Data helps researchers from meteorologists to natural resource managers

FORT COLLINS, CO. -- Most Kansans, and every outdoorsman or woman, keeps and almost daily eye to the sky. The reason? Rainfall. Rain and snow are critical to Kansans. Farmers need it to grow crops, and hunters, fishermen, and naturalists frequently express the need to "pray for rain" so that habitat sustaining the animals they so enjoy may grow thick and lush.

Mid-summer is a time of particular time of concern for outdoorsmen because it is generally dry. "But what," your average outdoor lover might ask, "can I do about it?"

While no one can change the weather, one answer to this question lies in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS, a network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail, and snow). By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and using an interactive website, the CoCoRaHS provides the highest quality data for natural resource, education, and research applications. The group currently operates in six states: Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Texas.

The network originated with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998 in response to the 1997 Fort Collins flood. In the years since, CoCoRaHS has expanded rapidly, with more than 2,500 volunteer observers in six states.

CoCoRaHS is a community project open to anyone. The only requirements are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can effect and impact people and nature.

Each time rain, hail, or a snow storm crosses volunteer areas, volunteers take measurements of precipitation from as many locations as possible with equipment provided by CoCoRaHS. These precipitation reports are then recorded on the CoCoRaHS website, www.cocorahs.org. The data are then displayed and organized for researchers to analyze water resources and track severe storm warnings. Volunteers can use the information to compare how much rain fell in nearby areas.

CoCoRaHS is used by a wide variety of organizations and individuals, including the National Weather Service, other meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities managers (water supply, water conservation, storm water), insurance adjusters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, engineers, ranchers and farmers, outdoor and natural resource managers, teachers, and students.

Ultimately, the goal of CoCoRaHS is to provide accurate, high-quality precipitation data on a timely basis, increase the density of precipitation data available throughout the country, encourage citizens to have fun participating in meteorological science, heighten awareness about weather, and provide activities in water and weather resources for teachers, educators, and the general public.

For more information on CoCoRaHS or to become a volunteer observer, go to www.cocorahs.org on the internet.