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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Program needing volunteers in region

Thursday, July 6, 2006

SIKESTON -- So how about that weather?

State coordinators for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network are looking for volunteers in this area to record and report the local precipitation.

"CoCoRaHS was started by the state climatologist in Colorado in 1998 after a devastating flood," said Tony Lupo, a professor of atmospheric science for the University of Missouri-Columbia. Lupo along with Pat Guinan, a state climatologist for the University of Missouri-Columbia, serve as state coordinators for the program.

"Since then they've proven that interested folks who measure the rain in their own backyard can produce quality measurements that are useful to meteorologists. They've proven the concept in Colorado and have expanded it to many states so far," Lupo said.

Missouri was the 12th of the 13 states participating so far, according to Lupo, but already has the third largest observer network in CoCoRaHS.

Colorado is the leader, having had an eight-year head start, followed by Oklahoma.

"We started with CoCoRaHS in Missouri in March and since then we've grown to nearly 300 observers," Lupo said.

Even so, Missouri's network needs more volunteers.

"Precipitation is very highly variable," Lupo said. "It can rain in one spot and a half a mile away you get nothing."

Three hundred observers may sound like a lot but it only works out to about three per county, Lupo said.

"That's still pretty sparse for measuring precipitation," he said. "It's better than nothing, but ideally you would want several dozen measurements in each county."

Thanks to the FFA farm service agency, an extension network that measures rainfall and temperatures which has been incorporated into CoCoRaHS, there were three observers for Southeast Missouri right off the bat but more are needed, Lupo said.

Since the program was initiated here, two weather observers not affiliated with the FFA have joined the program.

"In Scott County I've got two observers, in Mississippi County I've got one observer and in New Madrid County we've got two observers," Lupo said. "The observer in Scott County reports regularly. ... She's at Scott City."

Scott County's other observer is at Benton, which means a weather observer at Sikeston is really needed.

"Precipitation is so highly variable - if we have a more dense network of measurements, we can learn more about how storms behave. Looking at what was measured on the ground gives us some clue about the dynamics of storms," Lupo said.

In addition learning more about storm dynamics, which is something that can be achieved in the short term, there are also some long-term benefits, Lupo said. "It can help us better monitor drought conditions or excessive wetness, which of course the agricultural community is very interested in."

Also, when extremely heavy rainfall measurements are recorded and entered, they are automatically reported to the National Weather Service so flash flood warnings can be issued, Lupo added.

Anyone interested in joining the observer network can do so at the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network Web site, www.cocorahs.org, by clicking on the link on the left side of the page and filling in the online application it brings up.

CoCoRaHS will then issue a login ID and password. "You'll report right through that Web site," Lupo said.

The Web site also has information about getting the proper rain gauge.

"We have a few gauges we can give away or you can purchase one from the headquarters in Colorado," Lupo said. He said rain gauges also may be available at a local hardware store.

Lupo said he and Guinan will be happy to help any weather observer volunteers with advice on where to put their gauge as well as how to use it for monitoring snowfall in the wintertime. He said they are also available to answer any other questions volunteers might have.

CoCoRaHS also has a device available to help weather observers record hail data.

"Part of the deal is we monitor hail and that's good because we've never had (hail data) in Missouri before," Lupo said. "We're not exactly sure how much hail falls in this state."

While some hail data has been gathered by the National Weather Service and storm spotters, data has never been collected using a network as dense as the one they hope to get with CoCoRaHS, Lupo said.

Precipitation data will be kept at the Colorado State University. "It's a data base that any CoCoRaHS observer will have access to," Lupo said.

On the Net: www.cocorahs.org