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Fascinated by Nevada’s crazy weather? Help meteorologists predict it

Posted 3/15/2018

Woman holding a rain gauge

Volunteer weather observer Janet O’Neill takes a measurement using a rain gauge. Photo by Kerri Jean Ormerod.

Researchers seek volunteer weather observers

March Madness might just as well describe Nevada’s extremely variable weather this month. That’s why a nonprofit organization finds this an ideal time to recruit local citizens to collect weather data to help meteorologists better predict Nevada’s confusing weather.

CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, and the organization is actually active in all 50 states, several Canadian Provinces, and parts of the Caribbean. Nevada began participating in 2007, and the University of Nevada, Reno; Desert Research Institute; and National Weather Service co-coordinate the program in the state. Community-based volunteers work together to measure and map precipitation — rain, hail and snow. Using low-cost measurement tools, mainly a 4-inch rain gauge, these weather observers just take a couple minutes each day to measure precipitation in their own backyards. The training is provided online.

“It’s a very simple task, but it takes dedication to doing it daily, around the same time of day,” explained Kerri Jean Ormerod, co-coordinator of CoCoRaHS in Nevada. “Currently, we have about 100 regular observers across the state. We’d like to at least double that number this year. The more observations, the better.”

Ormerod conducts research and education on water, climate and drought hazards for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and is an assistant professor of geography with the University’s College of Science. Besides helping meteorologists better predict Nevada’s confusing weather, she said CoCoRaHS hopes to help various groups, such as farmers, ranchers, emergency management personnel and research scientists, make better-informed decisions.

“If we can collect more data on our precipitation and weather, analyze and explain it, it can serve several purposes,” Omerod said. “As the driest state in the nation, it is especially important to report zeros, or the lack of precipitation. This is critical information necessary to track and respond to drought.”

She said they are recruiting volunteer observers from “anywhere and everywhere” across the state, but are especially looking for people in areas where they are currently lacking observers, including those who live somewhat close to U.S. Route 95. The standard rain gauge usually costs around $30, but University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has some funding to provide them for free to about 100 volunteer observers.

Those interested can go online to submit an application, or contact Cooperative Extension’s Heather Angeloff, a Regional Coordinator for the project, for more information at 775-463-6541 or angeloffh@unce.unr.edu.

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