Wild World of Weather: Accuracy Happy Hours

Nurro, Daniela Gamba, Eyewire, citizen science, Wild World of Weather, meteorology

Do you know what the weather’s going to be like later today, or even tomorrow, without opening your weather app?

If this sounds like wizardry, it’s not! To get really sophisticated and precise, you would indeed need some fancy equipment that’s less available to the average citizen scientist; but look around when you’re outside, maybe use a few simple tools, and you can discover a lot of information to help you forecast the weather all by yourself.

Here are three starting tips for accurate weather predictions in your backyard!

What Clouds Do You See?

It’s almost impossible to list every type of cloud and what it means, but these highly common varieties are a great starting point for understanding what sort of weather system is approaching your vicinity.

  • Cirrus clouds are wispy, tufty, gossamer clouds (sample image). They form when moist air reaches the upper atmosphere, causing water droplets to freeze to ice crystals. Cirrus doesn’t produce precipitation (rain or snow) on its own, but since moist air is usually warmer, cirrus can herald an incoming “warm front,” which essentially means gradual precipitation followed by higher air temperatures.
  • Stratus clouds are thick, uniform clouds that often seem to blanket the whole sky when they move in (sample image). If they just look like fog to you, that’s basically what they are, only the clouds sit higher than ground level! These clouds may bring precipitation, but it’s usually not too heavy.
  • Cumulus humilis clouds are those classic puffy cotton-ball clouds (sample image). They form most easily in the summertime due to air convection patterns. If they get bigger, they can turn into other cumulus types that are much more turbulent, but if they stay about the same size, expect the weather to stay nice for at least a few hours.
  • Of course… “nice” is in the eye of the beholder! Cumulonimbus clouds are great news to people who love thunderstorms. These tall, towering clouds can look like mutant cauliflower (sample image) and form through escalated air convection, especially through “cold fronts,” which tend to produce violent precipitation followed by cooler air temperatures. You can thank cumulonimbus for lightning, hail, tornadoes, and more!

How to Use a Barometer

Thermometers tell you what temperature it is, but barometers tell you what the air pressure is. How is this important? Well, in the broadest terms, when the local air pressure is higher, this inhibits the development of weather systems that create storms, whereas lower air pressure encourages storms. So this is why some traditional barometers not only will tell you the exact air pressure, but also what kind of weather to expect; this barometer is a great example.

Of course, it can be a little more complicated than that. What constitutes high or low air pressure is relative to where you live; things like temperature and altitude will affect the numbers your own barometer shows. Also, air pressure tends to have a daily cycle: it often reaches a low point around 4 AM, increases until 10 AM, drops again until 4 PM, increases again till 10 PM, and then repeats. This is certainly why you can get some of the stormiest weather in either the wee hours of morning or in the mid-afternoon! But therefore, to most accurately interpret a barometer, find out what the “standard” air pressure is in your region, and don’t read too much into tiny fluctuations. However, sudden major changes (either high or low) can be a big clue to what’s entering your neighborhood.

For you DIY nerds, Wikihow has some awesome ideas for how to make a barometer at home!

What About “Red Sky at Night, Sailor’s Delight”?

You might have heard the expression, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” Is there any truth to this, though? Does a vivid sunset mean calm weather, while a vivid sunrise means storms?

The answer is both yes and no. If you live where prevailing winds travel west to east, which is generally amid Earth’s temperate zones, then red sky at dusk or dawn can be a helpful predictive tool! When high-pressure air starts moving into your area from the west, where the sun sets, it scatters blue light from air particles and makes the western horizon very red. Just like a barometer, this tells you to expect clear skies (or at least storm-free skies) in the near future. Meanwhile, when that high-pressure air is already in the east, where the sun rises, it’s scattering the light in that direction— and it’s a good bet that low-pressure, stormy, windy conditions are going to roll in to replace what you had before.

If you live where prevailing winds travel east to west, which is generally amid Earth’s tropical and polar regions, then all of this pretty much flies out the window! Also, some weather systems move north to south, or vice versa, in which case even people in temperate zones are also out of luck.

So many lessons in backyard meteorological accuracy! And now, how accurately can you trace on Eyewire? These Accuracy Happy Hours will put you to the test. All times are EST:

Session 1 – 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM on 2/18
Session 2 – 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM on 2/19
Session 3 – 10:00 PM to midnight on 2/19

HQ will bestow typical Happy Hour bonuses for your work during each of those time frames, but there’s more than that to earn! Check your in-game notifications to see the full accuracy bonus breakdown. Please note: in addition to increasing the minimum cubes from 20 to 30 during last month’s Accuracy Happy Hour, we are also going to change what earns you the Accuracy Grandmaster badge at the closing ceremony. The Accuracy Grandmaster badge will now go exclusively to the top 3 players.

Swag (made possible by generous donations from our past player @susi): Most accurate player completing at least 30 cubes wins their choice of face mask or notebook, plus their choice of sticker or magnet! Second and third place will each also win their choice of sticker or magnet.

Mentors: You are still allowed to mentor people during these time windows. Please just use your best judgment as to whether someone is asking you for basic newbie help vs. trying to have you boost their accuracy on cube after cube.

Scythes: Please avoid scything during these time windows. Even though accuracy for this will be retroactively calculated, we would prefer to go with accuracy based on players’ raw tracing. By the time this challenge is scored, don’t worry, admins will have corrected consensus as needed.

Artwork by Daniela Gamba