The CoCoRaHS Community: "Because Every Drop Counts" - myfoxcarolinas.com

The CoCoRaHS Community: "Because Every Drop Counts"

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The National Weather Service forecast offices around the United States are responsible for specific forecast areas that stretch beyond county lines and even state lines. Forecasters have the latest technology, but there's still nothing better than a good pair of eyes.

When storms move through your area, have you ever looked outside the window and wondered just how much rain is falling? Or do you measure it on your porch, but don't know what to do with the data? Well, there's a program for that.

Ever heard of CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network? No? Well then keep on reading.

CoCoRaHS was started in 1998 after the destructive flash flood that struck Fort Collins, Colorado in July 1997. It's no secret that rainfall amounts differ by location. During that storm, some areas received over a foot of rainfall while others saw just a few inches.

So CoCoRaHS was born, a community network where trained volunteers reported rain totals at their location to create more detailed records of precipitation events. North Carolina joined in September 2007 and South Carolina in March 2008.

Now you can directly contribute to the climate data for your region and all it takes is a few minutes of your day.

At the Greenville-Spartanburg National Weather Service office, forecaster Neil Dixon recalls how the information is crucial to their forecasts.

"As a warning forecaster I can think of several instances where we've had an alert come in where a CoCoRaHS observer has had an extreme amount of rainfall that fell in an area where we didn't have any rain gauges. That gave me solid information that I can use in my flash flood warning."

The data you record reaches farther than you may think. Everyday you check your rain gauge, you help complete climate data and even help academic research.

"Our river forecast centers, they depend on the observed amounts quite a bit, also the USGS and some of the academic branches may be using it for research," says Dixon.

Weather enthusiast James Cook of Gastonia, North Carolina, has been a member of the program for years. He knows how important the data truly is.

"That's why I think CoCoRaHS is really important. It's impossible to asses every square inch on the earth's surface," Cook said. "But if you have these little volunteer networks and other ways to provide that data, we can get closer and closer to at least the initial conditions when they run the model and improve the accuracy of the forecast."

As he checks his rain gauge in the morning he knows that every measurement counts.

"It's really gratifying to know that it's going into the field office and they can use it to refine the forecast and warnings for the counties and other locations that might see that same storm."

Rain, hail, snow, sleet or no measurable precipitation, take a moment and record the data. We have more detailed totals of the past severe events as well as snow events we have had in previous years due to those volunteer measurements. You are helping paint a clearer picture of weather for your region.

Interested in becoming a volunteer of the CoCoRaHS community? Everyone is invited to become an observer. The process is quite simple too.


1.) Go to the CoCoRaHS website

2.) Fill out the Observer Application

3.) Purchase an official rain gauge through the website at a discounted cost

4.) Take a training course offered online

5.) Enter your data everyday during the early morning hours on the CoCoRaHS website


March is a perfect time to join as "March Madness" is underway for the program. Every year, CoCoRaHS has a nationwide competition to see which state can recruit the most new observers.

If you've always loved weather or just beginning to develop an interest, CoCoRaHS is a great program to become a member of. Not only are you directly helping the science community, but you are part of the bigger climate picture.

"The main thing you're volunteering for as a CoCoRaHS observer is just your time and your dedication to reporting rainfall events," Dixon says.

Cook reflects the same views, "If you have that spare time and you're interested in tracking the weather and getting a little more involved then I would say CoCoRaHS is a great first step in exploring that field."

It just takes a few minutes of your day. Why not take five minutes of your morning social media time to step outside and check that gauge.

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