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Research / Discovery

National precipitation monitoring network expands to all 50 states

December 3, 2009

Colorado State University State Climatologist Nolan Doesken really just wanted more accurate statistics about Fort Collins rainfall when he created a volunteer precipitation-reporting network in 1998.

Minnesota becomes the 50th state

Nolan Doesken with an official CoCoRaHS rain gauge.

Now, the program he created - the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS – added its 50th state on Dec. 1 when Minnesota formally joins. CoCoRaHS already counts 14,600 volunteers across the country.

“We are pleased that this simple backyard monitoring program has become so popular,” said Doesken, a senior research associate in the Colorado Climate Center in Colorado State’s internationally known atmospheric science department.

“These volunteers are providing scientists around the country with excellent precipitation and hail monitoring statistics for tracking weather patterns and water supplies.”

Simple backyard measurements

The CoCoRaHS program makes use of volunteers of all ages from children on up to grandparents to document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation by taking simple measurements in their own backyards.

Volunteers only need a cylindrical rain gauge, some training and an interest in weather to participate in the program. The specific rain gauges that CoCoRaHS volunteers use are available from several distributors on the network’s website, for $25 plus shipping. The site also offers online training.

Data from CoCoRaHS volunteers are now being routinely viewed and used by many professions and organizations including the National Weather Service, meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities, insurance adjusters, agribusinesses, engineers, science teachers and many more. Data are used for many applications such as water resource planning, severe storm warnings, teaching earth science, predicting crop yields and for assessing hail damage.

Network founded in response to 1997 flood

The Engineering parking lot on the north side of campus on July 28, 1997.

Doesken founded the CoCoRaHS program in response to the Spring Creek Flood that devastated Fort Collins on July 28, 1997. For this effort, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration honored him as one of 10 "Environmental Heroes" in 2007. In December 2006, NOAA's Office of Education awarded CoCoRaHS an Environmental Literacy grant to make its first formal push to expand nationally.

The first five states to join the program – after Colorado – were Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Maryland. Texas currently has the most volunteers – 1,333 – followed by Colorado with 1,237.

Doesken and the Colorado Climate Center also recently launched the Colorado Climate Trends website which was created to allow access to historic climate data simply, easily and graphically. Users may view recent temperature or precipitation conditions and compare them with the recorded historic data from the past century by month, season or year.


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