CoCoRaHS observers track rain gain

October 23, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

After an unseasonably nice September with pleasant skies, the rain has arrived just in time to remind locals that they live in the Pacific Northwest.

As the wet season picks up, the Office of the Washington State Climatologist at the University of Washington is seeking rainfall observers to join more than 300 volunteers across the state that measure rainfall totals through the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, more commonly called CoCoRaHS.

CoCoRaHS is a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers who work together to map and measure precipitation in their local communities.

“Their reports are useful for weather forecasters, climatologists, city utilities, hydrologists, and researchers, among others,” said Karin Bumbaco, the Washington state CoCoRaHS coordinator.

When Issaquah resident Justin Shaw, a self-professed weather nut, heard about the call for volunteers, he didn’t hesitate to get involved.

Get involved

Buy a rain gauge and collect rainfall totals with The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network at www.cocorahs.org.

“I find it fascinating, and rain, especially around here, can get kind of dull and boring,” he said. “But with CoCoRaHS, I actually care about the rain because I’m always excited to see how much it rained in my neighborhood.”

To participate in the program, new observers must purchase a standard rain gauge for about $30 and either attend an in-person training session or view training material through the CoCoRaHS website.

All observers use the same rain gauge and are required to record rainfall amounts daily, Shaw said.

Shaw begins his day by checking the gauge, located on his back deck, every morning at 7 a.m. Consistency is important, he said, making sure the measurements are done at the same time every day, ensuring the highest possible accuracy.

“There are a whole bunch of crazy weather nuts out there who are committed to waking up at 7 a.m. to do this,” he said.

It had been an easy job since he started recording in August, thanks to the dry weather. But the gauge got its first real taste of rainfall when it collected nearly an inch of rain Oct. 14.

When Shaw records his rainfall totals on the CoCoRaHS website, he also accesses the totals from other area observers.

It’s a thrill, he said, to practically compete with others in the area and see who gets the most rain.

“It just personalizes it,” he said. “When you see on the news, they’ll say Seattle got half an inch of rain, but Issaquah is way wetter than Seattle, so now I can finally see how much Issaquah actually gets.”

He was particularly proud of the fact that his Issaquah rain gauge recently collected more rain than Sea-Tac International Airport’s, which records the official rain totals for the area.

Anyone can participate and local CoCoRaHS coordinators hope new Washington state observers join the cause in October.

Washington and Oregon are competing in a contest to get the most new volunteers through the month of October, culminating Oct. 27, the day the University of Washington plays Oregon State University in college football.

It’s just a friendly rivalry, and the only thing on the line is state pride, but as of Oct. 19, Washington leads Oregon.

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