Recent major precipitation events and the flooding that it caused reminded me of a program that I promote each spring — one that helps communities prepare for these events.
Many people check their rain gauge each morning, dump it out, and maybe share what they found with their neighbors or at the coffee shop. But what if you shared your rain gauge contents to help contribute to high quality data collection for natural resource, education and research applications?
That is the idea behind “CoCoRaHS,” which is a non-profit network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds who work together to measure and map precipitation.
This is done by using low cost measurement tools, trained volunteers, and an easy-to-use interactive website: www.cocorahs.org.
The acronym “CoCoRaHS” stands for “Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network,” and anyone who is interested in contributing can join.
The CoCoRaHS network originated with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998 in response to a flash flood in Fort Collins the prior year. The storm was a very localized event, dumping over a foot of rain in some parts of the city and just a trace in others. The ensuing flood caught many off guard and resulted in over $200 million in damages and five deaths.
Thus, CoCoRaHS was started in an attempt to do a better job of mapping and reporting intense storm events. Since then it has expanded to all 50 states, including over 1,000 stations in Indiana.
All you have to do is, anytime there is a rain, hail or snow event in your area, record and enter the amount of precipitation you received and measured into the website. It is then displayed for anyone to see.
This information is used by a wide variety of individuals and organizations including the National Weather Service, other meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities (water supply, water conservation, storm water), insurance adjusters, USDA, engineers, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, outdoor and recreation interests, teachers, students, and neighbors to name a few.
This data can help influence things like flood and storm warnings, water resource analysis, or simply be a source of conversation among neighbors. It is considered important work because precipitation can be highly variable and data sources are few and far between.
If you are interested in participating, visit the website www.cocorahs.org to sign up. Once you have done so, the organization will provide further training such as: how and when to report data, where best to place your rain gauge, and what equipment should be obtained.
By contributing your daily precipitation observations, you are helping to piece together a weather puzzle that affects many people across our area.
Furthermore, it can be a fun and rewarding experience contributing to science.
Andrew Westfall is director of Purdue Extension White County (Ind.).