Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Student Cloud Observations Help Validate NASA Satellites
by Jennifer LaPan for NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton VA (SPX) Nov 21, 2011

Mexican Students Make 100,000th Observation - Students at a school in Mexico - the Instituto Patria Bosque - made the 100,000th cloud observation in the S'COOL project this week. They observed altocumulus and cirrostratus on Nov. 11, 2011. "This has been a great piece of news for all our school community," said Wendy Valencia, director of academics. "We will keep observing, awaiting for the observation 200,000!" The school is in Estado de Mexico, a state within the country of Mexico just to the west of Mexico City.

In between recess, geography class and eating the lunch their moms packed, NASA scientists have found the time to help validate Earth-observing satellites.

These scientists are the younger variety - students in NASA's S'COOL project (Students' Cloud Observations On-Line), a worldwide effort to collect cloud observations from the ground.

The students make observations like a NASA scientist and submit reports for their area to NASA. In return, the students receive a corresponding cloud observation from a NASA satellite to help them compare and learn.

This week, the S'COOL program received its 100,000th cloud observation, prompting a look into what NASA has been doing with all of these cloud observations.

"We often hear about how NASA satellite data helps students, but there are also quite a few things the students do for us," says Lin Chambers, the lead for the S'COOL program, which is based out of NASA's Langley Research Center in

According to Chambers, the most common way S'COOL ground observations help scientists is by confirming the presence of clouds in areas and under conditions that are challenging for satellite instruments.

For example, in a number of instances, students submitted cloud observations that reported a single layer of clouds in their area while the corresponding satellite was reporting a clear sky.

When the S'COOL team looked further into this discrepancy, they found that students were reporting small amounts of thin cirrus clouds, which are not detectable by the Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES)/Imager algorithm for the Tropical Rainforest Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft or the CERES/Imager algorithms for the Terra and Aqua satellites. With these student observations, scientists can now quantify how often satellites overlook cirrus clouds.

"The data are most useful to help confirm the cloud scenes that we know are difficult to detect with passive remote sensing," says David Young, a NASA climate scientist who served as the first S'COOL science advisor.

"You can't see through layers, so you often miss low clouds that are under high clouds. It has been useful to get these data to see how often that occurs."

Other tricky circumstances for satellites are observing clouds in areas with bright surfaces, such as snow, and complex surfaces, such as mountains.

Strong agreement between satellite data and student observations from snowy or icy areas helped NASA scientists confirm that the CERES instrument can in fact make cloud observations when surfaces are bright. To analyze satellite capabilities in areas with complex backgrounds, scientists looked instead toward student observations that reported clear skies.

"Seeing a completely clear sky from the satellite can be a challenge in certain circumstances, given the variable background of the Earth's surface," explained Chambers. "Once again, S'COOL observers helped scientists make sure that their satellites were making accurate observations."

Student observations have also provided a more accurate approach for comparing cloud cover between the ground and the satellite. This improvement came as a result of another inconsistency found between satellite and S'COOL observations - students were reporting clear skies while satellites were reporting overcast skies.

"The S'COOL team found this difference often occurred when observers were located on the edge of a longitude and latitude line, and in many cases, student observations were being compared to satellite data that covered a different grid region than their actual location," explains Chambers.

Additional studies are currently underway comparing S'COOL student reports to new data on cloud layers from the CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations) and CloudSat satellites in NASA's A-Train satellite constellation. A fifth edition of CERES will also be launching October 2011 on the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite, providing another opportunity for S'COOL observers to coordinate cloud observations.

While science goals were never the primary goal of the S'COOL program, Young explains that he and other scientists are proud that these results have been published, especially since these science outcomes are not very common with student outreach projects.

"People often ask why we don't just use the data from trained cloud observers at the weather stations and airports," says Young. "The answer is that we do. However, the S'COOL measurements are valuable because they are timed to coincide with the CERES measurements, and they provide observations from a wide variety of locations all over the world."


Related Links
NASA S'COOL project
Earth Observation News - Suppiliers, Technology and Application

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

New FASTSAT discoveries paint detailed view of region near Earth
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Nov 21, 2011
Space around Earth is anything but a barren vacuum. The area seethes with electric and magnetic fields that change constantly. Charged particles flow through, moving energy around, creating electric currents, and producing the aurora. Many of these particles stream in from the solar wind, starting out 93 million miles away on the surface of the sun. But some areas are dominated by particle ... read more

LRO Camera Team Releases High Resolution Global Topographic Map of Moon

Mystery of the Lunar Ionosphere

Ancient Lunar Dynamo May Explain Magnetized Moon Rocks

Ancient Lunar Dynamo May Explain Magnetized Moon Rocks

MRO Catches Mars Sand Dunes in Motion

MSL Entry, Descent and Landing Instrumentation Will Be A Data Rich Feed

MSL launch delayed to Saturday Nov 26

New Missions To Investigate How Mars Turned Hostile

NASA Develops New Game-Changing Technology

Weightless US teachers eye giant science leap

Allianz and International Space Transport Association partner in space tourism industry

US honors astronauts for pioneering space flights

China launches two satellites: state media

Shenzhou-8 departs from in-orbit lab, ready for return

China's spacecraft comes back to Earth

Shenzhou for Dummies

New Trio Welcomed Aboard Station, Gets to Work

Maintaining Crew Health One Step at a Time

Russian spacecraft delivers new crew to ISS

Soyuz Docks At ISS, Hatch Opened

Mobile Launcher Moves to Launch Pad

Rocket engineer Wolfgang Jung a logistics expert for space science

Arianespace to launch satellite for DIRECTV Latin America

Delta Mariner offloads launch components at Vandenberg

Exo planet count tops 700

Giant planet ejected from the solar system

Three New Planets and a Mystery Object Discovered Outside Our Solar System

Dwarf planet sized up accurately as it blocks light of faint star

Raytheon BBN To Develop Game-Based Training Methods and Systems to Improve Decision-Making

Multidisciplinary team of researchers develop world's lightest material

Radioactive road poses headache for Seoul district

New 'smart' material could help tap medical potential of tissue-penetrating light

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement