October 24, 2007 | By: Aimee Nielson

On Nov. 1, Kentucky is set to join more than 20 other states using community volunteers to measure and map precipitation.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network (CoCoRaHS) is a unique, nonprofit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation including rain, hail and snow.

“We are excited to become a part of the CoCoRaHS network,” said Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture meteorologist and co-coordinator of Kentucky network. “The great thing about this is that anyone can volunteer and participate, young or old. The only real requirements are an enthusiasm for weather watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact the lives of Kentuckians.”

By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education and using an interactive Web site, CoCoRaHS’ aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. With each rain, hail or snow event, volunteers take measurements of precipitation at their location. Afterward, volunteers record precipitation reports online at http://www.cocorahs.org. The database then generates, organizes and displays reports for anyone to apply to daily situations ranging from water resource analysis and severe storm warnings to neighbors comparing how much rain fell in their backyards. Priddy said every Kentucky county will have a precipitation map with daily updates.

“We know that precipitation greatly varies from county to county and even within communities,” Priddy said. “Having a network of volunteers will help us see the true precipitation picture across Kentucky, and that can be very important, especially in drought years where every little bit of moisture matters.”

Joe Sullivan, coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Louisville said the collected data will play a part in NWS forecasting.

"CoCoRaHS reports will provide the National Weather Service with high resolution rainfall data that we will use to provide more accurate flood and flash flood warnings,” he said.

Priddy said Tennessee has built up a large network in a very short time. 

“They’ve gathered more than 600 volunteers just since April,” he said. “When we get up and running, this network will provide accurate, high-quality precipitation data for our many end users on a timely basis. We’ll be able to increase the density of precipitation data available throughout the country by encouraging volunteer weather observing. We’ll also be encouraging citizens to have fun participating in meteorological science and heightening their awareness about weather. One other outcome of starting the CoCoRaHS network in Kentucky is providing enrichment activities in water and weather resources for teachers, educators and the community at large to name a few.”

"CoCoRaHS will provide detail about the geographic variability of measured precipitation that has previously been unavailable to those who study and rely upon weather data,” said Stu Foster, state climatologist at Western Kentucky University and Kentucky CoCoRaHS co-coordinator. “The Kentucky Climate Center is excited to be part of this joint initiative that is sure to benefit people throughout the commonwealth.”

Kentucky CoCoRaHS is a collaboration of the UK College of Agriculture, Kentucky Climate Center at Western Kentucky University, Kentucky’s National Weather Service offices and Kentucky Farm Service Agency.

For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, contact Priddy at 859-257-3000, ext. 245 or via e-mail at Priddy@email.uky.edu

The network originated with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998, due in part to the Fort Collins flood a year prior. In the years since, CoCoRaHS has expanded rapidly with more than 4,500 observers in more than twenty states.


Tom Priddy, 859-257-3000, ext. 245