Volunteers needed for North Dakota precipitation network

Dec 2, 2008
Volunteers needed for North Dakota precipitation network

If you have always wanted to do something about the weather, but don’t know how, this is your chance. Adnan Akyuz, state climatologist and assistant professor of climatology in the North Dakota State University Soil Science Department, is looking for volunteers for a statewide rain and snow reporting network.

CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. It is the fastest growing national network of home-based amateur rain and snow observers. The program is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I want to get as many rain gauges as possible around the state to help forecasters and climatologists map North Dakota’s rain and snow patterns,” Akyuz says. Anyone with an interest in weather and access to the Internet can sign up. The only equipment needed is a cylindrical rain gauge available from the network for $22 (plus shipping) and a yardstick to measure snow depth. Training and other information is available at http://www.cocorahs.org.

Each volunteer is asked to read the rain gauge every day at the same time and upload the measurement to the Web site.

“The result is more precise information about where rain, snow and hail falls and in what amount,” Akyuz says. “That will allow climatologists to draw better precipitation maps and gain a better understanding of North Dakota weather.”

It also can help people who use precipitation information in their work and those who just want to know how much rain or snow is falling outside their homes.

“We know that there are many decisions made every day that have to do with weather and climate, such as an accurate assessment of drought intensity and the flood potential in a certain area,” Akyuz says. “With more information, we can improve the database and therefore enhance the quality of the decisions that are made.” The goal is to have 1,000 volunteer observers by 2010 in North Dakota. The network can supplement the precipitation (rain and snow) measurements currently made by the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN).

“The NDAWN network is not designed to measure winter precipitation, so the amount of snowfall on a given date is just a guess,” Akyuz says. “We have started a new application on the

NDAWN system called irrigation scheduler. It calculates soil water deficits based on available water. In most cases, especially during the summer, precipitation is highly variable. We want the irrigation scheduler to output the most accurate water deficits based on how much rain fell close to the irrigator rather than based on the nearest weather station.”

CoCoRaHS will give weather enthusiasts an opportunity to contribute to a national map. North Dakota volunteers will be able to start from a national map and see all of the data collected by almost 12,000 volunteer observers across the country and then zoom into their area to compare the data with nearby volunteers.

“This is a statewide plea,” Akyuz says. “I would like everyone, including teachers, students, farmers, doctors and others to be a part of this network.”

North Dakota is the latest state to join the network and began providing information on Nov. 1. To sign up, go to http://www.cocorahs.org.

Click on join CoCoRaHS under the main menu. Training slides are available under the resources menu. For more information, contact Akyuz at 701/231-6577. — WLJ