As part of Citizen Science Month 2023, we’re sharing excerpts from ‘Into the Zooniverse’, a series of books celebrating the projects and people of the Zooniverse.

You can find and download all editions of ‘Into the Zooniverse’ here.


THE EARTH’S CLIMATE has changed tremendously over the last 130 years, with its atmosphere heating by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius). Clouds play a significant role in maintaining the climate.  The effects they have varies on the type, size, and altitude. For example, Cirrus clouds give way to incoming radiation from the sun but act as insulators, making the Earth hotter.

To better understand the changes in clouds and how they may affect our climate, NASA deployed around 20 satellites orbiting Earth and started collecting data on clouds. However, satellites can only collect data from above. For thorough research on cloud interactions, scientists need images from the ground. The GLOBE Program invites the public to submit photographs of their sky through the GLOBE Observer app.

In NASA GLOBE Cloud Gaze, Zooniverse participants help classify these images by cloud cover, type, and what else you might see (fog, haze, etc). The researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center use these classifications to verify the ground observations and gauge how clouds have changed the climate over time and how they will evolve. They also make the data available to the public. In the future, they hope to create a climatology of cloud types based on the Zooniverse volunteers’ classifications and photographs and use this data for machine learning. 

Image credit: NASA GLOBE Cloud Gaze Project

Summary by: Lola Fash

Check out this project: here

View the full ‘Into the Zooniverse’ book: here