CoCoRaHS participants commit to spending a few minutes each day recording measurements taken from rain gauges, or plastic cylinders used for measuring inches of rainfall, placed outside their homes. Volunteers later upload their data to the CoCoRaHS website. The tasks are simple enough that even children can participate with minimal adult assistance.
In the process, kids get practical experience that reinforces several concepts taught in science class, including taking precise volumetric measurements, following consistent protocols, and organizing data.
Unraveling climate change requires not just an understanding of what is happening right now, but also of historic climate data. Fortunately, citizen scientists have collected weather statistics for centuries. However, much of that information must first be teased out of some unlikely places.
Researchers at Boston University recently plotted observations made in flower journals by Henry David Thoreau, the famed existentialist writer, philosopher, and naturalist, against temperature records to reveal the correlation between the onset of spring and bloom time. The researchers published their findings in the scientific journal PLOS One earlier this year.
Not all of these kinds of records are as manageable.
The British Royal Navy holds extensive daily records that date back to the middle of the 19th century. These detailed logs include wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure, and wave height around the world and across two centuries. Researchers at OldWeather.org have acquired millions of pages of handwritten logs and need help processing them.