Volunteers sought for weather-watching program

Staff Report

NEWPORT — Volunteer weather-watcher are needed for an observation program.

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

The network came about as a result of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado, in July 1997. A severe thunderstorm dumped more than 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. The network 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 local patterns that were of great interest to scientists and the public. Recently, drought reporting has also become an important observation within the program.

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

Volunteers may obtain an official rain gauge through the CoCoRaHS website http://www.cocorahs.org for about $30 plus shipping. Volunteers are required to take a 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 five minutes a day. By providing high quality, accurate measurements, the observers are able to supplement existing networks and provide useful data to scientists, resource managers, decision makers and other users.

“Monitoring weather and climate conditions in North Carolina is no easy feat,” said Heather Dinon Aldridge, assistant state climatologist and interim associate director of the State Climate Office at North Carolina State University. “CoCoRaHS volunteers help by painting a better picture of precipitation patterns across North Carolina, filling in data gaps where there are no nearby stations.”

To become a CoCoRaHS observer, go to the CoCoRaHS website and click on the Join CoCoRaHS emblem. After registering, take the simple online training and order a rain gauge. Volunteers may start reporting data after the gauge is received.

Staff Report

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