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Easy Ways to Become a Citizen Scientist

Courtesy of NOAA

Celebrate science by becoming a citizen scientist with NCEI. Several scientific projects we host  benefit from public participation, enthusiasm, and curiosity for science.

National recognition of citizen science commences on Citizen Science Day in April. Events take place across the country throughout Earth Week and into May to highlight the importance of citizen science, which happens every day of the year. Citizen science lets us ask new questions, collect data, and make scientific advancements with your help.

NCEI is involved in several citizen science projects, and we encourage you to get involved. By participating in these projects, you’ll help contribute to meaningful research that allows us to better understand the world around us.

You can follow #CitSciDay events throughout April and May, so join the conversation on social media!

Cyclone Center

One of our citizen science projects is Cyclone Center, a collaborative effort involving NCEI, Zooniverse, the University of North Carolina, Asheville, the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellite–North Carolina, and the Risk Prediction Initiative. With your help, Cyclone Center improves our understanding of tropical cyclones (low pressure systems) simply by having participants view satellite images and answer a few simple questions about them.

Using an intuitive website with easy-to-read tutorials and guides, citizens can classify cyclones with a click of the mouse or tap on the screen. You’ll also learn by doing. The website teaches the difference between cyclone type, strength, and banding. You can participate as an anonymous user or earn recognition as a registered participant. Best of all, there are no wrong answers!

So far, more than 13,000 volunteers have viewed more than 665,000 satellite images from over 30 years of tropical storm records and classified them according to the Dvorak technique. And, evidence suggests that consensus estimates from these citizen scientists do as well as or better than automated methods.

CrowdMag

We’re also involved in the CrowdMag citizen science project in partnership with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science. We invite you to help improve magnetic navigation by tracking changes in Earth’s magnetic field with our free CrowdMag app, available for download on both Android and iOS phones.

The geomagnetic field has been observed and used for navigation since ancient times. The app uses the accelerometers and magnetometers built into smartphones to provide very localized magnetic field data. These data will help update models of Earth’s geomagnetic data—the very same models that smartphones and GPS already use to help you navigate.

NCEI creates and updates models of the geomagnetic field to keep pace with Earth's constantly changing magnetic field. But, gaps in coverage prompted scientists to develop alternative ways to obtain geomagnetic data. The goal of CrowdMag is to release the world’s first geomagnetic field model developed entirely using crowdsourced data from phone users like you.

CoCoRaHS and mPING

Along with Cyclone Center and CrowdMag, we also support the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network or CoCoRaHS and the Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground or mPING project.

CoCoRaHS lets you provide daily precipitation data through simple tools and an interactive website. Users learn how to monitor precipitation conditions and provide measurements of rain, snow, and hail as a public service. Their reports are used by many entities interested in climate and landscape conditions, including the authors of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The mPING project, managed by NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, crowdsources weather reports via a free smartphone app. The project collects anonymous eyewitness reports of precipitation, wind damage, flooding, mudslides, and visibility from around the globe, not just the United States. The reports of observable conditions and their consequences—such as uprooted trees or flooded roadways and buildings—are a first level of weather data that contribute to basic weather knowledge. The reports are valuable to a variety of users, including the National Weather Service, which uses them for its research.

All of these citizen science efforts are already advancing our understanding of weather, climate, and geophysics, while providing fun and educational opportunities for everyone to participate in the process of scientific discovery. We invite you to check out these and other crowdsourcing opportunities and try your hand at citizen science.