Participate in Real Science – Help Classify Tropical Cyclone Winds


Cyclone Center, now in its third year, is a website that allows citizen scientists like you to help meteorologists like us determine the maximum wind speed (or “intensity”) of historical global tropical cyclones.   We need your help to complete this ambitious project.

Why am I needed?

Cyclone Center WebpageFirst,  there are way too many images (nearly 300,000!) for us to do it alone!  Second, your responses as a group are almost always just as good as an expert!  And third, there are disagreements in the historical record that must be addressed.    For instance, there are studies in published literature that suggest that typhoon activity is both increasing and decreasing in the western Pacific Ocean. Clearly both cannot be true!

Why are there questions about tropical cyclone data? 

Changing personnel, forecasting procedures, technological innovation and the introduction of new types of satellite data have created a record of past tropical cyclone information that is non-uniform. So looking at how the climatology or history of storms has changed over time is quite difficult and riddled with assumptions.  We’re using a new satellite data set that eliminates these differences; now we just need to go back and reclassify the storms.

Can I really help?  Does my time really contribute to the science?

Yes!  Using group consensus (several of you classifying the same image), citizen scientists making storm strength estimates on can help clear up the confusion. By participating in this endeavor, you and other citizen scientists are analyzing the satellite images through a process similar to a complicated technique used by meteorologists, thereby providing a more consistent record of tropical cyclone strength. Your choices as you classify storms – your very mouse clicks – will lead to a better understanding of tropical cyclones. You never know, the statistics from the decision process you use to classify storms could even lead to further refinement of the intensity estimation process meteorologists use as well!

What if I screw up?  I don’t know anything about tropical cyclones or weather!

There is a nice tutorial to get you started and a lot of other information to familiarize yourself with the images and the process.  The questions are simple and straight forward.  Each image is examined by at least 10 other citizen scientists, so if your answer is way off it will not make our answer any worse.

Seriously, am I really needed?  

Yes!  So far we’ve had nearly 400,000 classifications, but we need close to 2 million to complete the project.

If you like weather or tropical cyclones and want to help us out, please head on over to Cyclone Center today and get to work!  You will join a dedicated team of citizen scientists committed to the success of the project.  If you have any questions, leave a comment and we’ll respond.



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