Recruiting citizen scientists to help gauge any rain that might fall

from cocorahs.org

LOGAN — It’s being called the worst drought in 75 years, the Great Salt Lake is hitting historic low levels and boat docks are nowhere near the water at Lake Powell. Against that backdrop, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network is attempting to make the most of whatever water does fall in the West.

On KVNU’s For the People program on Wednesday, Utah State University’s coordinator Dr. Jon Meyer of the Utah Climate Center talked about how this collaboration came about.

“It was born in Colorado (which) is a desert as well, many parts of it are just as dry as Utah. But it was born out of a flash flooding event in Fort Collins that unfortunately resulted in some local fatalities.

“It was such a localized rainfall event that none of the regional rain gauges picked up any of the rain. And so the National Weather Service and all of the warning coordinating managers had no idea that a foot of rainfall had fallen in a day,” he explained.

Dr. Meyer said, as a result, this program was started in the hope of filling in some of the gaps in precipitation understanding.  He said it’s important to understand how much water is falling, or not falling as is the case this year.

“We talk about ‘be a hero and report your zeroes’, that’s sort of our tagline this year because no one’s really reporting much rain at all. So those zero data points are just as scientifically important as when it does rain, especially during a drought. Knowing where and when it doesn’t rain is important as well.”

He said they have a lot of observers who may be the only rain gauge in a county.

“When you have a rain gauge at the top of a mountain and nothing else, sometimes you have to extrapolate, get a guess on what everything else in the lower elevation gets, and that gets to be risky especially when we have a lot of localized thunderstorms.”

Dr. Meyer said these citizen scientists, as he calls them, people with rain gauges in their backyard, are essential in providing important information especially during dry times. To learn more, you can go to their website COCORAHS.org.

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