March Madness for Weather

Calling All Interested Weather Observers

A national network needs folks to measure rainfall, snowfall and snow depth. A nationwide rain and snow reporting network is looking for volunteers to become part of the regions climatological history.

“We need as many volunteer observers as possible around the region to help forecast flood potential, especially in the Red River Valley,” says Dr. Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota State Climatologist and assistant professor of climatology at North Dakota State University. “It’s fun, easy and only takes five minutes a day.”

These observers measure rainfall, snowfall and snow depth as part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS. Some observers also measure the water equivalent of the snow if melted. The National Weather Service uses that information to assess the river flood potential more accurately.

“The more data points there are, the more accurate the assessment of the flood potential,” Akyuz says. North Dakota already has nearly 250 volunteer precipitation observers.

“Now, in your very neighborhood, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are measuring precipitation in their own backyards as part of CoCoRaHS, which has grown to more than 15,000 volunteer observers covering every state of the country,” Akyuz says.

The CoCoRaHS network engages volunteers of all ages, from grade-schoolers to folks in their 90s, to document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of precipitation by taking simple measurements in their backyards.

“Not to worry if you do not know how to do all that,” Akyuz says. “We have lots of training materials for you to become an observer. All you need is an interest in weather to participate in the program and a cylindrical rain gauge.”

Data from CoCoRaHS volunteers routinely are being viewed and used by many professions and organizations in addition to the National Weather Service, including meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities, insurance adjusters, agribusinesses, engineers and science teachers. Data are used for many applications, such as water resource planning, severe storm warnings, teaching earth science, predicting crop yields and assessing hail damage.

During March, the CoCoRaHS network is running its annual competition among states, called “CoCoRaHS March Madness,” to see how many new observers it can recruit in each state. North Dakota was the winner of these competitions in 2010 and 2012.

Mark Ewens, Data Acquisition Program Manager of the NWS in Grand Forks agrees.

"We need to capture as much precipitation and snowfall as possible to enhance not just our flood forecasts, but to evaluate the Drought potential as well. Having more data helps us verify our regular day to day weather forecasts as well. Even if no rain or snow fall, sending in that report of zero is crucial."

As far as which state wins the CoCoRaHS trophy? Mark Ewens says "Since the Grand Forks National Weather Service Office provides weather services and information to both North Dakota and Minnesota, seeing a little competition for the Trophy is a win for all of us."




If you have signed up as a CoCoRaHS volunteer in the past "Thank You!" If you have signed up but been unable to send as many reports as you would like, here is an opportunity to show your neighbors that it is easy to be part of something big.

"The data collected by CoCoRaHS observers becomes part of a national database as well." Ewens says. "With the changing climate it is important not only to the NWS, but local and state governments as well." Whether it is flood or drought, showing how much or how little precipitation falls is vital.

For more information or to volunteer for the CoCoRaHS network, go to

How-to-Sign up for CoCoRaHS

(Based on a Press Release courtesy of North Dakota State University SCO)


Return to News Archive is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.