Every PING counts! NSSL looks to local community to help with research

Are snowflakes fallin’ on your head? Are you getting pinged by ice pellets?  NSSL is requesting observations of winter precipitation from volunteers in a 150km radius of Norman Oklahoma. More than 2,600 observations have been received during the past two years.  In its third year, the successful study has a new name:  W-PING, the Winter Precipitation Identification Near the Ground project.

W-PING is looking for young, old, and in-between volunteers — teachers, classes and families too — who are willing to watch for and report on precipitation.  W-PING volunteers can spend a little or a lot of time making observations by clicking a link from either the NSSL web page or the Norman NWSFO home page on the Internet. The report asks for the reporter’s date, time, location, and precipitation type. Temperature, wind speed and direction reports are optional. There is no commitment, and no minimum amount of reports.

“With the added information from the public, we expect to improve our ability to use radar data for winter precipitation identification,” explains NSSL researcher Kim Elmore.

NSSL will collect radar data during winter storm events within about 90 miles of Norman, OK. Because the radars cannot see close to the ground, NSSL will use public observations of what is actually happening at the surface to compare with what the radar has detected.

These data are also being used in a competition at the AMS annual meeting this coming January. Contestants are given the radar data and the observer reports and are asked to develop an algorithm to identify winter precipitation type. Most contestants are students, and the best performing method will receive a small cash prize.

Significance:  The information we receive from W-PING volunteers will support NSSL scientists in developing new radar technologies and techniques to determine what kind of precipitation, such as snow, ice, or rain, is falling at any given location.

W-PING website