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NWS Touts Volunteer Program

January 27, 2012

CELINA — A national organization is actively seeking volunteers to help track weather in Auglaize and Mercer counties.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a “community-based network that incorporates training and education on tracking rain and snowfall,” according to the organization’s website. Presenters Ashley Novak and Julie Reed of the National Weather Service spoke with area residents Wednesday night at Wright State University Lake Campus about how to get involved and some techniques to collecting weather data.

“It was started by the state climatologist out in Colorado in 1998 after a massive flood the year prior,” Reed said. “It’s volunteer-driven. Anyone, any age, any location — just daily measurements.”

Reed said CoCoRaHS started in Ohio in 2009 and the organization is working to expand, bringing in more volunteers.

“The aim is to collect consistent data,” Reed said. “There are many different ways to measure precipitation. The aim of CoCoRaHS is to use a single gauge type.”

The organization’s website, CoCoRaHS.com, displays information provided by the volunteers.

“It’s all on an interactive website,” Reed said. “The website keeps great data in terms of being able to see or go back and look at a rain event and see what other people in your area reported.”

She said there are many reasons to participate in CoCoRaHS, noting the importance of having multiple sources collecting weather data.

“Precipitation can be highly variable,” Reed said. “You can have a location that has two inches of rain, and two or three miles away, they might only have a couple of tenths (of an inch).”

To participate, volunteers need a rain gauge, a ruler and the ability to submit data online. The rain gauge is available on CoCoRaHS.com, along with a snow stick and snow swatter. Reed noted that placement of the rain gauge is important.

“Ideally, if you have a nice, open area, the goal is to be twice as far from the obstacles as they are high,” Reed said, noting that if there is a 20-foot building, the gauge should be placed 40 feet away. “Sometimes it’s not possible. If you’re in a more developed area, at least try to be as far as that obstacle is high.”

In an open area, the gauge should be approximately two feet off the ground, and in a developed area, Reed said, the gauge should be placed approximately five feet off the ground.

Novak said training instructions for taking measurements are available at CoCoRaHS.com. She noted that it is best to take measurements between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., although it is not required.

“That doesn’t work for everybody,” Novak said. “Whatever is the most convenient for you.”

Novak encouraged attendees to visit the organization’s website and register to collect data. For more information, visit CoCoRaHS.com or e-mail Novak at Ashley.novak@noaa.com or Reed at Julia.dian-reed@noaa.com.

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