Wanted: weather watchers | SummitDaily.com

Wanted: weather watchers

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SUMMIT COUNTY – State water experts hope to develop an early warning system for drought using a grassroots network of trained weather watchers.

Summit County and Grand County will be part of the data-gathering effort for the Upper Colorado River Basin, relying on readings from more than a dozen local volunteers who measure and report precipitation to help fill in the gaps between the National Weather Service’s three official stations in the county – Breckenridge, Dillon, and Green Mountain Dam.

Dave Matthews, with the Summit County Rotary Club, has spearheaded the successful effort to recruit and train weather volunteers in Summit County to help with the program.

“Many of us remember the extreme drought conditions that developed across Colorado in 2002,” said Nolan Doesken, state climatologist since 1977. “We knew it was getting dry that spring, but we didn’t anticipate how quickly we would be facing extreme widespread drought. The goal of this project is to do a better job of anticipating and tracking future drought.”

Doesken has been interviewing dozens of water users, planners and managers in recent months, determining that water planners would like to have an accurate forecast of drought two years in advance.

“That sounds like a reasonable request, and weather forecasts continue to get better. But accurate forecasts weeks to months in advance are still a very tall order,” he said.

“Regardless of forecasts, if we do a better job of tracking local climate variations we’re less likely to be caught by surprise,” said Henry Reges, the national coordinator for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network known as CoCoRaHS.

On Dec. 2, Doesken and Reges will recognie Dr. Matthews and other local volunteers who have helped make the project a success.

Summit County has been a very active participant in CoCoRaHS since the 2002 drought.

“Rain and snow are so variable here in Colorado, especially in the mountains,” Doesken said. “A distance of only a mile can make a big difference. We could definitely use more volunteers here in Summit County. I hope we can recruit several more.”

For more information about this “drought early warning system,” contact Nolan Doesken, State Climatologist, Colorado Climate Center, Colorado State University. (970) 491-3690 nolan@atmos.colostate.edu

To sign up to help measure and report precipitation, go to http://www.cocorahs.org and click “Join CoCoRaHS” or contact dmatthewsdss@comcast.net or Gerry Divine cjdivine@comcast.net.

For more information on the National Integrated Drought Information System, go to: http://www.drought.gov.

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