Introduction: The Global Precipitation Measurement Mission and GLOBE Student Field Campaign

Introduction: The Global Precipitation Measurement Mission and GLOBE Student Field Campaign

by Kristen Weaver, GPM Education Specialist

My original topic for this introductory blog was going to be how to participate in the field campaign, but those details are well covered in the "How to Participate" section. For any technical questions, the GLOBE Support Team is always helpful, or for other questions about the campaign you can get in touch with me and/or the rest of the GPM Education Team here.

So that taken care of, the question becomes: Why should you contribute data to the GPM-GLOBE Student Field Campaign?

For me, the primary reason is that precipitation matters. It affects our lives nearly every day to a greater or lesser extent, whether it's deciding to bring an umbrella when we leave the house or more serious events such as annual flooding from monsoon rain in India and Pakistan, the landslide in Oso, Washington last year, or the effects of tropical cyclones such as the recent Typhoon Hagupit or even more recent Tropical Storm Jangmi, which both hit the Philippines.

     Source: Wikipedia   Source: USGS   Source: NASA/GPM

Students are likely to see rain and snow information mentioned in the news, but may not have thought about how the data is collected. In fact, a fun activity is to have them try to build and test their own rain gauge, which will point out how important it is to have a more accurate gauge such as GLOBE uses. (A more formal lesson plan for the rain gauge activity is also available on the GPM Precipitation Education website.) Precipitation data is nicely within reach to students as citizen scientists, since it's fairly easy to collect and doesn't require a lot of equipment – a rain gauge, a post and an open space to put it in.


If that isn't enough, what better hook than a connection to a NASA satellite? After all, NASA is cool. (I'm sure someone, somewhere has done a study on that, right?) The Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, launched almost a year ago on February 27th, 2014, has instruments that can measure how much precipitation is falling, distinguish between rain, snow and other precipitation types, and look inside storms to see the three-dimensional structure of the clouds. And the mission is more than just one satellite. The Core Observatory will serve as a reference standard to unify the precipitation measurements from an entire constellation of satellites with similar instruments. That will allow global precipitation measurements about every three hours, data that can be used to improve climate and weather models and for forecasts of hurricanes, floods, droughts and landslides.


However, the way satellites "see" rain is not the same as the way rain gauges collect precipitation on the ground, and to make sure the algorithms used by the satellites to provide rain totals are working well, we need to do what is called ground validation. Upcoming blogs and a webinar will go into how professional scientists conduct their campaigns, but your students can have a taste of the process by collecting and entering data during the campaign, following along with the analysis that will be done by Dr. Tiffany Moisan, and then thinking about their own analysis and questions to explore.


I'll finish up with a few tips, based on questions that have come up so far:

  • Since many areas are still experiencing snow this time of year, you may want to take a look at the protocols for snow measurement as a refresher. Snow boards are easy to make, although even without one you can take measurements of existing snowpack, if not new snow.
  • Remember that you can submit multi-day accumulations if needed – taking a measurement every day is of course ideal, but you can still take measurements after weekends or holidays.
  • When you are ready to enter your data, you won't see precipitation listed under the initial reporting options for the atmosphere protocols – you'll need to choose the "Integrated One-Day" button which will then give you the choice of precipitation, among other data types. There's always the data entry tutorial as well if you need a reminder of the procedures.


If you still have unanswered questions, or would just like to learn more about the GPM mission and the events that will be taking place during the campaign, please join me for the introductory webinar next week. More information and the registration link can be found on the webinars page.

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