Citizen Science: Become a Weather Watcher

Original story by Amy Grotta, OSU FNR Extension Forester at Revised for the Gazette by Jody Columbia County's new rain gaugeEinerson, OSU Extension Program Assistant Benton County.

Amy Grotta, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Columbia, Washington, and Yamill Counties and her office have become a part of the CoCoRaHS network.  CoCoRaHS stands for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. It is a national network of citizens who collect and report precipitation data using a standardized system. Having data collection points dispersed all across a region helps scientists understand localized weather patterns. In Oregon, the CoCoRaHS project is supported by the Oregon Climate Service, which is housed at Oregon State University.

Amy tells us, “this year I bought our Extension office a holiday gift: a CoCoRaHS rain gauge.  We set up our rain gauge in December in a clearing outside our office. Then we put the data recording form on the fridge in kitchen. The first willing person goes out and checks the gauge in the morning. And now our data shows up on the CoCoRaHS map!  Based on our few weeks’ experience, participating in CoCoRaHS has been fun, easy, and educational.”

As we all know, rainfall patterns can be quite variable. It may rain hard at one location and be completely dry only a few miles away. With more data coming from many locations, scientists can develop better precipitation maps and over the long term, better forecasting.  According to the Oregon Climate Service, more CoCoRaHS volunteers are needed in rural areas, especially in areas with elevation changes.  This need makes this opportunity well suited for MWM’s around the state.

It is easy to participate, all that is needed is a rain gauge (you must purchase and use the CoCoRaHS-approved gauge), a place to set it up, a willingness to check your gauge daily (or as frequently as possible), and a computer so that you can log in and record your data. If you want to get in on it, the CoCoRaHS website has all the information you need to get started

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