Climate Variability: Learning by Experience

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Monday, 18 January 2010: 4:15 PM
B214 (GWCC)
Nolan J. Doesken, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO; and H. Reges, R. Cifelli, J. Turner, and Z. Schwalbe

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network (CoCoRaHS) provides opportunities for people of all ages across the U.S. to participate in daily monitoring and reporting of precipitation patterns. Thousands of volunteers are helping every day to track storms as they move across the country. Data from CoCoRaHS are of sufficient quality and value that they are now being incorporated into standard National Weather Service and Regional Climate Center monitoring products, and CoCoRaHS is becoming the single largest source for confident manual daily measurements of precipitation in the U.S.

Thanks to the Internet, the process of taking simple back-yard measurements and reporting data online is helping connect thousands of volunteers from across the U.S. with the needs, concerns and priorities of professional atmospheric scientists, climatologists and hydrologists. Because precipitation is arguably the most variable of all climate elements, CoCoRaHS demonstrates the nature and significance of climate variability. Through the CoCoRaHS precipitation maps that are updated continuously, participants and visitors to the CoCoRaHS website (http://www.cocorahs.org) experience the nature of spatial variability every day. Over time, CoCoRaHS participants personally observe the large variations in rain, hail and snow from one year to the next and how that affects their lives and their communities. Discussing climate change with the public through CoCoRaHS requires special care since the large observed variations in precipitation can be misinterpreted in the context of climate change. However, through ongoing correspondence and engagement, CoCoRaHS participants become more aware of the complexities of atmospheric processes and the connections between daily weather and long-term climate.