Last month, March 2012, thousands of climate records were broken throughout North America. Now, this might seem a simple statement, but in order for those records to be broken, the weather must be monitored, recorded, collected and compiled into a dataset.
In many instances, this is accomplished through measurement devices installed at airports across the country, or by weather satellites. However, for data tailored to a precise region, manual weather monitoring and collecting is used.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a nonprofit, community-based network of ordinary people from all over the United States and Canada who volunteer to measure and map rain, hail and snow.
All that is needed to become one of these volunteers, founder and national director of CoCoRaHS Nolan Doesken said, is for a person to enjoy weather, care enough to faithfully report the data and be willing to purchase the official CoCoRaHS gauge (approximately $30).
Doesken said that many times, people with an interest to volunteer decline because they can’t commit to reporting every day, are part-time residents, take vacations.
“I wish the volunteers would never miss and report every day, but that’s not realistic,” Doesken said. His solution for the volunteers — report when you’re there. Doesken said the CoCoRaHS community has volunteers who report seasonally, on weekends only, just a few months of the year, and so on.
“At any given day, those reports matter a lot,” Doesken said.
Currently there are four CoCoRaHS volunteers in Archuleta County. While Doesken says optimally he’d like to have volunteers at dispersed locations throughout the county, more important is simply having more volunteers.
Volunteers will take measurements of precipitation each time it rains, snows or hails in the area, then record the measurements on the CoCoRaHS website. This data is then used by individuals and organizations such as meteorologists, hydrologists, city utilities and the National Weather Service to analyze and apply to daily situations.
“Anyone who is interested in weather can sign up and take part (in CoCoRaHS),” said Doesken, even if they don’t want to report precipitation data.
The process is simple. First, either to simply join the network of weather observers or to become a volunteer, go to the CoCoRaHS website at www.cocorahs.org. Click the link on either the right or left column of the screen titled Join CoCoRaHS, then fill out the form on the screen.
For those who wish to become a volunteer, training materials are available on the website. The volunteer must also purchase the designated rain gauge. The official CoCoRaHS gauge can be purchased at the www.weatheryourway.com/cocorahs/store.html. A link to this website can be found on the CoCoRaHS homepage; just scroll down and look on the right side of the screen for a box titled “Purchase an office CoCoRaHS 4 Rain Gauge.”
According to its mission statement, CoCoRaHS hopes to provide accurate precipitation data on a timely basis, increase the density of available precipitation data, heighten public awareness about weather and provide enrichment activities in water and weather resources for educators.