September 17, 2007

How Much Rain Did You Get? On-Line Network Wants To Know

By Neil Johnson, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Sep. 17--TAMPA -- Starting Oct. 1, weather enthusiasts in Florida can join a 22-state network of volunteer observers who measure and report rainfall for a free online database.

The nonprofit network has about 5,500 members and is run through Colorado State University with a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The goal is providing better measurements by gathering rainfall, hail and snowfall information from as many locations as possible and making the reports available online for free.

"The information will benefit all of us. We'll use it to balance our Doppler readings and spotters," said Brian LaMarre, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

Official weather service rain-measuring stations in the Tampa Bay area are sparse, located at a handful of airports and the weather service office.

With the scattered nature of Florida's rainfall, existing measuring locations will miss much of the water that falls.

"Your variability is amazing. It can be pouring in one place and not a half-mile away," said Henry Reges, meteorologist at Colorado State and national coordinator for the network. "This will try to fill in the gaps."

Though the rainfall readings are not official in the view of the weather service, meteorologists will use them, LaMarre said. One way is by matching them against the rainfall estimates from the weather service radar observations.

Other users include flood control districts, farmers and mosquito control, Reges said.

This collection of measuring sites, known as the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, was started in 1998 after major flooding hit Colorado, but few official measuring stations recorded any rain, Reges said.

Here's how the network works:

Anyone interested can contact the network at www to register as an observer. The network will not accept Florida registrations before Oct. 1.

The network will assign a station number and provide instructions for reporting and placing the gauge.

Rain gauges sell online for about $22. The network wants all its members to use the same type.

The network prefers for members to check the amount of rain each day at 7 a.m., then report the amount and comments at the network Web site.

The data is posted on maps online, along with running records of past rainfall.

Reporter Neil Johnson can be reached at (813) 259-7731 or [email protected]


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