The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 5, 2014

Weather watcher wanted

OTTUMWA — Almost every time there’s a storm, people challenge the official rain totals. It seems the gauge in their yard usually gets more rain than the total from the automated station that measures precipitation.

But now there’s a chance to bring the official measurements into line with what’s happening at your place.

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said Ottumwa needs someone to take official measurements and send them to the National Weather Service, or you can participate in an online effort to map precipitation.

The in-person measurements haven’t been done in Ottumwa since October of last year. And Hillaker said routine measurements stopped even before that.

The NWS report is the official data for Ottumwa. They’re looking for once-daily reports on precipitation, at around 7 a.m., for either rain or the liquid equivalent of the snowfall. This position will also have responsibility for reporting ice or snow depths, and the reports are filed online.

“The NWS provides the necessary weather equipment and training for their co-op program. This is a volunteer position, and only one opening available. It would be preferable if the observation site was within a five mile radius of Ottumwa,” Hillaker said.

The position isn’t so critical for most of the year, but winter weather isn’t as easy to measure remotely as rain. Winter, Hillaker said, is when things “really go downhill” and a person can do a much better job.

The other opportunity is the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). It’s an online effort to track rain, hail and snow, and they’ll take as many people as want to sign up for the program.

The catch is that you must use a particular style of rain gauge. It sounds picky, but there’s a good reason to standardize: different gauges can produce different readings from the same storm.

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