Chris Rink
RELEASE : 09-005
09-005: S'COOL Reaches Milestone and Still Going Strong

HAMPTON, Va. -- A collaboration between students from around the globe and NASA atmospheric scientists who use student observations in cutting-edge climate research has reached a graduation-like benchmark - its 12th anniversary.

NASA is marking the anniversary by inviting students everywhere to take part in Global Cloud Observation Day on Jan. 13, 2009. Students can make and report cloud observations at the time that the CERES instruments pass overhead as a way to verify the satellite measurements.

S'COOL, Students' Cloud Observations On-Line, has been using student observations of clouds to "ground truth" or verify CERES since 1997. The program began as a small collaboration between scientists at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and has expanded to include schools in 54 countries around the globe and nearly 75,000 individual student-reported cloud observations.

The students' work helps researchers double-check CERES measurements, which can occasionally record more or less cloud cover than actually exists. CERES, the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System, measures the incoming and outgoing radiation in the Earth's atmosphere in an attempt to learn more about the role clouds play in the planet's dynamic climate. Clouds remain one of the least understood climate variable. Student observations have mostly agreed with CERES, but also have consistently shown that CERES slightly under-detects high-altitude clouds, a shortcoming that would be difficult to detect without a database of student observations.

Schools in the United States still account for more than half of reported cloud observations of the S'COOL. But the program's popularity around the world continues to spread. Every continent but Antarctica claimed at least one school participating. About 15 countries in Asia and Europe each have schools that have participated. Schools in 13 Spanish-speaking Latin American countries plus Brazil have reported results, with more than 25 percent of all observations in the past year coming from Latin America.

For Global Cloud Observation Day, students can find out "When to Observe" and "What to Observe" at the S'COOL Rover Web site. Cloud watchers can use the "Report Form" to record observations and send the information to NASA. About a week later, students can explore the "Database" section of the Web site to compare observations to what the satellite reported.

Other S'COOL anniversary celebrations include a Jan. 13th, hour-long Web cast including a videoconference connection with a West Virginia NASA Explorer School. For more information:

For the S'COOL Rover Web site and more information, go to:

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