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Wanted: Citizen Meteorologists

By Jesse Campbell (

Article Published: Apr. 3 | Modified: Apr. 3
Wanted: Citizen Meteorologists

There’s an old adage about weather in Boone: If you don’t like it, wait five minutes.

With the help of community members, state and national meteorologists can see if the tale holds any water.

While area fluctuations in temperature and participation might not be quite as dramatic as the “wait five minutes” adage might suggest, weather forecasters are now taking a more in-depth approach to studying rainfall and how it’s dispersed over the region.

This is where the community comes into play.

The National Weather Service is now accepting volunteers to participate in its Citizen Science Program, which asks participants to collect daily rainfall totals and enter them into an online database for future study.

Known nationally as the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network and fondly referred to as CoCoRaHS, the grassroots effort took root following a devastating flash flood that hit Colorado in July 1997.

That particular storm dumped more than a foot of water in several hours, while portions of the Ft. Collins area received only modest rainfall.

The organization was born in 1998, with the intent of improving the mapping and reporting of intense storms, such as these.

North Carolina became the 21st state to establish the program in 2007.

Through the program, thousands of volunteers document the size, intensity, duration and patterns of participation by taking simple measurements in their own backyards, according to a CoCoRaHS news release.

Volunteers can obtain an official rain gauge by visiting The cost for a gauge is $28, plus shipping and handling. Observations are then immediately available on maps for the public to view. The process takes only five minutes a day, but can impact a community by providing high quality and accurate measurements, according to the program.

“North Carolina has one of the most complex climates in the U.S.,” said Dr. Ryan Boyles, state climatologist and director of the State Climate Office, based at North Carolina State University. “Data gathered from CoCoRaHS volunteers are very important in better understanding local weather and climate patterns.”

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