Denver Master Gardeners had the chance to learn why Colorado’s climate can be so frustrating during an entertaining presentation by Nolan Doesken of CSU’s Colorado Climate Center.
The July program was one half continuing education on the basics of our state’s climate and one half recruiting effort for more rain gauge volunteers. Both halves are important to anyone who’s affected by Colorado’s crazy weather.
Doesken is the state climatologist and the founder of CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. What started as a small volunteer effort in 1998 to track and map precipitation in northern Colorado has expanded to include thousands of volunteers in all 50 states, Canada and the Bahamas.
CoCoRaHS volunteers measure and report the amount of precipitation that falls in their yards. The combined data gives a comprehensive precipitation picture that’s important to natural resource education and research.
Colorado started tracking climate data in the 1870s, but that data was collected only at weather stations. Some of the first official weather measurements were on wind pressure, speed and direction.
But there’s an ongoing need for data that helps tell the weather story in more detail. The combination of Colorado’s high elevation, mid-latitude location, complex mountain topography plus our location far from the continent’s moisture sources make for a challenging climate, Doesken explained.
We can also blame those confounding 40-degree temperature swings from one day to the next on those factors, too.
Anyone who has an interest in being a citizen scientist or learning more about the weather is invited to join the CoCoRaHS network. Volunteers use high-capacity rain gauges placed wherever rain can land without interruption.
Because precipitation can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, volunteers are needed in all areas. Each time it rains, hails or snows, volunteers measure the amount of precipitation and report it on the program’s website.
The rainfall reports get used every single day, Doesken said. Even 0″ precipitation reports are important. Data users include weather forecasters, hydrologists, researchers, farmers, ranchers, engineers and many others.
By Jodi Torpey
A Denver Master Gardener