ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

As New England continues to dig out from snow, it's comforting to know that there's now an app for winter weather.

DR. KIM ELMORE: The app is called mPING, for mobile ping, and ping stands for the Precipitation Identification Near the Ground project.

SIEGEL: That's meteorologist Kim Elmore. He's part of a team that created the app. He says after a few months of quiet testing, its roll out culminated last week. It uses crowd-sourcing to collect local conditions, asking users to record the actual weather they're experiencing. Results get sent to NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma.

Again, Dr. Elmore.

ELMORE: We want these ground observations because we want to build algorithms for the newly upgraded dual pole radars.

BLOCK: He says to test the accuracy of their new and advanced radars, they need lots of citizen scientists around the country to send in their weather observations of rain, snow and sleet.

ELMORE: It sounds like we should know that but it's not as easy as it would appear. And we have to have access to observations like this to be able to validate how well anything we build works; and to actually build those applications and those algorithms.

BLOCK: Now, while that's the primary purpose of this app, anyone can go online and see reports people have sent in. Elmore says that curiosity explains why tens of thousands of people reported in from New England during the weekend winter storm.

ELMORE: Everyone is at some level interested in weather. And I suspect that the real hook is that the data are available for anybody to look at.

SIEGEL: NOAA hopes these sightings of snow, sleet and rain will eventually benefit forecasters and, in turn, all of us.

ELMORE: Winter weather probably costs us more money than any other kind of weather event. And it's just this constant expense. And if we can better marshal our resources for dealing with it, then it may not cost quite so much and people may not be in quite such jeopardy.

SIEGEL: Dr. Kim Elmore, of the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, he's one of the people who worked with NOAA and the University of Oklahoma to perfect mPING - a new smartphone app that lets users report winter weather conditions. The app is available for Apple devices and Android.

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