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Map of the United States with data points uploaded by CoCoRaHS citizen scientists.

Empowering Citizen Scientists - Explore the new Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow (CoCoRaHS) Data Explorer tool

By: Fil Baloca, Contractor GSA Open Innovation
25 April 2024

Inclusion, collaboration, and scientific advancement are values that motivate CitizenScience.Gov. The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Education, illustrates these values. CoCoRaHS strives to bridge the gap between the federal government and the public to foster inclusive participation in scientific discovery. The new CoCoRaHS Data Explorer is a powerful tool for the public to engage with environmental data like never before. Currently, with more than 25,000 active CoCoRaHS stations, collecting +14,000 reports per day, there have been nearly 72 million records collected in the last 26 years. Now, with the CoCoRaHS Data Explorer, this wealth of information is easily accessible and understandable for all.

The CoCoRaHS Data Explorer was made possible through a grant from NOAA’s Office of Education, and donations from CoCoRaHS supporters. “They really have gone above and beyond with the grant funding we provided,” said John McLaughlin, Education Program Manager with NOAA and Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (FedCCS) community of practice co-chair. “Many of our funding opportunities focus on community resilience. We have found that many projects to create resilience to climate change use CoCoRaHS as a tool.”

The CoCoRaHS network launched in 1998 in partnership with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. Since then, CoCoRaHS volunteers of all ages have diligently measured and mapped precipitation and their efforts have generated multitudes of invaluable data. To be part of the collaborative, the only requirement is that all volunteers must use the same type of manual rain gauge for data collection. NOAA partners with CoCoRaHS to recruit and train volunteers to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail, and snow), and data is collected in all 50 states and territories and all Canadian provinces.

Anyone can use the CoCoRaHS Data Explorer tool to find and view precipitation normals and compare real data using innovative data visualization products. CoCoRaHS data are combined with weather information from satellites, radar, and other sources to create the daily participation maps published by the National Weather Service.

“CoCoRaHS volunteers are happy to ‘ground truth’ what radar and satellite might be seeing in between the gaps where no data currently exists. CoCoRaHS is filling those gaps,” said Noah Newman, Research Coordinator for the Colorado Climate Center, and Education and Outreach Coordinator for CoCoRaHS.

CoCoRaHS data are used by a wide variety of groups, agencies, companies, schools, and more. For example, the data are used for infrastructure development planning, as structures including bridges, spillways, and dams must be designed to withstand extreme levels of precipitation. Additionally, farmers and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) use CoCoRaHS data to understand crop conditions, plan irrigation, and for market cycle predictions. Whether it’s farmers planning irrigation or engineers designing infrastructure, the insights gleaned from volunteer-collected data are vitally important.

The CoCoRaHS initiative, with the support of NOAA, is just one collaborative project between federal government agencies and the public featured on CitizenScience.Gov. Citizen science projects empower individuals to actively contribute to and participate in scientific research. These projects increase public trust in science, advance scientific knowledge, and embody inclusive and participatory approaches to scientific research. Projects like CoCoRaHS lead us to a greater understanding of our natural world and more effective environmental stewardship.