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March 22, 2012 05:11 PM

Volunteer Rain Network Helps Science

sioux falls, sd

When it rains, we usually get the official totals from the airport.  But more information is needed for meteorologists to better monitor flood levels.  

All you need is a good rain gauge and you can help scientists better understand the weather.

"Precipitation varies so much in a small area, particularly with thunderstorms.  You know, we can have heavy rain at the airport and nothing in another part of town, or vice versa.  So we need to have as much real data, observed data coming in as we possibly can," hydrologist Mike Gillispie said.

That's why the National Weather Service would like more people to take part in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS.  If you send in rainfall totals, they're run through drought and flash-flood computer models.  Your information can also help meteorologists calibrate the radars.

This is the KELOLAND Live Doppler 4-inch diameter rain gauge but the National Weather Service and CoCoRaHS are really flexible with make and model.  It really helps the National Weather Service to receive real-time data rain data to help track storms.

"And the time commitment is really pretty easy.  Once you get your gauge out there, it takes a couple minutes a day.  Go out, take a look at it, take your reading, enter it into the computer and you're done.  And the nice thing is, you've got an archive," Gillispie said.

You can also enter information like hail size and temperatures to help meteorologists issue more accurate warnings.  

More volunteers are needed.  Through month's end, the network is running a contest to beat out other states for new members.  Right now, South Dakota has around 700 collectors.

Keep in mind, you can get a good gauge for less than $30.

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