WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Wanted: Volunteer weather observers

Posted March 28, 2012

Do you ever wonder how much rainfall you received from a recent thunderstorm? How about snowfall during a winter storm? If so, then a new volunteer weather observing program needs your help.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS, is looking for new volunteers across North Carolina. The grassroots effort is part of a growing national network of home-based and amateur rain spotters with a goal of providing a high-density precipitation network that will supplement existing observations.

Volunteers can get an official rain gauge through the CoCoRaHS website for about $27, plus shipping. Besides the need for an official 4-inch plastic rain gauge, volunteers are required to take a simple training module online and use the CoCoRaHS website to submit their reports.

Observations are immediately available on maps and reports for the public to view. The process takes only 5 minutes a day, but the impact to the community is tenfold, according to the group. By providing high quality, accurate measurements, the observers are able to supplement existing networks and provide useful results to scientists, resource managers, decision makers and other users.

“North Carolina has the most complex climate in the eastern U.S.,” said Ryan Boyles, state climatologist and director of the State Climate Office, based at North Carolina State University. “Data gathered from CoCoRaHS volunteers are very important in better understanding local weather and climate patterns.”

“An additional benefit of the program to the National Weather Service is the ability to receive timely reports of significant weather (hail, intense rainfall, localized flooding) from CoCoRaHS observers that can assist forecasters in issuing and verifying warnings for severe thunderstorms,” said David Glenn, CoCoRaHS state coordinator and meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City.

To become a CoCoRaHS observer, go to the CoCoRaHS website and click on the “Join CoCoRaHS” emblem on the upper right side of the main website. After registering, take the simple online training, order your 4-inch rain gauge and start reporting.

“We are in need of new observers across the entire state and would like to emphasize rural locations,” Glenn said. 

CoCoRaHS came about as a result of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colo., in July 1997. A local severe thunderstorm dumped over a foot of rain in several hours while other portions of the city had only modest rainfall. The ensuing flood caught many by surprise and caused $200 million in damages.

CoCoRaHS was born in 1998 with the intent of doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. As more volunteers participated, rain, hail, and snow maps were produced for every storm showing fascinating local patterns that were of great interest to scientists and the public.

North Carolina was the 21st state to establish the CoCoRaHS program in 2007, and by 2010, the CoCoRaHS network had reached all 50 states with 8,000 to 10,000 observations being reported each day. Through CoCoRaHS, thousands of volunteers, young and old, document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of rain, hail and snow by taking simple measurements in their own backyards.

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  • Likestobearrogant Mar 28, 2012

    my family will enjoy this, we follow the weather daily.