Most of the posts here on Citizen Science Center talk about projects that have medium- to long-term goals: things like understanding climate change or protecting endangered species. Those of you who want to dedicate your time to a more immediate and practical citizen science project should consider Skywarn.
Based in the United States, Skywarn is a network of nearly 290,000 trained volunteer severe weather spotters. These volunteers provide reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service; they are concerned with things like flash floods, hail, hurricanes, lightning, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. On average, 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 5,000 floods and more than 1,000 tornadoes occur across the United States every year.
Being a Skywarn spotter is not about chasing storms or putting yourself in harm’s way to get that perfect smart phone video; indeed, the organization warns against such activities as being highly dangerous. Skywarn is looking for civic-minded volunteers with access to reliable communication (e.g., HAM radio), who can calmly and accurately report potential danger. Such reports can help the authorities protect property and perhaps even save lives.
To participate, you need to be a US resident, and you need to take a short class that covers important topics like the basics of thunderstorm development, what type of information to report, and severe weather safety. Ready to join the network? You can use this map to find a class near you.
(Is there a similar organization in your country? Tell me about it in the comments below!)