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UK Meteorologists Launch Citizen Weather Campaign

March 3, 2011

Meteorologists launched a new campaign Wednesday to get people in England involved in measuring climate change by using a mirror, soap bubbles or by looking up at the sky.

The Met Office national weather service is asking people to complete a series of simple activities to check the results of climatic computer models.

The activities include measuring wind speed by blowing bubbles into the air, to monitoring the direction of clouds with the aid of a mirror as methods to measure climate change.

Participants are also being asked to spot plane vapor trails to measure air temperature and humidity.

“They’re all aspects that are actually quite difficult for us to analyze or measure with our standard monitoring network and so it’s all about capturing new data that can complement our existing observation and tell us a little more,” Met Office climate scientist Mark McCarthy told AFP.

“Contrails (vapor trails), for example — we want to look at how well weather and climate models are able to predict where contrails do or don’t form and whether they do or don’t spread out and form clouds.”

The fuel that burns as planes fly creates water vapor, which mixes with the very cold air at high altitudes and then condenses.  The air is so cold that ice crystals are formed, leaving behind condensation trails, or “contrails.”

The trails stop heat from leaving Earth and contribute to global warming.  However, the only real way to check is to look at the sky.

Another activity under the OPAL Climate Survey indicates asking people to write down if they are hot or cold to help scientists understand how sensitive individuals are to climate change.

The Met Office expects a strong response from the survey, which is one of several launched in recent years involving the public on environmental issues.  The office has already distributed 40,000 activity packs to schools and other organizations.

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