The NASA GLOBE Clouds team is continuously working with scientists around the world finding ways that cloud observations from citizen scientists impact the most. As we find new ways of using the data, we want to remind you how important each part of your cloud report is to the scientific community. All cloud observations can help with big questions such as the link between clouds and climate. 

Dr. Patrick Taylor is an atmospheric scientist at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In the Clouds and Earth’s Climate video, Patrick discusses how he studies clouds to look at our changing climate and analyzes data from Low Earth Orbit satellites. Learn how Patrick’s passion for weather started when he was in fourth grade at Greenwood Elementary School in Millerstown, Pennsylvania.




Timing your observations



Observations can be used to study even more questions when they are timed to capture specific events or phenomena. It can determine whether you get a satellite match, capture a unique event like a dust storm or a smoke plume from a nearby fire, or help out with a specific need, like the Terminator Problem (dusk & dawn cloud observations). In any of these events, we ask that you take observations following your local guidelines and only when it is safe to do so. 

  1. Satellite Match - Use the Check Satellite Flyover schedule to see when a polar orbiting satellite will be over your area. To increase the chances of getting a satellite match, take a cloud observation within 15 minutes, before or after, the time listed. This is most helpful for polar orbiting satellites with instruments such as Aqua and Terra.
  2. Terminator Problem - Take a cloud observation when the sun is near the horizon (at about 10 degrees above the horizon or lower). You can time this by checking when sunrises and sunsets will occur in your area. Remember to add the comment “terminator” to at least one of the photographs. Use the steps listed in the The (Solar) Terminator Problem: Cloud Observations during Dusk or Dawn blog to best time your observations. You can find more information about this at Science on a Sphere Day/Night Terminator.
  3. Dust storm, haze event, or smoke plumes present - You can use the app to report any of these unique events. All of these are obscurations or when one of these events covers your view of the sky and clouds. The GLOBE Clouds team wrote out steps on how to submit a dust event. Follow along for other events and select from the obscuration list the option that matches best your observation. For smoke plumes, you can indicate that smoke obscured the sky and take photos.
  4. Contrail observations - Contrails are clouds formed when water vapor condenses and freezes around small particles (aerosols) that exist in aircraft exhaust. There are three types of contrails: short lived, persistent, and persistent spreading. Humans are the best at detecting and reporting these unique cloud types. Make sure to use the GLOBE Observer app to report when you see contrails and when you don’t. Contrail reports are especially helpful, including those that say zero contrails.The app allows you to report zero contrails or add the exact number you see of each contrail type.



Photographing the sky and clouds

You know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, it is also true for data. No matter what you are reporting in your cloud observation, photographs add a lot of data to your report. It helps scientists see what you saw. It’s the next best thing to being right there with you. It also allows scientists to notice other details that may help them analyze the event. So, always remember to add photographs to your cloud observation. 

The GLOBE Observer app makes this pretty easy! Just line up the letter of the cardinal direction you are pointing at to the closest circle and voila, the photograph will be taken instantaneously. Remember, you can also add comments with the photos. 

More Blog Entries