What's a Citizen Scientist?

Here's how you can volunteer with weather in your community

If you have a passion for weather science, but don't particularly fancy becoming a professional meteorologist, you may want to consider becoming a citizen scientist -- an amateur or non-professional who participates in scientific research through volunteer work. 

We've got a few suggestions to get you started...

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Storm Spotter

meteorologist studying weather
Andy Baker/Ikon Images/Getty Images

Always wanted to go storm chasing? Storm spotting is the next best (and safest!) thing.  

Storm spotters are weather enthusiasts who are trained by the National Weather Service (NWS) to recognize severe weather. By observing heavy rain, hail, thunderstorms, tornadoes and reporting these to local NWS offices, you can play an essential role in improving meteorologist forecasts. Skywarn classes are held seasonally (usually during the spring and summer) and are free and open to the public. To accommodate all levels of weather knowledge, both basic and advanced sessions are offered.

Visit the NWS Skywarn homepage to learn more about the program and for a calendar of scheduled classes in your city. 

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CoCoRaHS Observer

If you're an early riser and are good with weights and measures, becoming a member of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) may be for you.

CoCoRaHs is a grassroots network of weather enthusiasts of all ages with a focus on mapping precipitation. Every morning, volunteers measure how much rain or snow fell in their backyard, then report this data via the CoCoRaHS online database. Once the data is uploaded, it's graphically displayed and used by organizations like the NWS, US Department of Agriculture, and other state and local decision-makers.

Visit the CoCoRaHS site to learn how to join.

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COOP Observer

If you're into climatology more so than meteorology, consider joining the NWS Cooperative Observer Program (COOP).

Cooperative observers help track climate trends by recording daily temperatures, precipitation, and snowfall amounts, and reporting these to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Once archived at NCEI, this data will be used in climate reports around the country.

Unlike other opportunities included in this list, the NWS fills COOP vacancies through a selection process. (Decisions are based on whether or not a need for observations exists in your area.) If selected, you can look forward to the installation of a weather station at your site, as well as training and supervision provided by a NWS employee.

Visit the NWS COOP website to view available volunteer positions near you.

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Weather Crowdsource Participant

If you'd like to volunteer in weather on a more ad-hoc basis, a weather crowdsourcing project may be more your cup of tea.

Crowdsourcing allows countless people to share their local information or contribute to research projects via the internet. Many crowdsourcing opportunities can be done as frequently or infrequently as you like, at your convenience.

Visit these links to participate in some of weather's most popular crowdsourcing projects:

  • mPING: Report precipitation happening in your city
  • Cyclone Center: Organize hurricane imagery datasets
  • Old Weather: Transcribe weather observations from ship's logs of Arctic sea voyages
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Weather Awareness Event Volunteer

Certain days and weeks of the year are devoted to raising public awareness of weather hazards (such as lightning, flooding, and hurricanes) that impact communities on a national and local scale.

You can help your neighbors prepare for possible severe weather by participating in these weather awareness days and community weather-themed events. Visit the NWS Weather Awareness Events Calendar to find out what events are planned for your region, and when.