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J. Brant Dodson
,
Marilé Colón Robles
,
Jessica E. Taylor
,
Cayley C. DeFontes
, and
Kristen L. Weaver

Abstract

On 21 August 2017, North America witnessed a total solar eclipse, with the path of totality passing across the United States from coast to coast. The major public interest in the event inspired the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Observer to organize a citizen science observing campaign to record the meteorological effects of the eclipse. Participants at 17 585 observing sites collected 68 620 temperature observations and 15 978 cloud observations. With 7194 sites positioned in the path of totality, participants provide a nearly unbroken record of the cloud and temperature effects of the eclipse across the contiguous United States. The collection of both temperature and cloud observations provides an opportunity to quantify the cloud–temperature relationship. The unique character of citizen science, which provides data from a large number of observations with limited quality control, requires a method that leverages the large number of observations. By grouping observing sites along the path of totality by 1° longitude bins, the errors from individual sites are averaged out and the meteorological effects of the eclipse can be determined robustly. The data reveal a distinct relationship between prevailing cloud cover and the eclipse-induced temperature depression, in which overcast conditions reduces the temperature depression by about one-half of the value from clear conditions. A comparison of the GLOBE results with mesonet data allows a test of the robustness of the citizen science results. The results also show the great benefit that research using citizen science data receives from increased numbers of participants and observations.

Free access
Marilé Colón Robles
,
Helen M. Amos
,
J. Brant Dodson
,
Jeffrey Bouwman
,
Tina Rogerson
,
Annette Bombosch
,
Lauren Farmer
,
Autumn Burdick
,
Jessica Taylor
, and
Lin H. Chambers

Abstract

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.

Free access
Marilé Colón Robles
,
Helen M. Amos
,
J. Brant Dodson
,
Jeffrey Bouwman
,
Tina Rogerson
,
Annette Bombosch
,
Lauren Farmer
,
Autumn Burdick
,
Jessica Taylor
, and
Lin H. Chambers
Full access