Calling all weather watchers. A new smartphone app allows you to live out your weather-reporting dreams, albeit without the thrill of standing in front of a large TV weather map. The free app — called mPING, which stands for mobile Precipitation Identification Near the Ground — allows volunteers to anonymously report rain, snow and other weather conditions from their iPhone or Android devices. Created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Oklahoma, the app collects real-time, on-the-ground precipitation reports, something that even advanced radars can’t do. While it sounds complex, the app itself is easy to use: Just log in, select the type of precipitation falling in your area, and hit “submit report.” Users can choose from 12 types of precipitation, including rain, snow, hail and sleet. This information is funneled into a database of weather reports from around the country, which will be used to create more accurate radar algorithms and to help officials prepare for severe weather.
Blue whales, the enormous marine mammals known as much for their blue-gray hue as their taste for krill, wouldn’t seem to have much in common with lions stalking prey in the sun-soaked African plains. But, according to scientists tracking their migrations, there’s more to these sea creatures than meets the eye. As part of the Tagging of Pacific Ocean Predators project, more than 4,000 blue whales, sea lions, yellowfin tuna, sea turtles, white sharks and other animals have been tagged, shedding new light on the when, where, why and how of their migratory habits. Their navigational abilities are “akin to a student from London studying in far-off Rome and coming home each summer at the same moment — but doing it all in the dark without a map or compass, using only his or her internal sense of position and direction,” biologist Daniel P. Costa told Natural History magazine. Researchers have found that marine species migrate, season after season, to the same precise locations where their prey is seasonally abundant — “the savannah grasslands of the sea,” according to the magazine. There’s an inherent “duh” factor here; it seems obvious that animals would go where the food is. But researchers say that knowing the migratory habits of marine life is critical for managing and protecting these species and their ecosystems.