i-Three Issue Corps – Citizen Science: Capturing Variability of Precipitation

Agriculture producers rely on the weather to bring them a good year for their livestock and crops.  However, as we all know, the weather can be a puzzle.  Precipitation is an important part of this puzzle and unfortunately can be very unpredictable in certain communities. Having a good sense of the precipitation within their community can help a producer with land management decisions. This information can be particularly important with changing weather and extreme weather events.

Through CoCoRaHS, also known as Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, citizen science can improve our understanding of precipitation.  The CoCoRaHS network includes all 50 states and citizen scientists including agriculture producers and general community members.  By using low-cost measurement tools and utilizing an interactive website and mobile application, CoCoRaHS gathers localized and timely recordings of precipitation.  Agriculture producers, natural resource managers, educators, and researchers use this information.

Through our i-Three Issue Corps project we recently had the pleasure of filming our interview of two CoCoRaHS citizen scientists who also use the data. We hoped to better understand why they volunteer and how the process works through the recorded interviews, and to share with potential citizen scientists and data users.  Expect these videos to be available this summer.

CoCoRaHS users include a rancher in Southwest Montana.  Rain gauges are nothing new to ranchers.  Comparing precipitation amount from field to field has been part of a way of life for a long time.  As such, the rancher decided to participate in CoCoRaHS to help his neighborhood gain an understanding of the localized precipitation to better plan livestock management.  The CoCoRaHS network provides the rancher an understanding of not only the precipitation information for their ranch, but how the precipitation looks across the region.

CoCoRaHS volunteer, Byron Martinell, shows University of Wyoming Extension Videographer, David Keto, how he checks the rain gauge. © Brad Bauer

Catherine Cain, owner of Southwest Montana Native Landscapes, LLC, is also a CoCoRaHS citizen scientist and data user in southwest Montana.  She uses the information from the CoCoRaHS network to help her customers select which varieties of native plants will work best in their personal garden. The information has helped the nursery better serve their clients.

University of Wyoming Extension Videographer David Keto captures citizen scientist Catherine Cain checking her CoCoRaHS rain gauge. © Brad Bauer
University of Wyoming Extension Videographer David Keto captures citizen scientist Catherine Cain checking her CoCoRaHS rain gauge. © Brad Bauer

Consider joining the CoCoRaHS network. As a CoCoRaHS volunteer you can have the feeling that you have made an important contribution that helps others.  A dense network of CoCoRaHS volunteers is important for monitoring drought and flood conditions because of variable rainfall patterns.  By providing your daily observation, you help to fill in a piece of the weather puzzle that affects many across your area in one-way or another. Join your friends and neighbors – it is easy to join!

Additional climate related information from Extension and partners can be found at:

MSU Climate Science Team http://cms.msuextension.org/climate/

USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub http://www.climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/northernplains

High Plains Regional Climate Center http://www.hprcc.unl.edu