- Author: Dan Macon
When we moved to Auburn over 16 years ago, I started keeping a weather journal. On most days since, I've recorded minimum and maximum temperatures, general weather conditions, and precipitation. I've also tried to record key climatological and ecological events - the first hard freeze of autumn, for example, or the date that the lilacs in our yard bloom. In November 2104, during the depths of our 500-year drought, I learned about an online citizen science weather data collection system called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) during a presentation by California's state climatologist. This volunteer program utilizes standardized rain gauges and observers all over the United States to track daily and seasonal precipitation. The website features a real-time map depicting precipitation amounts over the previous 24 hours from citizen weather "stations" in every state. For a weather geek like me, it's a great chance to learn more about weather in my own neighborhood and across the country.
The CoCoRaHS website is also tied in with the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) housed at the University of Nebraska. Precipitation reports, along with newly formatted condition monitoring reports (about things like vegetation conditions, soil moisture, and other factors) can be entered through the CoCoRaHS website. These reports are automatically connected to the NDMC system, which allows drought scientists to more accurate and describe local conditions in real time. During our last drought, these types of citizen observations became critical in identifying the spread and intensity of drought conditions throughout California.
I found that it was very easy to get started with measuring and reporting precipitation. The offical CoCoRaHS rain gauge is $31.50 (and can be ordered directly from the website). I've made it a habit to check and empty the gauge every morning before I head out to do chores. CoCoRaHS has developed a simple phone app that allows me to report daily precipitation directly from my smart phone. I also have an indoor/outdoor digital thermometer that works with bluetooth technology. It records min/max temperatures, which I record in my handwritten journal.