By Brad Stager
Keeping up with the day-to-day weather conditions in the Tampa Bay area can make life interesting, especially with the region’s rainy season just about to start.
While there is not much any one person can do about the day’s forecast, people who are curious about the weather can participate in an organized effort to closely monitor how much rain the local area receives.
The National Weather Service (NWS) Tampa Bay office in Ruskin is looking for volunteers who will measure rainfall amounts and report the information online to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS.
Meteorologist Dustin Norman of NWS Tampa Bay in Ruskin is coordinating the recruitment of rainwatchers in the Tampa Bay area. He said this is a way for participants of all ages and backgrounds to experience a bit of the science behind the forecast in a relatively casual yet satisfying way as they “take measurements, report that data and see that data plotted.”
Norman added that schools are also encouraged to become involved in the program and that there is a particular need for better documentation of rainfall in remote, less populated areas.
The collected data can be analyzed and used by organizations such as the Southwest Florida Water Management District for things like project planning, according to Norman, who added that the information is also helpful to the NWS during major rain events like Hurricanes Irma and Eta, and can be more accurate than high-tech weather radar systems that actually only provide rainfall estimates and are subject to calibration errors.
The information may also be useful to scientists researching phenomena like blue-sky rain, or serein, which is observed as rain falling from a cloudless sky.
Rainfall measurements are made with a standardized manual rain gauge that can be purchased for about $30. According to Norman, everyone using the same equipment is vital to ensuring consistency in the data collected throughout the network of rain spotters. Training is conducted online.
You can learn more information by visiting the CoCoRaHS webpage at www.cocorahs.org, or call the NWS Tampa Bay office at 645-2323. There are also informational videos on collecting and measuring rain (as well as snow and hail) at the CoCoRaHS HQ YouTube channel.