As the 2010/11 winter season progresses, we continue to see significant snowfall accumulations across portions of the Red River Valley and Devils Lake Basin. Your NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) is tasked with analyzing the current meteorological and hydrologic conditions, and how they relate to future flood potential. A significant part of the flood forecasting effort is the ability for the NWS to properly analyze how much water content exists in the current snow blanketing the region. The most reliable and accurate method of obtaining snow water content measurements is the human weather observer. Currently the NWS operates a network of Cooperative Weather Observers across eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. These dedicated volunteers report a variety of weather information to us, including snowfall and the water content of the snow.
However, despite the valiant efforts of the NWS Cooperative Observer, there are a few parts of northeastern North Dakota where we need more information than the current network can provide. The NWS Cooperative Weather Observer program was designed with monitoring the longer term climate, so the density of the Cooperative Network is not sufficient to provide the needs of today's improved hydrologic services. With each snowfall this year, our weather observers have worked to provide us with information on the snow pack. Due to the increasing threat for flooding this spring, the NWS is looking for more information.
We do partner with other state, local and federal agencies to obtain snow fall, snow depth and snow water content information. We get information from the Department of Natural Resources, State Water Commission, USGS and Army Corps of Engineers. Yet we need more information to more correctly assess the 2011 spring flood threat
Enter CoCoRaHS: the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow network. CoCoRaHS is a grass-roots effort designed to get weather minded folks involved in the weather, water and climate puzzle. The network originated with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998 thanks in part to the Fort Collins flood a year prior. In the years since, CoCoRaHS now includes thousands of volunteers nationwide. This is a community project. Everyone can help, young, old, and in-between. The only requirements are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can effect and impact our lives. .
What would we ask volunteers to do? Each time a rain, hail or snow storm crosses your area, volunteers would take measurements of precipitation from as many locations as possible. These precipitation reports are then recorded on the CoCoRaHS web site. The data are then displayed and organized for users or weather data to analyze and apply to daily situations ranging from water resource analysis and severe storm warnings to neighbors comparing how much rain fell in their backyards. Reports of the depth of snow on the ground and the water content of the snow are critical to flood forecasting. Your NWS would work to help you with equipment and training. Access to and the ability to use the internet is mandatory. Click here for an excellent video on measuring snow fall, snow depth and snow water content. The information you would provide will benefit your friends, family and neighbors by helping us provide higher quality river forecasts and services.
The map below would be good places for us to have additional snow depth and snow water data observers. The cities in green indicate where we have folks who report to us, and the cities in red are areas where having regular reports would be very beneficial.
If you are interested in helping your National Weather Service help you, please visit the CoCoRaHS web site for more information, to sign up and start reporting weather.
If you wish to be a full time NWS Cooperative Weather Observer, please contact Mark Ewens Data Acquisition Program Manager or Mike Lukes, Service Hydrologist and we shall be willing and able to work with you.
Locations where weather observers are needed. Green represent locations with regular reporters, red are where we would like additional, daily reports. Click on the map for a larger version.