Every snowflake is unique, and the shape of the freshly-fallen crystals can tell us about real-time atmospheric conditions. Using smartphone technology, you can help track the path a snowflake has taken through the atmosphere. The science of snowflakes is nearly as intricate as the shapes of the snowflakes themselves. Citizen scientists’ ground observations of snow crystals are collected and analyzed by researchers to match the image,location, and timestamp data with temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and visibility. Researchers will use the observations to better understand cloud layers containing a lot of moisture and associations between crystal morphologies and weather patterns. This program will involve citizen scientists across the region in real scientific research. It will improve their understanding of the weather and climate phenomena that affect us every day. Direct engagement in inquiry-based learning will open doors for STEM in the future, and we hope that this curiosity and engagement will also result in lifelong stewardship of the land and the important resources on which we depend. Scientifically, this project establishes precedents for the uniqueness of its approach to data collection. “Crowd-sourcing” ground observations of snow crystals are not being done anywhere else in the world. Snow initiation is a weak area of atmospheric research, and this may provide insights to help fill these knowledge gaps in snow science.
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