Rain, snow observers needed to better assess North Dakota drought

North Dakota State University Extension
Farm Forum

A statewide citizen science network is looking for volunteers for rain and snow reporting in North Dakota.

These observers will measure rainfall, snowfall and snow depth as part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Observers also are encouraged to measure the water equivalent of the snow after it melts, although that is optional.

“This is your chance to become part of the state’s climatological history and contribute to an accurate flood potential forecast in your local areas as well as drought assessment during the growing season,” says Adnan Akyuz, state climatologist and professor of climatological practices at North Dakota State University.

North Dakotans have been collecting precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) data since the early 1900s in most places. When farmers, engineers, and weather and river forecasters ask for precipitation data for a given location, that information comes mostly from volunteer observers.

“Providing that data is fun and easy, and only takes five minutes a day,” Akyuz says. “The data, however, have tremendous value for farmers, researchers, forecasters and decision makers.”

Data from CoCoRaHS Network volunteers routinely are being viewed and used by meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities, insurance adjusters, agribusinesses, engineers, science teachers and the National Weather Service. Data are used for many applications, such as flooding, water resource planning, severe storm warnings, teaching earth science, predicting crop yields and assessing drought.

“We need as many volunteer observers as possible around the state to fill the gap, especially in unrepresented rural areas,” Akyuz says.

“We have a lot of training materials for you to participate in this activity,” he adds. “All you need is an interest in weather and a 4-inch cylindrical rain gauge.

“Currently, more than half a million North Dakota citizens are under a drought in the heart of the rural farm and rangeland,” Akyuz says. “Your observation in these areas can help identify fast-emerging drought for decision makers to allocate resources to mitigate the impact.”

This year, Akyuz is giving away 10 CoCoRaHS designer face masks to random new observers. To qualify for the drawing, you must join the network in March and submit your first observation by April 15.

Visit https://bit.ly/3sJN9ni to learn more about joining the network.

State climatologist Adnan Akyuz models a designer mask that will go to 10 North Dakotans who sign up to be weather observers.