Science
11:51 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Meteorology Enthusiasts Wanted

Meteorology enthusiasts can now indulge their interests and help the National Weather Service gather important data.

Credit pshutterbug via Flickr Creative Commons

They call it  CoCoRaHS (pronounced Cocoa-rahs.) And while it may sound like the name of a cereal, it’s an acronym meaning "Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network."

"CoCoRaHS is a high-density network of precipitation observers," says David Glenn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City and North Carolina’s CoCoRaHS State Coordinator.  "Rain, hail or snow, and even drought. There are instances where we go through phases in North Carolina where we don't receive much precipitation, and there's options in there to report how drought is affecting you,"  Glenn says.

In other words, CoCoRaHS is a network of volunteers who help meteorologists get a better understanding of local weather patterns by recording daily observations.  And how many volunteers are there in North Carolina?  

"In North Carolina, it varies whenever we have precipitation like snow, we usually have between 400 and 500 people report daily. Then, when it's nice and pretty outside -- and we're under high pressure-- oftentimes we have fewer numbers between 250 and 350 people report on those days," he says.

And the data the volunteers gather is useful to a great many people. "It's used by a myriad of sources," Glenn says, "We at the National Weather Service use it every day to look at how much rainfall occurred in the previous 24 hours. Folks at the River Forecasting Center down in Atlanta, which is responsible for North Carolina, they look at our data to feed that into some of the hydrologic models to help out with flood forecasting. We use it in a short term scenario as well. If we were to have some severe thunderstorms with heavy precipitation that might cause some urban flooding in areas and we could use the CoCoRaHS observations to help us verify or give us a heads-up whenever there's a large amount of precipitation in a short period of time."

CoCoRaHS is now looking for people who might be interested in recording observations.  The only equipment needed is an inexpensive plastic rain gauge.  There are no age restrictions, and no meteorological background needed.  Those interested in volunteering can find all the necessary information on the CoCoRaHS website. It's at CoCoRaHS.org

There's also more information in my entire conversation with David Glenn, during which he describes how to join, explains some of the tutorial videos, and what kind of rain gauge is required.

Steve Biddle's conversation with CoCoRaHS North Carolina Coordinator David Glenn