I’ve been a measurer, sorter, lister, and observer my whole life. From organizing my elementary school neighborhood gang to collect and identify butterflies in our backyards, high school trips to Colorado to identify wildflowers, and then my water quality career here in Vermont, I’ve been collecting data to understand local environments. It just makes me happy to observe what is happening in my ‘backyard’.
Rain gauge used by the CoCoRahs program.
Recently, I’ve been exploring my 14.5 year precipitation record. Way back in 2009, I joined the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, & Snow Network (CoCoRahs) precipitation monitoring network. Before that, I had a notebook where I’d been recording observations, but this was a whole new level. Volunteers across the country used identical simple rain gauges, snow boards and rulers to document daily precipitation. Data was uploaded daily by 9am to a site on the web and available in map form to the public. You could download your data at the end of the year, but it was also available to researchers looking for local, national, and international precipitation data. What was not to love for a measurer like me?!
Fast forward to 2023. This year, CoCoRahs introduced their new Data Explorer and it has been so much fun to peruse my 14 year record. It’s been interesting to look at long-term precipitation patterns. I do like to travel, so there are some holes in the data record that need to be watched for. Still, there are some interesting things to glean from the basic graphs and tables produced by the Data Explorer.
General Precipitation Thoughts
2011 and 2023 clearly stand out with major daily rainfall events at my house. The graph below shows total daily precipitation, which includes rain and melted snow, during my 14 year record. In 2011, there were actually 3 big daily precipitation events in my neighborhood – more than 15 inches of snow on top of rain in March, a May downpour that caused flooding at my house and also nearby Barre, and then Tropical Storm Irene in August.
Daily precipitation graph produced by the CoCoRahs Data Explorer. This one shares my 14 year data effort.
Snowfall, shown in the graph below, is interesting too. My recollection of last winter was that we didn’t have a lot of snow and I wasn’t able to get out for cross-country skiing because of it. Yet, the data doesn’t show that much difference compared to previous years of snowfall in my data. So, where did my perception that there was less snow come from? I’ll have to dig a little deeper before I can understand why I felt that way about the winter of 2022-23.
Daily snowfall totals are shown in this Data Explorer figure. Again, these reflect conditions at my monitoring location.
Monthly precipitation patterns are shown below. Two things struck me about this one. The first is that April weather patterns seems to have shifted towards more precipitation here at my house since 2017. November may be headed in that direction too. In contrast, May seems to be getting drier. That matches up with my gardening memories – I feel like I can get seedlings and seeds into the ground earlier than I used, but I need to water them more.
Here you see 14+ years of monthly precipitation totals. So much to mull over in this graph!
CoCoRahs Data Are For Public Use
Daily maps of precipitation totals have been available on the web for public use. There is a lot to glean from these maps showing data collected by citizen scientists across the US, Canada, and the Bahamas. Now, the data is available to the public through the new Data Explorer as well. You can use the map to see it there is a station near you or explore precipitation trends across the country.
Better yet, you can join as a volunteer precipitation monitor. It does require you to purchase an inexpensive rain gauge (around $35 at the moment) and take daily measurements. In addition to daily precipitation, there are options to report frost, total snowpack, severe weather, drought, and local conditions. Data is easily uploaded and viewed. There is an option for multi-day reports to cover any trips you like to make and it’s not a problem if you forget to upload your data that morning. Upload it when it’s convenient for you. What better way to satisfy your urge track something (anything!) and support climate data research at the same time.