March 29, 2016
Weather Service citizen science program
needs Outer Banks volunteers
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 high density precipitation
network that will supplement existing observations.
CoCoRaHS (pronounced KO-ko-rozz) came about as a result of a
devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colo., 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 damages.
CoCoRaHS was born 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
fascinating 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. In fact,
drought observations from CoCoRaHS are now being included in
the National Integrated Drought Information System.
North Carolina became the twenty-first state to establish
the CoCoRaHS program in 2007, and by 2010, the network
had reached all 50 states with nearly 10,000 observations being
reported each day. Through CoCoRaHS, thousands of
volunteers, young and old, document the size, intensity, duration and
patterns of rain, hail, and snow by taking simple measurements in their
David Glenn, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in
Newport/Morehead City who is also the state CoCoRaHS coordinator, says
there is at least one active volunteer observer in Duck, Kill Devil
Hills, Manteo, Buxton, and Frisco.
"We would love to increase volunteer participation in these locations
and expand to include volunteers in Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Wanchese,
Rodanthe/Waves/Salvo, Avon, Hatteras village, and, of course, Ocracoke"
Glenn says. "Precipitation can vary so drastically, even across short
distances, which is why we need observers in these locations. We also
do not have any CoCoRaHS volunteers across Mainland Dare or Hyde
Volunteers are required to have an official rain gauge, which they can obtain through the CoCoRaHS website (http://www.cocorahs.org )
for about $30 plus shipping. Besides the need for an official 4-inch
plastic rain gauge, volunteers are required to take a simple training
module online and use the CoCoRaHS website to submit their
Observations are immediately available on maps and reports for the
public to view. The process takes only five minutes a day, but the
impact to the community is tenfold. By providing high quality, accurate
measurements, the observers are able to supplement existing networks
and provide useful results to scientists, resource managers,
decision-makers and other users.
“North Carolina has one of the most complex climates in the U.S.,” said
Dr. Ryan Boyles, state climatologist and director of the State Climate
Office, based at North Carolina State University. “Data gathered
from CoCoRaHS volunteers are very important in better
understanding local weather and climate patterns.”
“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 Glenn.
"One of the neatest parts of participating in the CoCoRaHS program," he
adds, "is that the reports are not only seen everyday by folks like me
at the National Weather Service, they are often stored and become part
of the official record during significant weather events like winter
storms and hurricanes.
To become a CoCoRaHS observer, go to www.cocorahs.org
and click on the “Join CoCoRaHS” emblem on the upper right side of
the main website. After registering, take the simple online
training, order your 4-inch rain gauge and start reporting!
Carolina CoCoRaHS can also be reached on Facebook and