Locals volunteer for National Precipitation Study

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 6, 2022

Polk County participants observe weather to help collect data


The weather is a constant subject of daily conversation. And the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) offers folks from across the country an opportunity to do more than just talk about it. 

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CoCoRaHS ( pronounced KO-ko-rozz) is a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation. This includes volunteers right here in Polk County. 


The study began in Ft. Collins, CO, in 1998 to observe localized extreme precipitation events better. Starting a year later, a deadly storm dropped 14.5” in 31 hours on the small mountain town. It has now grown to include thousands of volunteers across the country and has become a resource for the National Weather Service and numerous state and local authorities. They then put the data to use to help make decisions during major weather occurrences.


Once a new volunteer signs up, they are given a station name and number. Then along with their trusty rain gauge, it’s off to take daily measurements and input the data. 


Terry Lynch of Columbus had no meteorological background before discovering the study eight years ago and becoming an observer. He checks his rain gauge regularly when he feeds his dogs. He then takes a couple of minutes to log his measurements into the website, where his data will be available, along with all the data collected by other volunteers, for the public to view daily. 


David Smith, also of Columbus, discovered CoCoRaHS while working at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, since NCDC uses similar data to produce studies and became a local coordinator. Even with 30 years of experience with weather data, David continues to learn from the study, “I have always liked macro systems, where your location can be vastly different than someone down the road. This network is dense enough to allow great studies.”


His words of wisdom for anyone thinking of joining are, “Be dedicated to observing. It is of great benefit to science. Your reward is to know you made an impact, and each year the study gets better because people care to contribute.”


The study not only prioritizes accurate collection of precipitation data but also wants to encourage people from all over the country to have fun taking part in meteorological science. Their website contains numerous opportunities to learn even for non-participants, including enrichment activities in water and weather resources for teachers and educators.


CoCoRaHS is currently looking for volunteers. Go to the CoCoRaHS.org website and hit the “join” button to volunteer to be a collector. Those interested without internet access can call 970-491-8545.