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Become a Citizen Scientist With Us

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Written by: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator, with contributions from Cory Harris, Water Resources Engineer

Conduct a scientific study in your own backyard. By setting up a rain gauge on your property, you can measure the precipitation throughout the year. Gardeners will love being able to see how the rain affects their gardens; farmers will be able to better predict when rain falls on the crops, and landowners will develop a greater awareness of the environment they live in. If you set up a rain gauge, you can also participate in a large data collection, data that even we use here at Conservation Halton. The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a non-profit organization that collects and provides high quality weather and precipitation (rain, hail and snow) data through a network of volunteers. As a volunteer, you’re directly contributing to a public information resource for education, science, and policy. It’s participation through precipitation!

Local volunteers, like yourself, set up rain gauges, and the gauges are connected to the CoCoRahs network. Measurements are taken using these rain gauges and the precipitation information is entered into a large database of a network of rain gauges on the web. By setting up your own rain gauge, the data you collect will be made available online to all members of the public and is presented in a map or table format. You’ll immediately be able to see the measurements and trends online! Similarly, the data that others enter is also shared and made available to you. Eventually, the data collected through the network will likely be used in important studies related to climate change. It’s crowd-sourcing the collection of precipitation information for the benefit of all.

Conservation Halton supplements our rainfall data with the data collected from these rain gauges. The more rain gauges out there in the watershed, the more information we can use for our storm models. Engineers are better able to predict the impacts on the wetlands, creeks and flood prone areas within the watershed. The original rain gauge network we built was based on the assumption that the most severe storms we would be forecasting for would be hurricanes. Because of climate change, we’re now seeing a difference in the types of storms in the watershed. Storms previously dispersed across a broader area; but, now the data shows that storms have become more convective in nature. More storms of a convective nature mean that rainfall is more localized and intense, and harder to predict. Having a higher density of gauges in the area allows us to record more rainfall data to confirm and assess the spatial distribution, and also the severity of various storms.

Staff at Conservation Halton set up a rain gauge this past week. Families, Teachers: this is a great way to connect education and the environment! Students and children will learn every time it rains, and develop a greater awareness of the environment and weather patterns. They’re also truly contributing to a growing body of data with real-life implications.

Learn more about the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network at this link here: http://www.cocorahs.org/

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