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Involving citizens in the science of weather

HiWeather Workshop in Beijing in 2018

Professor David Johnston (Massey University) with Professor Qinghong Zhang (HIWeather International Coordination Office, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences), Lisa McLaren (Massey University) and Emily Campbell (Massey University) during the 2018 HIWeather Workshop held in Beijing, China.

Dr Marion Tan, postdoctoral fellow at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research (JCDR) has been leading a working group of scientists to develop the High Impact Weather (HIWeather) Citizen Science Guidance Note for Weather, Climate, and Water Projects for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The HIWeather Guidance Note intends to help individuals, groups, and agencies gain interest and capacity to do citizen science. Published in October, the Guidance Note can be accessed at the World Meteorological Organization Library.

“Researchers based in Aotearoa New Zealand play an active role in international projects including the global HIWeather project,” Dr Tan says.

The Guidance Note is part of the broader HIWeather project launched in 2016 by the WMO and World Weather Research Programme (WWRP). The 10-year research project aims to improve weather-related hazard warnings. Professor David Johnston (JCDR) co-led HIWeather from 2016-2020, and currently Dr Sally Potter (GNS Science) co-leads with Professor Brian Golding of the UK Met Office.

To achieve the HIWeather project’s aim, HIWeather has five research themes and three cross-cutting flagship projects, one of which is the ‘HIWeather Citizen Science’ Project. This project was designed as a platform for sharing information and tools to help people gain interest and capacity to do citizen science in the weather space. The newly published HIWeather Guidance Note encourages individuals, groups and agencies to consider citizen science and outlines key questions to ask when developing new projects.

Festival of Science, Chatham Islands, 2021

Scientists and citizens during the Festival of Science on the Chatham Islands, 2021.

“Citizen contributed data can be used to fill in gaps in hard to reach or remote places. Moreover, citizen science can help connect the public with science organisations and build capacities for communities towards their response to high impact weather,” Dr Tan says.

“For example, the Kaingaroa School on the Chatham Islands has recently added its own weather station, which provides data to the WMO Global Weather Models in real-time. Citizen contributed data can help improve local weather forecasts thus enabling the community to make safer decisions around fishing and boating activities,” she adds.

Other initiatives include a special journal issue on citizen science and the demonstration project series – a collection of web stories on successful citizen science projects.