Volunteers Needed for Colorado State University Precipitation Monitoring Network, Now Nearly 15,000 Strong

From Grand Junction to Limon, Trinidad to Wellington, volunteers who monitor precipitation across Colorado – through Colorado State University – are making a difference.

Rain, hail and snow amounts can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and block to block, so scientists are beginning to rely on consistent data collected by volunteers, said Nolan Doesken, state climatologist at Colorado State University.

That data is critical particularly during large thunderstorms – like those experienced along the Front Range the past few weeks that can lead to floods, he said.

"Scientists are increasingly relying on our volunteers to help us figure out what parts of the state may experience flooding and who may suffer from drought," Doesken said. "And with major variations in weather even in one small region, we need as many volunteers as we can get."

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, created by Doesken after a devastating flood struck Fort Collins in 1997, is now in 44 states with 14,500 volunteers. CoCoRaHS added Hawaii in June; New Hampshire and Connecticut will be added in July.

"You can do this right in your own backyard and no prior experience is necessary," said Henry Reges, national coordinator for CoCoRaHS. "We want as many volunteers as we can get – there’s no limit."

To join, go to the CoCoRaHS website at http://cocorahs.org/ and click the "Join CoCoRaHS" button or call (970) 491-8545. Volunteer training is available.

Through CoCoRaHS, now 12 years old, thousands of volunteers, young and old, document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation by taking simple measurements in their own backyards. Anyone with an interest in weather and access to the Internet can sign up. The only equipment needed is a cylindrical rain gauge available from the network for $23 plus shipping.

Each volunteer is asked to read the rain gauge and upload the measurement to the Web site. The process takes only five minutes a day, but the impact to the community is enormous: Data gathered by volunteers provides important daily and long-term decision-making information on drought and water supply for agricultural, recreation, utility providers, resource managers, teachers, scientists and homeowners.