North Dakota is seeking weather observers for nationwide network

Farm Forum

A nationwide rain and snow reporting network is looking for volunteers in North Dakota to become part of the state’s climatological history.

“We need as many volunteer observers as possible around the state to help forecast flood potential, especially in the Red River Valley,” says Adnan Akyuz, 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.

“We want to keep the trophy at home,” Akyuz says.

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