Launched! From AIR and KVNF, iSeeChange Rethinks Farmers' Almanacs to Make Weather Social

"You want me to go where?" That's what Localore producer Julia Kumari Drapkin said when AIR matched her with a small station in Paonia, Colorado to pilot her concept for crowdsourced multimedia climate reporting. But this week, with the launch of her groundbreaking interactive site, she writes in the latest AIRblast, "I realized it was the best 'change decision' I ever made. 

Drapkin presents the site at the Paradise is the culmination of Drapkin's larger Localore project, iSeeChange. It builds upon months of painstaking local coverage and engagement—pairing up citizens and scientists to talk through the nuances of climate shifts on Facebook, in person, via SMS, and on KVNF's airwaves. Listen here.

Out in the field, she discovered that the locals had a bead on weather trends weeks before they showed up in the national press. In a move she calls "reverse radio reporting," iSeeChange starts from these ground-up local observations, rather than top-down scientific studies. Scientists have taken a keen interest in the project—last night's full-to-the-brim launch party featured climate modeler Ben Cook from NASA Goddard, and in December Drapkin presented her project to the world's largest gathering of earth scientists.

Co-produced by interactive storytelling partner Zeega, the almanac pairs the ground-up with the top-down in new ways. A data visualization of thirty years worth of weather trends is overlaid with near real-time data from the current week, season, or year. National and local weather news appears alongside user submissions. Contributors can tag their posts by mood and observation type, or post questions and weather-related decisions. By indicating how the weather relates to them—as ranchers, famers or recreationists—they add nuance to their reports that scientists can then interpret to understand the impacts of climate shifts on Americans' daily lives.

The result is lively and immediate, and offers users a valuable service by improving upon the longstanding analog practice of keeping daily weather journals. "Many people in the North Fork Valley already do that — in composition notebooks, scrawled in the margins of calendars," Drapkin notes. "Yet to date, these records have never been shared, archived, or pooled."

"Scientists call this qualitative data," she observes. "Journalists call these stories. And when juxtaposed against near real-time climate data, I’m calling it a 21st-century Farmers' Almanac."

Visit the iSeeChange Almanac today to see it in action—and check back here for news of more cutting-edge sites that Zeega will be launching for AIR's Localore production in coming weeks.

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