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Chris Rink
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RELEASE NO. 01-114

For Release:   Nov. 20, 2001

NASA cloud study program marks millenary milestone

Cloudy days equal years of learning for students in a global cloud-observation project.

Part of a long-term satellite experiment, the NASA Langley Research Center Students' Cloud Observations On-Line (S'COOL) activity recently registered Deer Creek Elementary School as its 1000th site. The Nevada City, Calif., school works with NASA Langley's Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) to study how clouds affect the Earth's energy balance.

NASA Langley researchers in Hampton, Va., are training students worldwide to observe clouds. There are currently 764 U.S. schools involved in the project. S'COOL schools take measurements in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and in 57 other countries on all continents except Antarctica.

In addition to being a research scientist at NASA Langley, Lin Chambers is the director of the CERES S'COOL Project and a member of the CERES Science Team. Chambers did a survey of S'COOL teachers last fall. "Ninety-five percent of the respondents rated the educational usefulness as great or good," she said. "And 73 percent rated student interest and learning during S'COOL as very high or high. Five hundred fifty-seven students were identified as having an increased interest in science as a career as a result of their participation."

Deer Creek and other S'COOL students send their data to a NASA computer. The students' observations are then compared to those from orbiting CERES instruments. CERES uses its vantage point from space to provide global data on the Earth's energy balance and how clouds affect it. CERES instruments are currently aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and Terra satellites.

"S'COOL has been a great experience not only for the students and teachers but also for the scientists," said Dr. Bruce Wielicki, co-principal investigator for CERES. "The S'COOL observations also get us into remote places around the world without routine weather stations. So the student data has been part of our plan to test and verify the satellite cloud data.

"Here is an example of one of the ways we use the S'COOL data," added Wielicki. "One of the most important things CERES does is to separate observations of totally clear-sky conditions from conditions with some clouds in the sky. This allows us to isolate the role of clouds in the radiation balance of the Earth. The S'COOL observations do an excellent job of picking up small scattered clouds, low level fog, or thin high clouds that we might otherwise miss in the satellite data. Matching the S'COOL observations to our satellite data then helps us quantify the amount of cloud contamination we get in our clear-sky data."

More CERES instruments are expected to be launched on NASA's Aqua satellite in March 2002. The Terra spacecraft is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research effort being conducted to determine how human-induced and natural changes affect our global environment.

For more information on-line about S'COOL, CERES, TRMM or Terra visit the following web sites:

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