Amateur meteorologists sought for crowdsourced CU-Boulder, National Weather Service hail study
May 17, 2016
Active on social media? Care about weather? If the answer is 'yes,' the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Weather Service (NWS) want your help investigating large surface hail accumulations from thunderstorms in Colorado between April and September.
Since hail is frequent during the spring and summer, Grand County is a perfect place to capture data for the research study.
The goal of the crowdsourced study is to help researchers better understand and forecast hail-producing thunderstorms in Colorado and nationwide, said Associate Professor Katja Friedrich.
The researchers are asking users of Twitter, Facebook and email to document such severe storms with photos, video and measurements of hail depth for the Deep Hail Project, said Friedrich of CU-Boulder's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Friedrich and her CU-Boulder colleagues, including students, are teaming up on the project with Bernard Meier, lead forecaster of the National Weather Service Office in Boulder.
Thunderstorms occasionally produce swaths of massive amounts of hail in Colorado. Such events sometimes are referred to as "plowable hailstorms" because some roads remain impassible until snowplows or bulldozers are used to clear them, said Friedrich.
"These severe storms pose a substantial risk to life and property and often result in motor vehicle accidents, road closures, airport delays, river flooding and water rescue activity," she said. "Over the course of a summer, millions of people are affected by these kind of thunderstorms."
According to Meier, the pilot project is to better understand why certain thunderstorms produce massive amounts of hail and how meteorologists can identify them. "We need to know when these thunderstorms occur, how much hail is on the ground and the extent of the hail swath," he said.
One advantage of using Twitter for weather reports is geotagging, which is geographic information associated with individual tweets, said Meier. Geotagging allows weather researchers to see the time and place a particular tweet was sent, which is expected to enhance the timeliness and accuracy of online weather reporting and communication between the public and local weather forecast offices.
"Whatever people can send, accurate measure, time, and a good description of the extend of the hail event, is what we need for the project," said Friedrich.
"We are trying to link it back to radar data and lightening data."
Right now researchers are at the beginning of the understanding of the hail phenomena. Grand County stats would offer great data for the study and CU is seeking people who can record hail events specifically with date and time stamps on the collection.
For more information on what information to collect and how to report it, go to http://clouds.colorado.edu/deephail, visit the project on Twitter (https://twitter.com/NWSBoulder; #deephail), or on Facebook (https://facebook.com/NWSBoulder).