Release Your Inner Climatologist

Project: Cyclone Center

Climatology is a fiendishly difficult field of study. There are so many factors to consider, and in many cases, we don’t have a lot of historical data to help us refine and improve our models. Complicating matters further is the question of climate change. If we don’t have a solid grasp on how certain events used to happen, how can we have a clear understanding how of they will work in the future?

Zooniverse wants your help to change that. In a project called the Cyclone Center, researchers want you to help improve our understanding of tropical cyclones. A tropical cyclone is a storm system that produces thunderstorms, strong winds that can easily exceed 100 kph, and torrential rain. Asia seems to be particularly prone to cyclones, and they are deadly: Cyclone Nargis, for example, killed more than 140,000 people, and resulted in $10 billion in damage.

The Cyclone Center has some 300,000 satellite images of tropical cyclones taken since 1978. You’re being asked to view these images and classify them using a modified “Dvorak technique.” This technique uses a simple questionnaire to analyze the pattern of the cyclone to estimate intensity, wind speed and direction.

To get started, use your existing Zooniverse login, or create a new one, and take the easy tutorial at the Cyclone Center. You can then help to classify the images and get a better understanding of these storm systems. Your work may also help to save tens of thousands of lives in the future.

This project brings together several organizations, including the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, NOAA’S National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), The Risk Prediction Initiative, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can connect with her on Twitter @chandraclarke .