Across the country, K-12 educators are teaching students about maps, math, units of measurement and trying to find new ways to present these lessons to their students. Likewise, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Professionals, Meteorologists & Emergency Managers are using these same themes on a daily basis to protect their communities from weather related events. Many schools have explored adding weather stations to their schools, but sometimes this equipment can start to get expensive as the costs add up. How can we use some innovative real-world methods and examples to teach our K-12 students these critical skills while we’re continually losing funds due to budget cuts?
In a recent article from the Rocky Mountain Collegian, Noah Newman, education coordinator for CoCoRaHS described the CoCoRaHS as:
“a non-profit science network of people who relay their rain gauge levels to help local scientists all the way up to scientists on the national level.”
Rainfall data from cooperative observers helps to map out daily rainfall amounts. Those maps are then compared against radar estimated rainfall totals to validate the algorithms used to create the radar estimated rainfall maps. Once the radar values have been adjusted accordingly and QA/QC’ed, the resulting values are used in a number of other products for a number of other customers. Cooperative partners and networks like CoCoRaHS are essential because without their measurements, extreme rainfall events are difficult to verify. This impacts the trust in the radar estimated rainfall products because if the radar it matches up with the actual gage measured values, you’re more likely to trust that the radar derived values.
Looking at the graphic above, it’s pretty clear that CoCoRaHS data helps many people. During Tropical Storm Lee, many places experienced incredible amounts of rainfall. In fact, the highest measured rainfall amount of the more than 4,400 stations was measured at a CoCoRaHS stations in Colonial Beach, Virginia. At that location, 20.96″ of rain was measured over 4 days (1.52″ + 6.27″ + 12.00″ + 1.17″) – an average of 5.24″ of rain each day for 4 days. In the text description to the right, you can even see that the rainfall reported on September 9th was 12.00″ but that the gage only holds 12 inches and it had overflowed because of the incredible amounts of rainfall. Now, look at the areas that show up in white in the radar estimated rainfall graphic below. These are the areas where the radar estimated that more than 15″ of rainfall fell. Based on the CoCoRaHS measurements at Colonial Beach, there can be a much higher level of confidence in the radar estimated data because it matches up to the measured amounts.
You may think that this in only helpful for weather forecasters, but you would be mistaken. According to the CoCoRaHS website, “CoCoRaHS is used by a wide variety of organizations and individuals. The National Weather Service, other meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities (water supply, water conservation, storm water), insurance adjusters, USDA, engineers, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, outdoor & recreation interests, teachers, students, and neighbors in the community are just some examples of those who visit our Web site and use our data.”
In other states like Washington State some might think that rain gages aren’t as necessary because of recent improvements to the National Weather Service NEXRAD Radar (dual-polarization upgrade). But that simply isn’t the case. In a recent blog, Scott Sistek of KOMO News specifically addressed this issue and addressed the need for additional volunteers to participate and join the CoCoRaHS observer network:
“And while we’re talking radar, I wanted to forward another plea from the folks at NOAA for volunteers to join the CoCoRaHS observers network. Not only will you be helping researchers and the public get accurate rainfall data from around the region, but you can actually make the radar better! The new radar will have better technology to be able to estimate rainfall rates and accumulations than the current radars, but the algorithm was developed in Oklahoma and Colorado, says Ted Buenher with the National Weather Service office in Seattle. “So essentially, the technology is being tested for the first time in new environments around the country including ours,” he said.
Washington will be the first state to have all its radars equipped with the new technology and they’d love to have more rainfall observers to increase its accuracy. They have 700 volunteers in the group now, but want at least 5,000. “I like to call it instead of boots on the ground, rain gauges on the ground,” Buehner said. “The denser rain gauge network would help validate the new technology for the first ‘real’ time in a potential major event.” (Credit – Scott Sistek September 20th blog.
So how do I get involved??? You can get involved by contacting CoCoRaHS or your Local National Weather Service Forecast Office. You can even by a CoCoRaHS official rain gage for roughly $35 plus shipping from Ambien Weather.
In some states like Colorado, [According to Newman per the article above] “CoCoRaHS has invited every school in the state of Colorado to join the program. Newman has even offered to buy the rain gages for these schools.”
Share this message with other people you know around your communities. If you have an interest in having improved weather forecasts and warnings, especially for rain and flooding, get involved. Businesses, community centers, hospitals, 911 call centers, government complexes, schools, community organizations, anyone can participate!
We have a major opportunity in this country to develop a really strong network of rainfall observers. This information will help to validate the new weather radars and help refine the rainfall measurements even in locations where no gages are present.
- Cashion, Tyler – The Collegian- http://www.collegian.com/index.php/article/2011/09/local_science_network_asks_students_to_collect_rainwater_for_research
- Sistek, Scott – Blog – http://www.komonews.com/weather/blogs/scott/130167373.html