Have you ever wondered how much rainfall you received from a thunderstorm? How about snowfall during a winter storm? If so, then a new volunteer weather observing program needs your help.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network (CoCoRaHS) is looking for volunteers across central 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.
“We are in need of observers across the entire state and would like to emphasize rural locations and areas near the coast, especially on barrier islands,” said David Glenn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City.
“North Carolina has the most complex climate in the eastern U.S.,” said Ryan Boyles, state climatologist and director of the State Climate Office, based at N.C. State. “Data gathered from CoCoRaHS volunteers can be very important in better understanding our climate.”
CoCoRaHS came about as a result of a devastating flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado in July, 1997. A 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 participate, rain, hail and snow maps were produced for every storm showing local patterns that were of great interest to scientists and the public, according to Glenn.
Volunteers may obtain an official rain gauge through the CoCoRaHS website (www.cocorahs.org) for about $25 plus shipping. Volunteers are required to take a simple training module online and use the CoCoRaHS website to submit their reports. Observations are immediately available on maps and reports for the public to view.
The process takes five minutes a day, and the impact on 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 became the 21st state to establish the CoCoRaHS program in 2007, and by 2010, the CoCoRaHS network had reached all 50 states with eight to ten thousand 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 own backyards.
Another opportunity exists for you to help meteorologists.
The Richmond County Amateur Radio Club and the National Weather Service of Raleigh are sponsoring a National Weather Service Skywarn Weather Spotter Training class. The class will be held this Saturday at the Leath Memorial Library at 412 E. Franklin St., Rockingham from 9:30 a.m. until noon.
The class is free and open to the public, and requires no prior registration. This class is ideal for anyone who has no working knowledge of weather conditions, and would like to learn how to identify changes in the weather.
Although modern technology allows meteorologists to track changes in the weather across large areas, specialists depend on local community members to respond with firsthand details about the effects the weather is having on them.
“Nothing takes the place of a person on the ground watching it happen,” says Frank McKay of Richmond County Emergency Management. He believes it is important to train as many laypeople as possible to understand patterns of weather behavior; the type of knowledge farmers have used for generations to protect their livelihood in any way they could.
The class features videos, PowerPoint presentations, and lecture centered around common weather behavior. People will learn how to recognize storms based on cloud movement, how to identify different types of clouds, how to deal with high winds, and potential threats. The two most common dangerous weather situations that affect Richmond County are lightening and tornadoes. According to McKay, “There are more people killed in North Carolina by lightening than anywhere else except Florida.” Those that attend this class will learn what type of conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado, and what they can do to be prepared in the case of an emergency. Recognizing tornadoes becomes especially crucial during hurricane season.
This class is taught as part of an effort to connect the weather service with the local community by encouraging people to call in and report how the weather is affecting them. With basic weather spotting knowledge, the everyday person can effectively communicate local weather behavior to specialists who can further interpret the data.
For more information please contact Mark Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jeff Orrock at Jeff.email@example.com or call (910) 51508209 ext. 223.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.