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Marilé Colón Robles
Helen M. Amos
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Lin H. Chambers


Citizen science is often recognized for its potential to directly engage the public in science, and is uniquely positioned to support and extend participants’ learning in science. In March 2018, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program, NASA’s largest and longest-lasting citizen science program about Earth, organized a month-long event that asked people around the world to contribute daily cloud observations and photographs of the sky (15 March–15 April 2018). What was considered a simple engagement activity turned into an unprecedented worldwide event that garnered major public interest and media recognition, collecting over 55,000 observations from 99 different countries, in more than 15,000 locations, on every continent including Antarctica. The event was called the “Spring Cloud Challenge” and was created to 1) engage the general public in the scientific process and promote the use of the GLOBE Observer app, 2) collect ground-based visual observations of varying cloud types during boreal spring, and 3) increase the number and locations of ground-based visual cloud observations collocated with cloud-observing satellites. The event resulted in roughly 3 times more observations than during the historic and highly publicized 2017 North American total solar eclipse. The dataset also includes observations over the Drake Passage in Antarctica and reports from intense Saharan dust events. This article describes how the challenge was crafted, outreach to volunteer scientists around the world, details of the data collected, and impact of the data.

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