Colorado State University Gets Funding to Improve National Precipitation Monitoring Network

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has awarded CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network out of Colorado State University, funding to improve its volunteer precipitation-reporting network comprised of nearly 15,000 volunteers nationwide.

In collaboration with Oregon State University and several NOAA institutions, Nolan Doesken, state climatologist and founder of CoCoRaHS, will lead the $1.2 million, three-year grant from NOAA as part of its Environmental Literacy Grants program. Only 17 grants were issued nationwide.

The CoCoRaHS program taps volunteers of all ages to document the quantity, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation by taking simple measurements in their own backyards. Volunteers only need a cylindrical rain gauge, some training and an interest in weather to participate in the program. For more information or to volunteer for the CoCoRaHS program, go to

“CoCoRaHS will focus on developing a new Internet infrastructure that can handle a heavier load of users, more volunteers, more applications and greater utilization of smart phone/hand held device technology,” said Henry Reges, the network’s national coordinator. “The infrastructure will include the addition of a social media network to reach younger audiences and will improve current communications, the use of data sharing and tools so participants of all ages can collect scientific data while also learning in the process.”

“We are striving to make CoCoRaHS a richer learning experience for existing volunteers as well as to effectively reach and engage more and younger audiences,” said Doesken. “This is a very practical and useful way for all of us to learn more about our climate.”

CoCoRaHS will work with a research group from Oregon State University that will help analyze and display precipitation data in both geographical and historical contexts for the entire country. This data will help compare CoCoRaHS data – culled from volunteers – with the nation’s official historic data from the National Weather Service.

Colorado State University will also work with David Heil & Associates Inc., a company that specializes in the development of science education programs, to evaluate how and why volunteers choose to participate and what they learn from the experience. The National Science Foundation will also support a portion of the investigation, looking at how this local community-led “citizen science” project can best be scaled up for national implementation.

“Last December, CoCoRaHS reached its 50th state. Now we hope to add thousands more volunteers nationwide. These volunteers are providing scientists around the country with excellent precipitation (rain, hail and snow) statistics for tracking weather patterns, water supplies and the impacts of climate variability,” Doesken said. "We have already set a goal for 2012 to involve every school in Colorado in CoCoRaHS to coincide with the planned year-long celebration of water and its importance."

Doesken helped create the CoCoRaHS program in response to the Spring Creek Flood that devastated portions of Fort Collins on July 28, 1997. For this effort, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration honored him as one of 10 "Environmental Heroes" in 2007.

NOAA’s Office of Education awarded CoCoRaHS an Environmental Literacy grant in December 2006 to make its first formal push to expand nationally.

NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Grants program is a competitive national grant program focused on creating an environmentally literate public that uses a comprehensive understanding of the role of the ocean, coasts, Great Lakes, weather and climate in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions. The program provides funding for an array of educational organizations that reach diverse audiences. For more information, go to