The Snowtweets Project provides a way for people interested in snow measurements to quickly broadcast their own snow depth measurements to the Web. These data are then picked up by the project’s database and mapped in near real time. Snow and ice researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada, are especially interested in using Web-based digital technologies to map snow depth data; currently, the project uses the micro-blogging site Twitter as its data broadcasting scheme.

Visualization of data is a key aspect of the project. To view the snow depth measurements (or tweets), the Waterloo researchers have developed a data visualization tool called Snowbird that lets you explore the reported snow depths around the globe. You can also click on the navigation link (visualization) at the top of the page that will take you there. The viewer shows where the reports are located and how much snow there is at each reported site.

The researchers have also developed a near real-time satellite data feed so citizen scientists can see how the tweets compare with the satellite view. Snowbird will allow you to toggle real-time satellite NASA MODIS data which gives snow cover extent. You can also look at some historical maps for north America.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Richard Kelly, Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Management
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: University of Waterloo, Canada
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    First, visit the Snowtweets Web site to learn more about the project.  Then sign in to your Twitter account (or sign up for a free account) and then write a message from your laptop, desktop or smart phone.

See more projects in FreeObservationAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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