US: NASA has enlisted the help of smartphone users around the world to monitor the effect of clouds on the Earth”s climate. Information collected by users of the CloudSpotter app – where people take pictures of clouds and try to identify their type – will be used by the space agency”s scientists to calibrate its Clouds and the Earth”s Radiant Energy System (Ceres) instrument.
Ceres comprises a set of instruments on three satellites that measure the sunlight that is reflected back into space from the Earth and the heat it emits. The amount of sunlight reflected is greatly affected by cloud cover. “If you have no clouds, then clearly you are going to be seeing the Earth”s surface,” said Lin Chambers, a scientist at Nasa”s Langley Research Center in Virginia. “Some of the things that cause us real problems are situations like when you have clouds over snow that are really hard to detect from space,” said Chambers. “When that happens, you can be off by several degrees, maybe even 10 degrees in terms of surface temperature, which is a pretty substantial error. It”s a very localised error [but] it”s a pretty substantial error.”
Anyone using the CloudSpotter app will be able to contribute to reducing those errors. Users take pictures of the clouds they see and send the information to the Cloud Appreciation Society, which identifies the type of cloud. That information, together with time, date and location stamps, is sent to the Ceres team.
Source: Guardian UK