Your Classifications Are Making A Difference

Cyclone Center was the 14th project hosted by Zooniverse when it was launched in September of 2012 and only the second that was based on weather or climate data.  As we come up on our 4th birthday, we’d like share what we’ve learned so far and how your classifications over the next few months will lead to even more exciting findings.


Typhoon Nabi (2005) was a powerful storm that our classifiers successfully completed analyzing.

The reason for Cyclone Center is simple.  Tropical cyclones generally develop over remote areas of the ocean, where there are few if any direct observations of them.  It is vitally important that we know how strong these storms are for societal (e.g. warnings, evacuations, protecting life and property) as well as scientific (e.g. are storms getting stronger with climate change?) reasons.  Since storms are typically not directly measured, scientists use images of them to estimate the wind speed.  Unfortunately, although the algorithm used around the world is basically the same, it is subjective and significant disagreement has crept into the historical record.  Cyclone Center uses a special set of satellite images and classifications from you to determine a more consistent, and thus better, estimate of tropical cyclone winds.

Over the last four years, we have learned much and have had a number of notable accomplishments with your help:

  1. Your classifications are skillful despite the difficulty that is sometimes encountered in choosing the “right” match
  2. Your classifications are more skillful than an automated computer algorithm in some storm types and intensities
  3.  You have completed an entire year (2005) of tropical cyclone classifications – 105 storms with tens of thousands of classifications.  We are currently working on a scientific paper that describe the results.
  4. We have published two scientific papers.  The first was featured on the cover of the flagship meteorological journal in the U.S. and had several co-authors who are classifiers just like you.
  5. We have presented your results at numerous U.S. national and international conferences and workshops.

We are even more excited about what the next year will bring.  Scientists interested in reviewing historical tropical cyclone data have identified Cyclone Center as a possible model for bringing in classification “experts” to weigh in on storm winds.  Currently, we’re turning our focus to Pacific Ocean storms, where the uncertainties in winds are the greatest.  With the completion of the 100,000 classification challenge, we will have enough data to begin reconciling differences in this important part of the world.

Thank you for your help in advancing the science of tropical cyclones and we look forward to continue working with you on seeing the project through to completion.  Head on over to where just a few of your classifications a day can lead to more important developments.

Chris and the Cyclone Center Science Team


Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Cyclone Center September | Daily Zooniverse - September 14, 2016

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