FARGO — Forecasters draw upon precipitation reports from a network of observers scattered throughout North Dakota. Bigger is better when it comes to the size of the network: More observers mean forecasters have more information.
Adnan Akyüz, the state climatologist for North Dakota, is urging more people to volunteer for the precipitation reporting network.
“We need more observers today,” he said. “As a state climatologist, I need to know what the statewide situation is. More data points can increase forecast accuracy.”
Although 300 people around the state have volunteered to report precipitation amounts for their areas, only a “handful” are active year-round, leaving significant reporting gaps, he said.
The appeal for volunteers is especially pressing as spring flooding looms throughout much of the state, including in the Red River Valley. An important component of flood forecasting is measuring the water equivalent contained in the snow cover.
“This is your chance to become part of the state’s climatological history and contribute to an accurate flood potential forecast in your local areas,” Akyüz said.
The precipitation reports are systematically compiled through the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, known informally as CoCoRaHS.
In fact, Akyüz said, most of the precipitation data that weather and river forecasters rely upon comes from volunteer observers.
“Providing that data is fun and easy, and only takes five minutes a day,” he said.
Still, activity from network observers typically drops during the winter months because of the weather conditions and early morning darkness; the network prefers observations to be posted by 7 a.m.
Average participation in the network is 15 to 20 reports each day during the summer. On a recent March morning, 11 observations were recorded.
Farmers also can benefit from a more densely populated reporting network, Akyüz said. During droughts, for instance, areas that lack a weather reporting station might be overlooked, meaning farmers in the area might not qualify for assistance.
“All of us are equally taking advantage of more data points,” he said. “We need as many volunteer observers as possible around the state to help forecast flood potential, as well as drought assessments.”
North Dakota joined the national CoCoRaHS network in 2009. Since then, it has won “March Madness” recognition for signing up the most new observers per capita four times.
To learn more about joining the network, go online to www.cocorahs.org.