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Calling citizen scientists interested in weather

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CSU Extension Gilpin County

By Irene Shonle

Are you interested in the amount of precipitation we get? Do you, like me, avidly watch the forecasts, hoping for rain and snow, and then compare what we got to the predictions? Or maybe you just wonder how much we got, since you don’t have a way to measure? You sound like a good candidate to join the 20,000 active observers in the CoCoRaHS network!

CoCoRaHS (pronounced KO-ko-rozz, and standing for Community Collaborative Rain, Snow, and Hail network) is a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in our local communities. The only requirements to join are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact our lives. It takes only five minutes a day and is a fun way to learn about this wonderful natural resource that falls from the sky. All you need to do is buy an official gauge (they cost about $31: http://www.weatheryourway.com/cocorahs/store.html), and sign up: https://www.cocorahs.org/Content.aspx?page=application. You can watch one of their helpful training shows: https://www.cocorahs.org/Content.aspx?page=training_slideshows, or you can call me if you’re in Gilpin County, and I can help you get started. People in other counties are more than welcome to join, just click the right county when you go to the sign up page, and it will direct you to the right person.

Your observations continue to give scientists an ever-clearer picture of where and how much precipitation falls throughout our communities. Gilpin County has a relatively low density of observers, and we’d love to see that amount increase. If we get enough reliable reporters, we may even be able to inform the drought monitor map – currently there are not enough stations in the elevations where a lot of us live. Most of the data for Gilpin County comes from Snotel stations much higher up on the Continental Divide, and this past year, that area got a reasonable amount of snow, whereas we were pretty dry in the 7,000-9,500’ zone. Because we don’t have enough data points, the drought monitor showed us as being in no drought whatsoever, whereas in many areas of the County we were very dry (as was reflected in the long fire ban over the summer).

Plus, it’s fascinating to see how different the precipitation totals are from even relatively close stations. For example, my house is about a third of a mile away from the nearest station, and we often have similar amounts, but sometimes a snow band or patchy rain falls on one of our houses, but not the other. I also measure at my office, about 10 miles away, and that is often very different. Even if you don’t want to join, but are just curious, you can look at the reported precipitation map whenever you like: https://www.cocorahs.org/Maps/ViewMap.aspx?state=usa. If you report early enough after a big storm, sometimes you can even see your storm totals being reported in the news!

Please join us in this wonderful Citizen Science project, and may we get more precipitation this year!

The CSU Gilpin County Extension Office is located at the Exhibit Barn, 230 Norton Drive, Black Hawk, CO 80422, 303-582-9106, www.gilpin.extension.colostate.edu. Colorado State University Extension provides unbiased, research-based information about, horticulture, natural resources, and 4-H youth development. Colorado State University Extension is dedicated to serving all people on an equal and nondiscriminatory basis.

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