Amateur meteorologists sought for crowdsourced National Weather Service hail study

Are you active on social media? Do you care about weather? If the answer is “yes,” the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Weather Service want your help investigating hail accumulations from spring and summer thunderstorms.

The goal of the crowdsourced Deep Hail Project is to help researchers better understand and forecast hail-producing thunderstorms in Colorado and nationwide, said Katja Friedrich, an associate professor in CU’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

Researchers, including Friedrich, her colleagues, CU students and National Weather Service lead forecaster Bernard Meier, are asking Twitter, Facebook and email users to document severe storms between April and September with photos, videos and measurements of hail depth.

Thunderstorms occasionally produce swaths of massive amounts of hail in Colorado. Friedrich said these weather events are sometimes referred to as “plowable hailstorms” because some roads are impassible until snowplows or bulldozers can clear them.

“These severe storms pose a substantial risk to life and property and often result in motor vehicle accidents, road closures, airport delays, river flooding and water rescue activity,” she said. “Over the course of a summer, millions of people are affected by these kind of thunderstorms.”

The Deep Hail Project is designed to better understand why certain thunderstorms produce massive amounts of hail, and how meteorologists can identify those storms. “We need to know when these thunderstorms occur, how much hail is on the ground and the extent of the hail swath,” Meier said.

Meier said one reason why the researchers are encouraging use of Twitter is because of the site’s geotagging feature. Geotagging allows weather researchers to see the time and place a particular tweet was sent, which is expected to enhance the timeliness and accuracy of online weather reporting and communication between the public and local weather forecast offices.

For more information on what information to collect for the Deep Hail Project and how to report it, go to clouds.colorado.edu/deephail.

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