CORVALLIS, Ore. - A statewide network that uses Oregon citizens to collect local data on rain, snow and even hail is seeking a new wave of volunteers.
Coordinated by the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University, the program is part of the national Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS. This national initiative has volunteers in every state who collect and report precipitation data, providing scientists with important data that supplements that which comes from existing weather stations.
Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at OSU, works with the Oregon volunteers, who number about 300. She would like to greatly expand that number.
"The national organization was begun in 1997 in Fort Collins, Colo., after they had a major localized storm there, but other areas in the city only received modest amounts of rain," Dello said. "People thought, ‘how can that happen?' It illustrates how fickle weather data can be. It can rain an inch in one location, and be completely dry a couple of miles away.
"That's why we need more volunteers to report on local events," Dello pointed out. "It will provide us much more accurate data, which leads to better precipitation maps and over the long haul, more accurate forecasting."
CoCoRaHS volunteers must buy a rain gauge for about $27 plus shipping, watch a short training video, and report as frequently as possible the amount of rainfall and snowfall in their area. Interested persons should go to the CoCoRaHS website at http://www.cocorahs.org/ to sign up.
Dello said Oregon needs more volunteers throughout the state, but especially in eastern and southern Oregon, along the Oregon coast, in the foothills of the Coast Range and Cascades, and in areas just outside of cities that have a bit of elevation change.
"Elevation change is important because that can be a factor in how much precipitation falls," Dello said. "We are trying to work out an arrangement with Oregon wineries, because many vineyards are in those exact locations and people are working there every day. They would be a great resource."
Ironically, Dello said, one area of the greatest need is in and around Corvallis.
Dello said the work is easy, the rain gauges provide accurate information, and it can be a good family or educational activity.
"I think it would be a great activity for middle school or high school kids, with a bit of supervision from parents," Dello said. "We'd also love to have retirees, or anyone who cares about the weather. The data will really be useful in better understanding Oregon weather."
Weather-lovers can learn more about Oregon's fickle weather by following Dello on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/orclimatesvc