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.
Efforts to involve the general public in storm studies have shown promising degrees of success lately. University of North Carolina researchers recently convinced about 2,000 people to classify more than 95,000 online images of cyclones in order to better understand storms like Hurricane Sandy. And Wilfrid Laurier University researchers have collected valuable data about environmental trends by enlisting people to monitor backyard skating rinks. But when asking people to assist in research for free, it's best to keep the entry barriers as low as possible. Expecting people to learn the art of identifying different cyclone types can even be too much to ask from some volunteers. That's what makes new projects like the University of Waterloo's Snowtweets and the National Severe Storms Laboratory's PING so genius: they're slacker proof.
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:
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.
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.