A Storm Is Coming…


Cumulus clouds on WCC’ campus

Have you ever participated in a citizen science project? In my last post– The Madness Behind the Mundane— I briefly mentioned the citizen science project that I’m currently working on called S’COOL Rover. This is something I’ve been doing with my two classmates Megan Martin and Josh Rim. For S’COOL Rover we have to observe the temperature and cloud type, height, cover, and visual opacity for a given time that the website produced for us once we signed up. We did these observations at the “Bowl” on WCC’s campus. The time they gave us to observe was very specific, and we found out that that’s because the time we observe is the same time that the AQUA satellite from NASA orbits over our location. This satellite takes images of clouds from above. That way, the observations we make and the images that the satellite produces can give two different perspectives of the clouds.

To further explain what we were observing, the cloud type and height was based on a diagram like the one below that we used to classify them, and the given heights for each type along with our own estimations. The cover was based on our estimation of the percentage of clouds were covering the sky in our viewing range, and the visual opacity was whether the clouds were transparent, translucent, or opaque– the density/thickness of the clouds.

These are the observations we’ve made so far, and a diagram on the right on how we classified the clouds:


“Sky Watcher Chart” from NOAA.gov (click to enlarge and see website)

June 11th, 2014 (1:31 P.M.)

  • Temperature: 73 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cloud type: nimbostratus
  • Cloud height: low 1.3 km
  • Cloud cover: broken
  • Visual opacity: opaque
  • Extra: rain/drizzle

June 13th, 2014 (1:19 P.M.)

  • Temperature: 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cloud type: stratocumulus
  • Cloud height: 1.6 km
  • Cloud cover: broken
  • Visual opacity: opaque
  • Extra: breezy

June 16th, 2014 (1:50 P.M.)

  • Temperature: 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cloud type: cumulus
  • Cloud height: 1 km
  • Cloud cover: scattered
  • Visual opacity: translucent
  • Extra: humid and hot

June 18th, 2014 (1:38P.M.)

  • Temperature: 79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cloud type: cirrostratus
  • Cloud height: 6 km
  • Cloud cover: broken
  • Visual opacity: transparent

We’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have as well, that there have been a lot more dense and heavy clouds lately, and we guessed that had something to do with the season being spring. Springtime is associated with rainfall and mild-warm temperatures, so do they have a connection? Well, Wikipedia says, “increasing temperatures tend to increase evaporation which can lead to more precipitation.” And somewhere in between evaporation and precipitation has to be condensation, which is something else I explained in my last post. I explained how every individual cloud droplet requires a nuclei (which is like a piece of dust) that attracts water to form the clouds. The amount of evaporation attributes to the amount of condensation on the nuclei of a cloud droplet, which attributes to the density of the cloud. So as the temperature increases from winter to spring, so does the density of clouds in the sky, making the rainclouds more common.

My group and I have had a lot of fun observing and researching about clouds for the S’COOL Rover project. If you’re interested, go check it out! Citizen science projects are always worth doing.