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The National Weather Service is seeking volunteers to set up home weather stations.

The Citizen Science Program provides daily data to the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network (CoCoRaHS). Volunteers are needed across the state to provide as much data as possible. The information is shared with media outlets as well as government agencies that track meteorological information.

The effort is part of a growing national network of home-based and amateur rain spotters to help provide more localized data to help with emergency response and planning. The project came about, according the NWS, after the Fort Collins, Col., thunderstorm that dropped a foot of rain in some areas, and only modest amounts in others. The resulting flash flood claimed several lives and caused millions in property damage.

CoCoRaHS was born in 1998 with the intent of doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. As more volunteers participated, rain, hail, and snow maps were produced for every storm showing fascinating local patterns that were of great interest to scientists and the public.

Recently, drought reporting has also become an important observation within the CoCoRaHS program across the nation. Observations of drought conditions from CoCoRaHS are now being included in the National Integrated Drought Information System.

North Carolina became the twenty-first state to establish the CoCoRaHS program in 2007, and by 2010, the CoCoRaHS network had reached all 50 states with nearly ten thousand observations being reported each day.

Through CoCoRaHS, thousands of volunteers document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of rain, hail, and snow by taking simple measurements in their own backyards. Volunteers may obtain an official rain gauge through the CoCoRaHS website (http://www.cocorahs.org ) for about $30 plus shipping. Besides the need for an official 4 inch plastic rain gauge, volunteers are required to take a simple training module online and use the CoCoRaHS website to submit their reports. Observations are immediately available on maps and reports for the public to view.

The process takes only five minutes a day, with observations being taken as close to the same time as possible.

“North Carolina has one of the most complex climates in the U.S.,” said Dr. Ryan Boyles, state climatologist and director of the State Climate Office, based at North Carolina State University.  “Data gathered from CoCoRaHS volunteers are very important in better understanding local weather and climate patterns.”

“An additional benefit of the program to the National Weather Service is the ability to receive timely reports of significant weather (hail, intense rainfall, localized flooding) from CoCoRaHS observers that can assist forecasters in issuing and verifying warnings for severe thunderstorms,” says David Glenn, CoCoRaHS state co-coordinator and meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City.

“We are in need of new observers across the entire state. We would like to emphasize rural locations, areas of higher terrain, and areas near the coast,” added Glenn.

For more information, go to www.cocorhs.org. 
North Carolina CoCoRaHS can also be reached on Facebook and through Twitter.