Mission for NASA
Reported December 2006
TIMNATH, Colo. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- For millennia, man has studied clouds from the ground looking up. Today, satellites orbit earth, sending back a cross section of cloud information from the inside out...
...But who's confirming the government's data collection? 10- to 12-year-olds! And the NASA scientists are relying on them. These elementary school students understand cloud formations with more accuracy than most adults.
Timnath Elementary School 6th grader Madison Hayes says, "Our job is to look up at the clouds and send in the data to tell them what is happening down on earth."
"Off to the north, there are altostratus clouds because we can tell that by there is a huge space on the horizon," says fellow 6th grader Ethan Lindhout.
The Colorado school is one of 100 schools in 11 countries providing NASA with cloud data through Colorado State University's CloudSat program.
Timnath Elementary School teacher Lynette Salzman says, "These are 10-year-olds. How many 10-year-olds would tell you that the sky was obscure or broken, and why and what that meant?"
Hundreds of miles away, NASA's CloudSat satellite orbits earth using radar to examine clouds from the inside out. The students use their ground data and cloud type references to confirm or reject the radar results.
CloudSat Scientist Richard Austin, of Colorado State University, says, "One way that kids help out is to do what we call validation activities. If we say there is a cloud over a given school, the kids can tell us: Were we right? Is there really a cloud there? Or what clouds are we missing?"
Possibly producing the next generation of meteorologists and atmospheric scientists...
"They become scientists," Salzman says. "They do the work. They are broadening their learning base beyond the classroom."
...And assisting in even more accurate weather forecasting in the future. Students record cloud cover, cloud type, temperature and precipitation data every 16 days, coinciding with the satellite overpass.
The American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Debra Krumm, Ph.D.
Director of Outreach & Education, NASA CloudSat Mission
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
The American Meteorological Society
Boston, MA 02108-3693
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