Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Be a Volunteer Weather Observer for Missouri

Because of Missouri’s size and topography there is significant climatic variation within the state. Precipitation can be highly variable over short distances, especially during the summer when thunderstorm activity has a tendency to be spotty. The hit and miss nature of rainfall during the growing season requires an extensive monitoring network to accurately capture precipitation patterns in the state. A large network of rain gauges across the state also provides valuable information in regard to drought assessment, flood monitoring, prediction, research and education.

In 2006, Missouri joined a national precipitation observation program called the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS. CoCoRaHS was started in 1998 and is a grass roots volunteer network of observers who measure precipitation for their local communities. The program has been well received in Colorado and has expanded to all 50 states. As stated in their mission statement, the only requirements to join are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact our lives.

In order to provide consistent and accurate precipitation data, all observers are required to use a particular rain gauge model. Hardware stores may have these, and the cost can range from $30 - $40. Or, they can be purchased from CoCoRaHS National in Colorado -- $27.25 for the cost of the gauge plus approximately $8.00 for shipping. For more information on the rain gauge model, click here.

Once enrolled, the weather observer is assigned a station ID and uses an interactive web site to submit their observation. The web site allows the observer to see their observation mapped in real-time and provides valuable information for all data users. Currently, Missouri has about 300 regular observers participating in CoCoRaHS and data users include the National Weather Service, River Forecast Centers, Regional Climate Centers and other stakeholders.

If you would like to be a CoCoRaHS volunteer weather observer in Missouri, click here for more information or contact Pat Guinan, Extension State Climatologist, and one of the state coordinators of CoCoRaHS for Missouri.
(by Katie Kammler, MU Regional Specialist - from Patrick Guinan, State Climatologist)

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