HARLINGEN — Through rain, sleet, snow and hail, the amateur meteorologists with CoCoRaHS deliver the data.
The National Weather Service is seeking volunteers to monitor weather in their backyards in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS.
The only requirement, other than a commitment to report regularly and an internet connection, is a 4-inch rain gauge, which costs about $30.
“We have people from 8 years old to 80 years old,” said Geoff Bogorad, a meteorologist with the weather service in Brownsville who oversees the program for South Texas.
“Anybody who has an interest in taking rainfall observations, we’re more than happy for them to join.”
CoCoRaHS (pronounced co-co-rahz) was implemented around two decades ago by climate researchers at Colorado State University. Since then, the program has spread nationally and now numbers between 20,000 and 30,000 meteorological volunteers.
Around here, we’re concerned about the weather in the Valley and South Texas. The data points delivered by CoCoRaHS to the weather service are particularly crucial since rainfall in the Valley and ranchlands is often so scattered that conventional weather stations can miss it.
“It’s important for us down here to check the variability of our rainfall across the Rio Grande Valley seasonally and annually,” Bogorad said. “It helps us with our warnings, flash flood warnings or flash flood watches, climatology, climate change, and it helps local engineers know what kind of rainfall they can expect throughout the year or seasonally, so there are many different aspects.
“We need to get more ‘ground truth’ out there,” he added. “The radar does a great job on estimating rainfall but to really find out the ‘ground truth’ we need more information.”
Volunteers can apply for CoCoRaHS on the program’s website at www.cocorahs.org and click on “join CocoRaHS.”
“There’s a link on the CoCoRaHS web page that supplies a 4-inch rain gauge for purchase, and I think it’s around $30,” Bogorad said, “and that’s the official rain gauge that all of these volunteers across the country use so everybody’s on the same page in measuring rainfall.”
The system for reporting data collected at backyard sites is all done online. Once a volunteer is accepted into the program, he or she receives a user name and a password as well as a station number or station name, and they log in and report rainfall amounts or even no rain at all.
“We would hope they would report every day even if they don’t get rainfall because it helps with drought monitoring,” Bogorad said. “Because every drop counts.”
WHAT: Become an official weather observer, monitoring rainfall, snowfall, hail and drought
WHO: All ages welcome to assist the National Weather Service/Brownsville
WHERE: Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy, Kenedy, Brooks, Jim Hogg, Zapata and Starr counties
HOW: Apply at the CoCoRaHS website
COST: Free, but must have an accepted 4-inch rain gauge and an internet connection
To apply to join CoCoRaHS: www.cocorahs.org/Application.aspx
For rain gauges, weather gear: www.weatheryourway.com/cocorahs/index.html