Be a part of the weather: Community driven precipitation reporting

A Moment of Science

Growing out of tragedy, a nationwide program with a funny name is allowing anyone to report the weather from their backyard.

CoCoRaHS- the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network works exactly how it sounds!

Volunteers take measurements of liquid precipitation- whether that’s rain or snow, and report it online. It is that easy but extremely helpful as rainfall can vary drastically on a local level. Emily McGraw from the NWS in Charleston who spearheads the program in the Lowcountry explains, “So you could get an inch of rain at your house, and a block away they could have no rain occur. It’s really important for us to see the local differences in rainfall.”

Sound familiar? Those hit-or-miss storms are common in the summertime. The program began as a reaction to a storm like it over 20 years ago in Colorado. “CoCoRaHS got started in 1998 in Ft. Collins, Colorado. That was because of a devastating flood that occurred the year prior. So they had over 200 million dollars in damage and actually 5 fatalities unfortunately with this large flood event that occurred… They got these volunteers to come together to report their rainfall every day so they can really see those local differences in how rain falls.”

Since then, the program has grown to over 20,000 volunteers across the US and Canada. Anyone can join and become a citizen scientist- all one has to do is sign up online and buy a rain gauge like this one. This gauge is necessary as any measurements you take will be compared with others throughout the area- so they have to be similar to be accurate.

Volunteers then set up their gauge, place it in their yard, and wait for the rain! After every rain event, they’ll measure and input their amount online on the CoCoRaHS website. From there, community-driven data is used by the National Weather Service, hydrologists, farmers, researchers, and many others!

The goal of the program to both add more rainfall reporting sites to fill in empty pieces of the weather puzzle and to encourage anyone, young or old, to be interested and more aware of the weather around them! CoCoRaHS sites are in backyards, school classrooms, and community centers. You can join too by heading to cocorahs.org. If you’re thinking of becoming a volunteer, be sure to sign up in March to help the National Weather Service in South Carolina hold onto their title of most sign-ups across the country in their very own “March Madness.”

 Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson.  

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