As the cool, dry Florida winter gives way to the balmy winds of spring, the daily chance of rainy weather increases. The amount of precipitation that falls on the area is something the National Weather Service (NWS) likes to track, so it is recruiting volunteer weather watchers to help it do so.
Local residents with an interest in the weather can join the NWS Tampa Bay office in Ruskin’s rainfall monitoring efforts by becoming part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). The volunteer weather observers monitor rainfall amounts on their property and report the measurements to the NWS via a secure online portal.
There is no fee to participate, but volunteers may need to purchase a standard four-inch, high-capacity rain gauge that costs around $30 if they do not already possess one. The training required to properly collect and record rainfall is accomplished via a short training module that is completed online.
The data collected is used by the NWS to supplement information provided by its array of high-tech weather monitoring systems and it is helpful to other agencies in the water business, such as the Southwest Water Management District, for planning future projects. The information is also helpful to the NWS during major rain events like hurricanes and tropical storms and can be more accurate than weather radars that actually only provide rainfall estimates and are subject to calibration errors.
Austen Flannery is the NWS Tampa Bay CoCoRaHS coordinator, and he said this is an opportunity for people with an interest in weather and climatology to get involved in a meaningful way.
“CoCoRaHS data has proved to be invaluable for building a more complete picture of rainfall patterns across the Tampa Bay region. Reports are used for everything, from the evaluation of impacts associated with tropical cyclones to continually improving our understanding of day-to-day rainfall patterns in the summer months, to understanding the severity of drought conditions as they occur. The information not only allows the National Weather Service to fulfill the Weather-Ready Nation vision, but it also allows our residents to engage in citizen science, promoting service and stewardship in the process.”