Summit County weather watchers wanted for national climate studies

Breeana Laughlin

To learn more about CoCoRaHS, contact Spears at or visit To volunteer, click the “join us” button at the top right of the CoCoRaHS home page and fill out the short form. Training is available online for new volunteers.

Summit County residents are being asked to take part in a simple program that provides data to the National Weather Service, agencies such as Denver Water and climate change studies.

CoCoRaHS, or the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network, is a national program started in Colorado in 1998 that provides data about precipitation throughout the 50 states and parts of Canada. CoCoRaHS is the largest provider of daily precipitation observations in the United States, and the network’s representatives are looking for hundreds of new observers to help track Colorado’s climate.

Observations are easy and take just a minute or two each day, said Chris Spears, with the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins.

A meteorology degree is not required to participate, just an interest in learning more about climate and the impacts it has on water and vegetation through the measurement of rain, hail and snow levels, Spears said.

“It can be someone who loves the weather and said they wish they would have become a meteorologist to someone who just wants to do it as a hobby,” Spears said.

The program doesn’t cost money other than the purchase of a standard rain gauge. CoCoRaHS uses a 4-inch diameter gauge with a 1-inch inner tube, funnel lid and 10-inch-capacity overflow can. Gauges can be purchased online or at hardware stores and usually cost about $30, Spears said.

CoCoRaHS observers are asked to make daily reports to a website. The site generates daily maps based on the data reported.

“It’s really cool because after a rain or snow storm comes in you can see your county and who got the heavy rain and who got missed,” he said.

Volunteers who participate in the program often become more water conscious.

“When you have a rain gauge in your yard and you use it every day, you really get a lot of self-education,” Spears said.

“Let’s say your rain gauge has been dry for the past 30 days. You really start to say, ‘Wow, where is my water coming from?’” he said. “You may turn the water down when you brush your teeth to make sure you’re not wasting it.”

A volunteer near a forest fire once recorded ash in their rain gauge.

“When those kinds of things happen it makes you think about your role, and conserving resources,” Spears said.

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