Colorado State’s Climate Network Needs Weather Watchers to Help Observe and Track Rain, Hail and Snow

Colorado State University’s Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS, is recruiting weather-watching volunteers to improve precipitation monitoring in the Front Range and throughout Colorado.       

Volunteers can attend information meetings throughout the month of April and early May in several Front Range locations. CoCoRaHS relies on volunteers to improve precipitation monitoring and help provide detailed drought, water supply and other water decision-making information to municipalities, home owners, industry, agriculture, utility providers, resource managers and educators. The information meetings are free and open to the public. CoCoRaHS information is updated daily and available for free public access on the Web at

"This is a community project that benefits the entire state, and anyone can help, regardless of age or education," said CoCoRaHS director Nolan Doesken. "The only requirements are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn about rain, hail and snow. And it only takes a minute or two a day. Despite all of our modern technology, there is still nothing better than a simple backyard rain gauge and someone who is excited to measure it. Rain is so variable and it affects so much of what we do that it just makes sense to measure it as accurately as we can."

The National Weather Service already operates a network of long-term official measurement stations in Colorado. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has a network of weather stations in the mountains for measuring snow. However, these stations are too far apart to provide a detailed picture of local storm patterns and precipitation totals. CoCoRaHS’s hundreds of active volunteers are able to fill these gaps.

Each time a storm occurs in Colorado and five other states, volunteers take measurements of precipitation using backyard gauges available through the Colorado Climate Center. Precipitation reports and observer notes are transmitted via telephone or the Internet to the Climate Center each day. These data are then immediately plotted on maps on the CoCoRaHS Web site. Scientists, water managers and others study these daily maps to learn how storms developed and moved across the region and to make water-use decisions.

"In addition to Colorado State’s Colorado Climate Center, many other organizations are also benefiting from this volunteer network," said Henry Reges, national coordinator for the CoCoRaHS Network. "It’s exciting to see how often our information is used."

Organizations making use of CoCoRaHS precipitation reports include the following.

–     The National Weather Service, one of the largest users of the volunteer program’s data, monitors CoCoRaHS to help track severe weather, issue severe storm warnings and verify forecasts.

–     The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses CoCoRaHS information to evaluate drought, hail and crop conditions and to improve estimates of future crop yields.

–     The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and water conservancy districts throughout the state use CoCoRaHS data to look at how precipitation affects water inputs into specific river basins and impacts water demand in those areas.

–     The Colorado Water Conservation Board and the State Engineer’s Office are interested in CoCoRaHS data for mapping rainfall patterns that can lead to both drought and flood events.

–     Denver Water, the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District and other Front Range utility providers monitor CoCoRaHS information to verify rainfall situations that could affect their operations relating to water supply and to storm water runoff.

–     Teachers from throughout the state can use CoCoRaHS information to help teach math and science to students. Lesson plans are provided via the Web to teachers who want to use the project in their classrooms.

Those interested in the network will learn how to set up simple weather instruments and how to use them for collecting precipitation data. Upcoming information meetings include:

April 16 from 1-3 p.m. in Centennial: Smoky Hill Library, 5430 S. Biscay Circle, west of Smoky Hill and Orchard. To RSVP or get additional information, contact Steve Hamilton at

April 21 from 2-4 p.m. in Pueblo: Lamb Branch Library, 2525 S. Pueblo Blvd. Refreshments and entertainment will be provided.  

April 23 at 11 a.m. in Boulder: NCAR Mesa Lab in Boulder. Gauges and hail pads will be available.

April 23 from 1-3 p.m. in Parker: Parker Library in the conference room. The library is at 10851 S. Crossroads Drive, on the northwest corner of Parker and Main. To RSVP or get additional information, contact Steve Hamilton at

May 17 from 4-6 p.m. in Sterling: A training session is scheduled to follow the Northeast Colorado Water Festival at the Logan County Extension Office at 508 S. 10th Ave., Sterling, Colo., 80751. There is a large sign on the building that reads Central Service Building.

Contact Reges at (970) 491-1196 for more information about CoCoRaHS.