Frequently Asked Questions
 

How do I join the network as a volunteer observer? Click on the "Join Us" section and fill out the registration form.  You will be assigned a station number and will be contacted by our station administrator with some welcome information.

Are there other things I can do to help the network? Yes, volunteers are a most treasured resouce and we have many ways that you can help. Please check out our Help Us page for more details.

What process happens when I sign up to be an observer? After you submit the application, a Station Number will automatically be assigned.  You will receive an automatically generated email with your Station Number and Login information.  The Station Administrator will then calculate the longitude and latitude for your station if you have not provided that information.  Your station will be assigned a Station Name . You will then receive our Welcome Email that includes your Station Information and Coordinator information along with training information. You should attend a CoCoRaHS training before entering data into our system (You may either train on line or sit in on a local volunteer training if one is available in your area).

Why do you need longitude and latitude?
We use that information to map your data. Please let us know if your data appears to be mapped in the wrong location.

Why do I need to attend a training session? We are trying to get the most consistent data possible using volunteer observers. We hope that you will be able to attend a training session, or at least read all of the on-line training information before entering data. We care about the accuracy of our data and hope that you will too.

When can I begin entering data? You may begin entering data as soon as you have been assigned a station name and station number and have attended a training session. Your data will appear on the Web immediately in both report and map form.

What does the station number mean?
The station number is generally the abbreviation of the state that you llive in, followed by your county followed by two or three number. Example: CO-LR-284. This would be Colorado-Larimer County-Station 284.

What does the station name mean?
The station name is generally the town name followed by a distance in decimal miles and a direction. For Example: 'Fort Collins 4.5 SW' means that you are approximately 4.5 miles Southwest of the geographical center of Fort Collins. The names are based on the direction and distance from an arbitrary point in a town or city based on coordinates provided by the National Weather Service.

Who is my Local Coordinator?
You may find your local coodinator by clicking on the following link: http://www.cocorahs.org/Content.aspx?page=coord.  If you don't see one for your county, please contact your state coordinator.

Do I have to check my rain gauge at 7am? No, but we would prefer it if you did. If you check your gauge at other times, your data may not be directly comparable to other data. If you check your gauge at night, your data will be in our reports but won't show up on our maps. We only map data that is collected within two hours of 7am.

Who will answer any questions I have about the CoCoRaHS network?  You should first try contacting the Local or State Coordinator for your area. You may also contact CoCoRaHS Headquarters during normal business hours at: (970) 491-8545 or (970) 491-1196.  Learn more at our Contact Us page.

Who do I e-mail with any questions or comments about the web site?  Any questions regarding the Web site should be directed to our general e-mail info@cocorahs.org , which will be forwarded to our Web masters.

Where is CoCoRaHS Headquarters located?
   We are located on the Foothills Campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Please stop by the next time you are in the Fort Collins area.

Why does CoCoRaHS not use automated rain gauges?

We are often asked why CoCoRaHS does not encourage the use of automatic rain gauges to report 24 hour precipitation totals.  After all, many weather enthusiasts already have electronic home weather stations with automatic rain gauges to record precipitation  -  why should they also purchase a separate CoCoRaHS gauge?

Unfortunately, it turns out that rain gauges are not all created equal and do not all report the same.  The Colorado Climate Center has been involved in rain gauge studies for many years and have had dozens of volunteers like you test their automated gauges against either the CoCoRaHS 4" diameter gauge or the National Weather Service (NWS) 8" diameter Standard Rain Gauge.  We have also tested National Weather Service Automated Surface Observing System tipping bucket rain gauges  (not unlike the tipping bucket gauges that come with most home weather stations, but sturdier and a lot more expensive).

While the NWS and CoCoRaHS gauges compare quite well with each other (our tests indicate that the CoCoRHS gauge has a collection efficiency of 101-105% compared to the standard NWS gauge), the majority of automated rain gauges, when summed over several months or years, report less precipition than actually fell by a significant amount -- sometimes 25% or more.  Moreover, none of the automated gauges  work well in areas that receive snow.  This is not acceptable for our project because we are interested in observing and understanding natural precipitation variability, as accurately as possible.  If we're all using different kinds of gauges with different abilities to catch precipitation, it's too hard to determine if differences in rain or snowfall are "real" or due to the kind of instrument that was used to report the measurement.

Because of these test results, we have asked our observers to please set up a CoCoRaHS 4" gauge along with their automated gauge and see for themselves.  Many observers have converted to using the 4" gauge as their daily measurement when they see the results, and then use their automated gauge as a backup when they are gone.  It is very good to use the two in combination.  But whenever people do use their automated gauge as their measurement, we request that they mention that in the daily "observation notes".

For those of you who decide it's too much trouble to purchase a CoCoRaHS gauge in addition to your automatic system, you may still be able to share your data with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA - the organization that oversees the NWS) via their Citizen Weather Observation Program (CWOP).  This program makes home weather station data available to the NWS for certain real time applications. WeatherUnderground is another system for web-based data sharing.  

For climate data and research applications, as well as supporting the "NowCasting" goals of NOAA, we encourage you to use the 4" diameter high capacity manual rain gauge and join CoCoRaHS.