If You Can’t Beat The Snow, Measure It

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by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

People who make an impact are sometimes called “rainmakers.” But how about those who measure the rain? Knowledge about rain and snow patterns in New Jersey is power!

New Jersey needs volunteers to measure and log local precipitation data. You can volunteer through the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, a unique, national, non-profit group of volunteers who measure and map precipitation in its various forms – rain, hail and snow.

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The group has adopted “CoCoRaHS” as its nickname because it’s catchier than a straight-up acronym like CCRHS. “CoCoRaHS” might be mistaken for a type of chocolate-flavored breakfast cereal!

CoCoRaHS volunteers include people of all ages, from students to senior citizens. Requisite tools are inexpensive – a rain gauge and yardstick to measure precipitation, and access to an internet-connected computer to log your findings at the CoCoRaHS website.

What sets CoCoRaHS data apart – aside from its national scope – is the training and education it gives volunteers in order to make their measurements as accurate as possible. The placement of a rain gauge or the timing of a snowfall measurement can swing the results dramatically. CoCoRaHS and local network partners, like the New Jersey State Climatologists Office and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, are teaching volunteers the best practices for measuring rain, snow and hail.

The resulting CoCoRaHS data is used by everyone from scientists to students and hobbyists, including the National Weather Service, other meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, local utilities and governments, insurance adjusters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, engineers, mosquito control commissions, outdoor recreation interests, farmers, teachers, and others involved in water supply, water conservation and stormwater management.

The CoCoRaHS network started at the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998, largely in response to a major flood. Today the network has thousands of volunteers contributing data in all 50 states.

New Jersey officially joined the network in February 2008, with data now gathered at hundreds of weather stations around the Garden State.

But the data gets better with more volunteers. The nonprofit Pinelands Preservation Alliance recently partnered with the State Climatologist’s Office to bolster monitoring efforts in the seven counties of the Pine Barrens. The additional data, it is hoped, will help the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and others better understand the relationships between rainfall and runoff within the Pine Barrens.

If you’d like to volunteer in the Pinelands – or anywhere else in this state we’re in – contact Assistant State Climatologist Mat Gerbush at gerbush@cep.rutgers.edu or 732-445-3076. You can also find everything you need to know at the CoCoRaHS website at www.cocorahs.org. For information on the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, go to www.pinelandsalliance.org.

And if you’d like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources, please visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.


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