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Volume 14, Issue 11 ~ March 16 - March 22, 2006

If You Don’t Like the Weather …

Do Something about It

by Ben Miller

Discouraged by the weather? Doubtful about weather forecasts? Now you can do something — if not about the weather, at least about the forecasts.

How? By becoming a volunteer weather observer.

As part of a nationwide network of observers, you will measure rain, hail, sleet and snow. Then you’ll send daily reports to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Observing Network interactive web site.

Why — with today’s sophisticated equipment — does this nationwide, Colorado State University-based project need observers?

Radar estimates rainfall. But “there is no substitute for ground-truth reports,” said Bruce Sullivan, coordinator of the network for Maryland.

“Precipitation, especially thunderstorms, is notorious for having a large variation over small distances,” says Gregg Gallina, one of a small core of Maryland volunteers and Anne Arundel County coordinator. He needs help in watching the weather of Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, especially south of Route 50 and east of Route 4.

Both Sullivan and Gallina work as meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But you don’t need to be a pro to sign on to measure rain, snow, sleet and hail and storm downpours.

You train in person or online. Equipment is free or inexpensive and can be purchased online.

Your real-time reports help the National Weather Service making flash flood or hail warnings.

Not only meteorologists care about how you do this job. All kinds of people — from city managers, to farmers, engineers and the curious — use www.cocorahs.org for instant weather reports and precipitation information. In Chesapeake Country, hydrologists use the reports to monitor big flows into the water system.

“One of the good things is that you come away with the feeling that you have helped others and possibly saved some lives,” says Sullivan.

You can join or get more information at www.cocorahs.org or by emailing greg.gallina@noaa.gov.

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