Group monitoring rain seeks assistance

By Johnny Jackson


This morning, Hampton resident, Paul Carrin, will walk out his back door onto his rain-slick back lawn, and he will take the measure of his rain gauge.

This is his daily routine. His gauge has measured almost 20 inches of rain over the past year.

"Several times, I've had three or four inches of rain," said Carrin, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) volunteer coordinator for Henry County. "It varies from point to point. One side of the county could have a trace of rain and the other side of the county could have several inches of rain."

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network is a non-profit organization that provides training and education as part of the effort to monitor local precipitation across the country.

Since its inception in 1998, CoCoRaHS has expanded from Colorado to some 40 states, where more than 12,000 observers, including Carrin, take daily measurements of rain, hail and snowfall amounts. Georgia only recently joined the network, in the spring of 2008, but has signed on more than 500 residents in 115 counties.

"This is a great chance for weather enthusiasts and average citizens to be part of a project that collects vital rainfall data," said Chris McGehee, Georgia's CoCoRaHS coordinator.

The organization is looking for volunteers to help collect rainfall data across the state, McGehee said, adding that there are no limits to the amount of volunteers or rain gauge observers in a particular area or region. "We're looking for the most density we can get," she added.

However, volunteers must purchase the official network rain gauge (about $32) in order to participate in the network. The gauge is a professional-quality instrument that measures rain in hundredths of an inch.

Observers are asked to enter their daily precipitation totals on the network's web site. The data collected will be used for educational purposes, as well as for the general public, to help with weather forecasting and climate-change research.

"The data is readily available to the general public and other organizations," said McGehee, who is also a hydrologist at the Southeast River Forecast Center.

"The more we can learn about that sort of thing, the better we can forecast for the future, she said. "It helps weather service forecasters, who are issuing flood warnings, for instance. It helps historical data and adds to the climate records."

Climatologists, hydrologists, water resource managers and the National Weather Service all use the high-density rainfall reports provided through CoCoRaHS.

So far, the group has received data from 13 stations in Henry and Clayton counties, including in McDonough, Hampton, Stockbridge, Ellenwood, Jonesboro, and Morrow.

"Official measuring stations across the state are sparse, and rainfall can vary quite a bit over short distances," said McGehee. "We can learn more about the very small scale differences in precipitation that falls. With trained volunteers, CoCoRaHS helps fill these gaps and give us a better picture of precipitation patterns."

Paul Carrin said he decided to volunteer with CoCoRaHS because of a fascination with the "force" of the weather. "It's just amazing the strength of the weather, and what it can do to us, or do for us," he said.

Any one interested in more information, or in volunteering as a CoCoRaHS observer, should visit the web site.


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