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Citizen science program needs help observing the weather

Do you ever wonder how much rainfall you got from a recent thunderstorm? How about snowfall during a winter storm?
 If so, a volunteer weather observation program needs your help.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS, is looking for new volunteers across North Carolina.
 The grassroots effort is part of a growing national network of home-based and amateur rain spotters with a goal of providing a network that will supplement existing observations.

CoCoRaHS came about as a result of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado, in July 1997. A local severe thunderstorm dumped over a foot of rain in several hours while other portions of the city had only modest rainfall.

The ensuing flood caught many by surprise and caused $200 million in damage. CoCoRaHS was formed in 1998 with the intent of doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. As more volunteers participated, rain, hail and snow maps were produced for every storm, showing weather local patterns that were of great interest to scientists and the public.
Recently, drought reporting has also become an important observation within the CoCoRaHS program across the nation. Drought data from CoCoRaHS are now being included in the National Integrated Drought Information System.

North Carolina became the 21st state to establish the CoCoRaHS program in 2007. By 2010, the CoCoRaHS network had reached all 50 states with nearly 10,000 observations being reported each day.  CoCoRaHS volunteers document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of rain, hail and snow by taking simple measurements in their own backyards.

Volunteers may obtain a rain gauge through the CoCoRaHS website, http://www.cocorahs.org, for about $30 plus shipping. Volunteers are required to take a training module online and use the CoCoRaHS website to submit their reports.

Observations are immediately available on maps and reports for the public to view. The process takes about five minutes a day.

“Monitoring weather and climate conditions in North Carolina is no easy feat,” said Heather Dinon Aldridge, assistant state climatologist and interim associate director of the State Climate Office, based at North Carolina State University. “CoCoRaHS volunteers help by painting a better picture of precipitation patterns across North Carolina, filling in data gaps where there are no nearby stations.”

 “An additional benefit of the program to the National Weather Service is the ability to receive timely reports of significant weather (hail, intense rainfall, localized flooding) from CoCoRaHS observers that can assist forecasters in issuing and verifying warnings for severe thunderstorms,” says David Glenn, CoCoRaHS state co-coordinator and meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City.

“We are in need of new observers across the entire state,” Glenn said. “We would like to emphasize rural locations, areas of higher terrain, and areas near the coast.”

North Carolina CoCoRaHS can also be reached on Facebook and through Twitter.

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