Weather-data Tracking System Being Incorporated into Broader Effort

Weather-data Tracking System Being Incorporated into Broader Effort

April 24, 2009

Every day, around 7 a.m., thousands of volunteers in more than 40 states check and empty their rain gauges, then enter their data online, in the nation's most extensive grass-roots precipitation-reporting system.


Nebraska map showing daily precipitation monitoring sites


In Nebraska, volunteers located across the state record daily precipitation amounts for the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network. Visit the site to check levels by location and time period.

That system, known as the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), now is being integrated into other weather-data-tracking efforts, which should produce a more complete, seamless set of information, said Ken Hubbard, director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln-based High Plains Regional Climate Center.

The High Plains center has created a prototype to demonstrate how the system will work.

"The CoCoRaHS network will be incorporated into the Applied Climate Information System, which is a distributed climate data distribution system developed" by the High Plains and other regional climate centers, said William Sorensen, a programming analyst with UNL's School of Natural Resources.

"ACIS will allow resource managers, researchers and decision managers to access this data and derivative products seamlessly incorporated with other data networks in the country," Sorensen added.

Hubbard said CoCoRaHS has a higher resolution than most federal, regional and state networks. "It will be a tremendous addition to monitoring capabilities," he said.

"Precipitation and snow are highly variable and CoCoRaHS can provide many users with additional information, especially in counties that previously had few or no stations," Hubbard added. "This type of climate information on variability in space and time is increasingly important to decision makers, policy makers, consultants, engineers and strategy planners."

Art DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, said the integration of CoCoRaHS data will be especially useful in blending radar estimates of rainfall with gauge data.

This information is useful in a variety of ways, from estimating the populations of disease-carrying mosquitos to accessing the proper nitrogen fertilizer application rates for corn in various climate conditions, DeGaetano added.

Steve Hilberg, director of the University of Illinois-based Midwestern Regional Climate Center, said CoCoRaHS data has been useful in monitoring and analyzing heavy rain events, including flooding in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois last summer.

The added information also will help climate experts understand more about drought severity at local levels, said Mike Hayes, director of the UNL-based National Drought Mitigation Center.

Previously collected CoCoRaHS data and new daily data will be blended with other data from state, regional and federal networks. The prototype should be available in Colorado and Wyoming by early summer. Expansion to other states will follow.

Dan Moser
IANR News Service