What is CoCoRaHS??
Carolyn Gritzmaker, Certified Texas Master Naturalist
CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network; a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). CoCoRaHS has several goals: 1) provide accurate high-quality precipitation data for our many end users on a timely basis; 2) increasing the density of precipitation data available throughout the country by encouraging volunteer weather observing; 3) encouraging citizens to have fun participating in meteorological science and heightening their awareness about weather; 4) providing enrichment activities in water and weather resources for educators and the community at large.
Each time a rain, hail or snow storm occurs, volunteers take measurements of precipitation from as many locations as possible. These precipitation reports are then recorded on www.cocorahs.org. The data are then displayed and organized for end users to analyze and apply to daily situations ranging from water resource analysis and severe storm warnings to neighbors comparing how much rain fell in their backyards.
For example, the National Weather Service forecast offices and the Hydrologic Prediction Center track CoCoRaHS reports every day to verify their weather forecasts. They instantaneously receive our Intense Precipitation and Hail reports to aid in severe weather warning and verification. National Weather Service River Forecast Centers are using CoCoRaHS data every day in predicting river levels and potential flooding all across the country. National Weather Service and private meteorological businesses are using CoCoRaHS data to validate and adjust precipitation estimates from RADAR. The National Operational Hydrological Remote Sensing Center accesses CoCoRaHS snow reports all winter to help in the assessment of snow cover and snow water content across the entire U.S. They particularly appreciate the observers who make the extra effort to report the total water content of snow on the ground each day in the winter. That is really important stuff. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking at CoCoRaHS data regularly to assess crop development, potential drought stress and possible crop damage and erosion from flooding or from drought. The National Drought Mitigation Center (Lincoln, NE) looks at CoCoRaHS data each week in the assessment of local and regional drought – and in anticipating areas that may be on the verge of drought. NASA has used our hail pads and data in assessing the risk of hail at Kennedy Space Center. NASA and NOAA scientists and educators have been using CoCoRaHS data to help validate satellite estimates of rainfall, soil moisture and evapotranspiration. The media (newspapers, TV stations, internet news services) in many parts of the country are using CoCoRaHS data to provide more detail on local storm patterns. Many local utilities look at CoCoRaHS data to help gauge inputs to their water supply and also project water demand. All sorts of scientists and researchers have contacted us about using CoCoRaHS data for things ranging from designing hail resistant airplanes to studying the spread of West Nile virus. And so on, and so on — there are MANY more occasional and every day uses – and more organizations are learning about CoCoRaHS all the time!
This is a community project. Everyone can help, young, old, and in-between. The only requirements are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can effect and impact our lives. One of the neat things about participating in this network is coming away with the feeling that you have made an important contribution that helps others. By providing your daily observation, you help to fill in a piece of the weather puzzle that affects many across your area in one way or another. You also will have the chance to make some new friends as you do something important and learn some new things along the way. In some areas, activities are organized for network participants including training sessions, field trips, special speakers, picnics, pot-luck dinners, and photography contests just to name a few.
Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends? You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 pm at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Pkwy, Red Oak, TX. For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or visit our website: https://txmn.org/indiantrail/.