Weather enthusiasts sought

State climatologist seeking volunteers to help with study

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Across Colorado, there are hordes of weather enthusiasts -- people who get a thrill from watching and talking about what's going on in the sky.

Now, assistant state climatologist Nolan Doesken is looking for weather fans to put in some extra effort for a statewide study on rain, snow and hail.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Study was started by Colorado State University and other partners in 1998 to track storms on a small scale.

As anyone who watches weather -- or who has lived in a place such as Steamboat Springs for a few years -- knows, weather can vary greatly in a short distance, Doesken said. The sun can be shining in downtown Steamboat, while snow is piling up on Mount Werner.

"So if we're trying to accurately map, describe, display and learn about our storms, we need to be measuring them on the scales they occur," Doesken said.

About 600 volunteers have been helping to measure weather on a smaller scale along the Front Range and into the foothills, he said. Because of public interest, the goal is to have one volunteer in every square mile of the state, he said.

Doesken is coming to northwestern Colorado at the end of this week to recruit volunteers and give a free training session on becoming a weather monitor. Volunteers will receive a free or low-cost rain gauge, as well as inexpensive hail-measuring devices, and they are asked to track rainfall and snowfall each day they are at home.

Volunteers can be any age and from any background and have included teachers, weather experts, ranchers, children and senior citizens, Doesken said.

"It doesn't matter what you do and how old you are; it just matters that it's interesting (to you) and you want to learn and you want to help us learn," he said. "We really want the volunteers to learn with us and be fellow scientists with us."

With daily rain and snow data from across the state, it will be easier to issue severe weather warnings, track the water supply and research weather patterns, among other benefits, Doesken said.

The project was formed after the 1997 flash flood in Fort Collins, in which 14.5 inches of rain fell in one day in some areas and caused serious damage, while only 2 inches fell in other spots.

"It became real obvious how many weather stations you need to do a good job, and it's a lot when you have localized storms like that," Doesken said.

For more information, go to www.cocorahs.org.

Interested weather watchers should attend one of several free training sessions in the area this week.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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