Today’s factismal: In the past week, snow has fallen in every state except Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Even though the Northern Hemisphere is twenty-six days into spring, some places are still getting lots of wintery weather. This past week saw a major winter storm sweep through the central part of North America, dumping a mixture of cold air, sleet, snow, rain, and chaos along its path. The storm (nicknamed “Thor” by some wags) has piled up as much as two feet of snow in Kentucky, and more than an inch of rain in Dallas. The high winds and precipitation have caused airplanes to skid off the runway and stranded motorists across the nation. But perhaps the people most frustrated by it are the meteorologists.
The reason that meteorologists get frustrated by major storms like this is because the data we have is almost but not quite good enough to help them predict exactly when and when and how much precipitation there will be. And the reason for that is because the surface of the Earth is cluttered with things like trees and houses and the occaissional mountain that blocks the radar meteorologists use; as a result, radar can only track the precipitation until it gets close to the ground. To see what actually happens on the ground, the meteorologist needs to be there – or to have someone else be there.
And that’s where you come in. NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory has created an app called mPING (for “Precipitation Identification Near the Ground”); both Apple and Android versions are available. The way it works is simple: when you run into a bit of precipitation, you click the mPING icon, tell it what sort of precipitation you see, and go on your merry way. Your report is added to thousands of others and gets used to help improve our models of precipitation and to help predict where and when the next severe storm will head our way. To learn more, drift over to: