blue skies and cloud cover

For each expedition, the Daily Operations Report (DOR) updates the scientists and crew with data recorded during the previous day. The JOIDES Resolution not only record data from the ocean floor but also meteorological measurements from the atmosphere. These data include the visual observations made by the 2nd mate on sky/cloud cover. Cloud cover is the fraction of the sky covered by cloud of any type or height above the ground. It is measured on a scale that starts at zero for a clear sky and extends to eight for a sky that is completely overcast. A value of one means that 1/8 of the sky is covered in clouds, a value of 2 means that 2/8 (or ¼) of the sky is covered in clouds, and so on. The units used to report sky cover is okta. Each batik fabric on the scale across the top and bottom represents an okta value, zero/dark blue on the left side, and across to eight/black on the right side. Each tumbler (or trapezoid) is for each day of Expedition 390, April 7 through June 7, 2022. The clouds are placed over some of the days with the most cloud cover and are made of fabric from South Africa, the country the ship departed/returned to.

Quilt measures 33 inches wide by 50 inches tall and was completed February 13, 2023.

Quilt showing daily sky/cloud data along okta scale, collected during IODP Expedition 390

Close-up of top left corner of quilt

Image of right side of quilt

Activity for classrooms

If you are a classroom teacher or informal educator, you can use this quilt as a starting point for student investigations. See this resource document for ideas on how to have students work with this data, how it is displayed, and how they can collect their own cloud data in their location.

Full quilt description

I served as an Onboard Outreach Officer for JOIDES Resolution Expedition 390 (April 7 – June 7, 2022) and conducted 50 live Zoom sessions with students in grades K-16 and community groups, walking around the ship with an iPad to show the research laboratories, newly-collected core material, and more. One question asked several times by instructors was if any data were available from the expedition that students could explore and work with before and/or after their connection with the ship and meeting the scientists. Although the majority of data being collected were not ready for dissemination and under moratorium until a future release date, there still are some data available for ships to share with teachers and classrooms to strengthen their connection and engagement with a current expedition. The JR Daily Operations Reports (DOR) are one example of a data source that can be accessed and shared while JOIDES Resolution is at sea.

What started me on this quest for sharing data and finding ways to engage classrooms beyond just the Zoom connection time was my email communications with a kindergarten teacher I was coordinating an upcoming ship broadcast. I asked her what topics her class was currently discussing, to see if I could connect specific features of and examples from the ship to her curriculum. She said the students, at that time, would be learning about clouds and recycling. I kept my focus on clouds, as I knew that the JR DOR had a weather table that reported “Sky/Clouds.” Immediately, I learned more about how these sky cover measurements were recorded on the ship and what they mean. I wrote up a post on the Expedition 390 blog (Blue Skies and Cloud Cover on Expedition 390) summarizing what I learned, and started daily updates in a Google Sheet embedded in the blog post with the new cloud cover measurement from the day before. I also sent a link to the teacher with the blog post URL.

During the Zoom connection with this kindergarten class, I spent some time outside on deck pointing my iPad at the clouds for the teacher to have a discussion with the students about identifying what they were seeing. In addition to the standard ship tour I would give classes, I asked the Second Mate on the ship to join me for part of the tour to talk about his daily meteorological recordings. After the tour, the teacher shared with me that the students were so excited to meet him, that they wanted to take cloud measurements just like the Second Mate. The teacher also said that the school does not typically cover fractions at the kindergarten level, but she had a plan to make pizza with the students and cut it into eight slices, similar to the eight okta units used in Sky Cover measurements. Then, she was going to have the students look at the clouds each day and compare their measurements to the measurements we were recording on the ship.

After leaving JOIDES Resolution, I knew I wanted to pull together a data visualization that not only documented the daily Sky/Cloud measurements, but also as a shout-out to the kindergarten teacher that turned her students into mini-scientists observing the world around them, and to the Second Mate from JR Expedition 390 who took the time to explain to the kids (and to me!) his daily weather observations and for responding to all the questions.


This quilt, titled Blue Skies and Cloud Cover, was completed on February 13, 2023. The quilt measures 33 inches wide by 50 inches tall. Batik fabrics, each one representing a value on the okta scale zero to eight, were purchased from The Crabby Quilter (Annapolis, MD). White/gold star background fabric and blue star binding fabric were purchased at Homesewn (Media, PA). The fabric for the clouds (3 Cats Shweshwe fabric manufactured by Da Gama Textiles in South Africa) was purchased in Cape Town, South Africa, and was included on this quilt as a nod to the port that JR departed from and returned to for Expedition 390.