CoCoRahs, CSU’s Volunteer weather watching network, expanding nationally
Colorado State University’s popular precipitation monitoring program, CoCoRaHS (the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network), is making its first formal push to expand nationally thanks to a recent educational grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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.
The process takes only five minutes a day, but the impact to the community is tenfold: Data gathered by volunteers provides important daily decision-making information on drought and water supply for agricultural and insurance industries, utility providers, resource managers, teachers, scientists and homeowners.
“With all the advances we’ve had in the science of weather observation systems over the past several decades, there still is nothing that can compare to the human observer, who can report things that an automated system just can’t,” said Bruce Sullivan, the CoCoRaHS coordinator in Maryland and a NOAA scientist.
CoCoRaHS has more than 2,000 volunteers in 14 states including Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Montana, Maryland and Virginia.
The list will grow over the next three years with NOAA’s recent funding, said Henry Reges, national coordinator for CoCoRaHS.
“There are even a few volunteers in the District of Columbia,” Reges said. “Montana is the most recent state to join our network.”
Nolan Doesken, state climatologist and senior research associate at Colorado State University, started CoCoRaHS as a small local project in Fort Collins soon after an extreme localized storm in 1997. The storm was not well detected by traditional weather observing networks and caused devastating flooding. Since then, volunteer participation has increased with several new states coming on board every year.
The NOAA grant provides the program with resources to expand and develop local leadership teams in several new states each year for the next three years, Doesken said.
“Weather matters to everybody – meteorologists, car and crop insurance companies, outdoor enthusiasts and homeowners,” Doesken said.
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