Since 2006, the Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground (mPING) program run by the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) has helped meteorologists improve their forecasts and weather radar algorithms by using public reports to determine what type of precipitation is falling at ground level around the country.

mPING allows the public to report precipitation type, intensity, and duration to the NSSL using the mobile app available for free through iTunes and Google Play. These public reports are crucial to helping meteorologists verify precipitation types around the country to help further develop and refine the dual-polarization (or "dual-pol") Doppler radar that the National Weather Service recently rolled out. The new dual-pol technology allows radars to detect the size and shape of precipitation as well as other objects it detects, such as birds or tornado debris. This advance is crucial for helping forecasters determine in nearly real-time what type of precipitation is reaching the ground and even helps them see if a suspected tornado is producing damage.

The program doesn't only help meteorologists, but it helps anyone who has an interest in weather. In a NOAA press release, lead researcher Dr. Kim Elmore elaborates on the program's wide-reaching benefits:

"Because this nation-wide information will be instantly available from one website, we believe it will be useful for not only researchers, but a variety of groups, including students and teachers, forecasters, TV meteorologists, members of the transportation and aviation industries, city managers and law enforcement."

The app itself is straightforward — it automatically detects where you are and allows you to report precipitation type and intensity with just three boxes. Once you submit the report, it gets aggregated on the data display website.

Give the free app a download and do your part to help advance meteorological research on the next rainy or wintry day.

[Screenshots via mPING and the mPING app for Android]