Individual observations ‘far more valuable than people might think’
Across North America, tens of thousands of volunteer weather observers collect and report daily readings of precipitation. But because better science requires even more observations, the organization at the heart of this citizen science effort is seeking more weather enthusiasts, according to scientist Jon Meyer of the Utah Climate Center.
“Utah’s precipitation patterns are incredibly complex,” said Meyer, who serves as the state coordinator for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. “Our ability to manage our water resources is directly related to our ability to capture the full precipitation picture.”
Meyer, who is also a research climatologist at the Utah Climate Center, said that individual observations are far more valuable than most people might suspect.
“We need observers across the entire state,” Meyer said, “but we want to emphasize rural areas and mountainous areas where observations are sparse, and the precipitation picture is fuzzy.”
These additional observations help provide the data needed to monitor the state’s precipitation patterns, contributing to drought mitigation and water management practices.
Anyone can join the organization, which enjoys the unwieldy acronym “CoCoRaHS.” Many of the organization’s members began as children with an interest in science. Others are retired individuals who enjoy having an extra daily task that is both simple and important. Most daily observations take just 60 seconds and provide valuable data to countless weather data users, including weather services and TV meteorologists, said Meyer.
All it takes to join is an inexpensive-yet-durable rain gauge, which is easily mounted following the basic guidelines provided through the organization’s online training.
“You can take a sick day off or go on vacation. We won’t judge,” Meyer said. “There is no commitment to daily measuring, although it is encouraged. Our motto is ‘any observation is a good observation.’”