03/21/12 — Wanted: volunteers with a weather eye, desire to serve

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Wanted: volunteers with a weather eye, desire to serve

By From staff reports
Published in News on March 21, 2012 1:46 PM

The National Weather Service and other professionals who rely on accurate weather information are in search of a few good helpers -- people who wonder how much rainfall was received in a recent thunderstorm or how much snowfall fell during a winter storm? The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS, is looking for new volunteers across Eastern 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.

CoCoRaHS came about as a result of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colo., in July 1997. A local 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. 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 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, young and old, 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, www.cocorahs.org 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 five minutes a day, but the impact to the community is much greater. 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.

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

David David Glenn, CoCoRaHS State Coordinator and meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City, also noted in the release that, "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. We are in need of new observers across the entire state. We would like to emphasize rural locations and areas near the coast, especially on barrier islands."

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