Overview and Benefits
What is GLOBE Observer?
GLOBE Observer is an app-based citizen science initiative collecting data from a subset of the larger GLOBE Program’s environmental science areas. It’s open to anyone in the 120+ GLOBE countries who would like to download the free app on their smart device and sign up for an account. The app guides users through data collection and doesn’t require any prior training to get started. We are currently collecting observations of clouds, mosquito habitats and larvae, land cover, and tree height and circumference. GLOBE Observer also temporarily accepted air temperature measurements for the solar eclipse which passed over North America on August 21, 2017, and the one which passed over South America on July 2, 2019 – similar short-term efforts are planned for future eclipses from 2020 onward.
Why are my observations important?
Clouds are a major component of the Earth’s system that reflect, absorb, and scatter sunlight and infrared emissions from Earth. This affects how energy passes through the atmosphere. Different types of clouds have different effects, and the amount of cloud cover is also important. Clouds can change rapidly, so frequent observations are useful to track these changes. Such observations are able to see change over time and help with interpretation of satellite cloud data. While observations any time are helpful, the app allows you to look up satellite overpass times for your location, to be able to match the ground data more directly with information collected by NASA satellites. Citizen science data from GLOBE Observers is an important part of the puzzle, providing a different perspective on the clouds, from the ground looking up.
Mosquito Habitat Mapper:
Mosquitoes are a serious health risk: millions of people die each year from mosquito-borne disease. While climate and weather conditions can suggest to scientists where to expect spikes in mosquito populations during the year, we don’t know for sure what is happening unless we make observations on the ground. By reporting possible mosquito habitats through the app, GLOBE Observers are able to augment broad scale satellite-based research with highly targeted local ground-based observations.
Land cover is the base dataset for many areas of critical science, including hazard analysis for floods, fires and landslides, mapping wildlife habitat, and tracking the impacts of climate change. Even though land cover is familiar to everyone on the planet, the most detailed satellite-based maps of global land cover are still on the order of hundreds of meters [about 330 feet] per pixel. That means that a park in a city may be too small to show up on the global map. GLOBE Observer Land Cover can fill in local gaps and contribute to consistent, detailed global maps.
Trees cool and moisten our air and fill it with oxygen and can help balance our carbon budget. Forests are considered one of the world’s largest banks for all of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere through natural processes and human activities. Tree height is the most widely used indicator of an ecosystem’s ability to grow trees. Observing tree height allows NASA scientists to understand the gain or loss of biomass which can inform calculations of the carbon that trees and forests either take in from or release into the atmosphere. Tracking how trees are changing over time can help us estimate the number of trees that make up an area.
In addition to research done by professional scientists, since GLOBE Observer is part of the GLOBE Program, active in thousands of schools across the world, citizen scientists are also providing data for student research, strengthening science education.