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Research / Discovery

National precipitation monitoring network expands

January 12, 2009

CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network out of Colorado State University, will celebrate the addition of Idaho, its 38th state, this month at the American Meteorological Society's Annual Meeting Jan. 11-15 in Phoenix.

Interested in the weather?

Through CoCoRaHS, now 11 years old, thousands of volunteers, young and old, document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation by taking simple measurements in their own backyards. Anyone with an interest in weather and access to the Internet can sign up.

Simple online training

The only equipment needed is a cylindrical rain gauge available from the network for $23 plus shipping. Simple online training is available.

Each volunteer is asked to read the rain gauge every day at the same time and upload the measurement to the website. The process takes only five minutes a day, but the impact to the community is enormous: Data gathered by volunteers provides important daily and long-term decision-making information on drought and water supply for agricultural, recreation, utility providers, resource managers, teachers, scientists and homeowners.

CoCoRaHS continues its nationwide expansion with an exhibit at the AMS conference's Weatherfest  in the Phoenix Convention Center on Jan. 11. Representatives of CoCoRaHS will also present information on the network during a Tuesday afternoon session of the conference. The booth will include registration and information for potential volunteer observers as well as hands-on demonstrations, including a rain gauge water-balloon toss. The exhibit is sponsored by Arizona's Salt River Project and the Arizona Climate Office at Arizona State University.

Thousands of volunteer observers in 38 states

The CoCoRaHS network now has more than 12,000 active volunteer observers in 38 states and plans on adding five more states during 2009: Ohio in February, Massachusetts in March, Vermont and Arkansas this April and West Virginia in May. The goal? To have 20,000 observers by late 2009.

"Adding states gives us the chance to help provide the nation with a more detailed information on local rainfall as well as educate the volunteers about precipitation patterns in their communities," said Henry Reges, national coordinator for CoCoRaHS. "We hope to get as many rain gauges as possible in backyards all around the country to help forecasters and climatologists map the nation's rain patterns."

Give something back and help monitor natural resources

"Precipitation is perhaps the most important, but also the most highly variable element of our climate," said Nolan Doesken, Colorado's state climatologist, who is based at Colorado State, and CoCoRaHS national director. "Rainfall amounts vary from one street to the next. It is wonderful having large numbers of enthusiastic volunteers and literally thousands of rain gauges to help track storms. We learn something new every day, and every volunteer makes a significant scientific contribution. Getting involved as a volunteer CoCoRaHS observer is a great way to give something back to your community by helping it monitor its natural resources. It's a lot of fun as well."

One Colorado volunteer says that it's a great motivator to get her retired husband up out of bed each morning. CoCoRaHS can be a practical home schooling activity as well. Many Americans who love weather have been measuring precipitation for years, and CoCoRaHS provides a repository for their observations and a way to share information with others.

Visit CoCoRaHS for more information or contact Henry Reges at hreges@atmos.colostate.edu.


Contact: Emily Wilmsen
E-mail: Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-2336