this information to test the accuracy of satellites estimating snowfall, and it'll all go into this interactive map depicting global snow cover:

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United States federal researchers are also harnessing the labor of smartphone-enabled citizen scientists for their PING (Precipitation Identification Near the Ground) Project. Scientists with the NSSL (a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration laboratory) have set up a bare-bones interface where people can enter basic information about weather conditions in their areas. Like the University of Waterloo researchers, they're also using these numbers to build on information gathered using existing NEXRAD radars. All they're asking for is a time stamp, location, type of precipitation observed, and info on simple atmospheric conditions. And if you can't be bothered to turn on your laptop, they've conveniently created an iPhone app

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But if tweeting and inputting simple numbers into an iPhone app sounds like too much of a hassle, yet you still want to help scientists understand storms, you could always just cough up some money. Climate scientist Jason Box has been assessing the effect of North American wildfires on Greenland's melting ice sheet, but his project was denied a grant from the National Science Foundation. So he launched a crowdfunding effort called the Dark Snow Project — so-called because dirty, emission-choked snow melts faster than clean white snow, potentially hastening global warming. By contributing to Box's goal of $150,000, you can send him and his research to the frigid climes of Iqualuit, Canada to study dark snow so you don't have to.  

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