Paul Yura is an Austin-born, Texas-educated forecaster who, naturally, wants the Lone Star state to win an annual contest near and dear to his heart.
Yura is the second-in-command of the National Weather Service office that serves the Austin-San Antonio region. The office has powerful weather-observation technology, but in weeks like this one in particular, it also relies “ground truth”: what people see, hear, feel and report — observations that will either square with the tech or show where it’s still imprecise. A big piece of ground truth comes from rain gauges in peoples’ backyards. A great way to supply that particular kind of truth comes from CoCoRaHS, which is somewhat short for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.
Those are large rain gauges distributed by the CoCoRaHS (“sounds like cocoa puffs”). The nationwide network of weather enthusiasts — which you can join — is now having its own “March Madness.” It’s this contest that Yura wants to win. He wants Texas to add the most CoCoRaHS of any state this year. They look like this:
And they’re used like this:
Why does that matter? Precipitation measurements help with everything from large-scale agriculture to knowing whether you should fix your gutters. In Colorado, where CoCoRaHS began, snowfall influences a great many things. In Central Texas, it is particularly useful in understanding the flood patterns of “flash flood alley.”
“Having real rainfall reports from actual locations can really help us with our watches and warnings,” Yura said.
The gauges are available online (one site has them for $30.50) and there is a link through the web site of the National Weather Service’s Austin-San Antonio office. One you have a suitable rain gauge, you can go to the CoCoRaHS web site and register. Then, just enter rainfall totals in the database. Both you and the experts can track rainfall totals. Or, email Bill Runyon, a Texas CoCoRaHS observer and retired Weather Service employee, at Texas.CoCoRaHS@austin.rr.com.
But hurry. March Madness is already underway. As of March 6, the most recent day available, North Carolina led the way with 14 new CoCoRaHS added. Texas was in fifth place, with 11 added.