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CoCoRaHS, or How to Improve Weather Information

As beekeepers in New Mexico weather is tremendously important to our endeavors. Wind can keep us out of our hives or blow a queen to the next county when she’s on her mating flight. Temperature can kill our over-wintering hives if we’re not careful; determines when we open our hives in spring and winterize in fall. Precipitation – rain and snow – drives the timing, duration and volume of nectar flow and pollen that our bees rely on for sustenance, and we harvest as honey and other products. Good weather information at least provides a ballpark for planning and management.

 

Since New Mexico is relatively sparsely populated and rural in character, there are 3 weather radar locations and only one National Weather Service office. Our varied terrain and altitudes present special challenges in preparing locally useful forecasts.

 

CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network of the National Weather Service is a national volunteer-driven reporting program of the National Weather Service that feeds vital data to forecasters and others resulting in better weather forecasting models and timely weather warnings. Forecasters rely heavily on CoCoRaHS data when issuing flood warnings and severe storm alerts.

 

Volunteers commit to daily reporting of precipitation, whether rain, snow or hail through an interactive online system. Other observations such as flooding, fog, frost, or others may also be reported. A low-cost standardized rain gauge and metal snow ruler are all that is required to participate. Only about 200 CoCoRaHS volunteers are currently active in New Mexico so additional locations could truly make a difference.

 

Occasional webinars on weather topics presented by National Weather Service personnel are available to volunteers and thorough training is provided through the online system.

 

For parents, CoCoRaHS is an opportunity to engage their children in real world immediate science in their own backyard. Data are available for reporting stations through the online system, so various exercises in math, graph interpretation and analysis can be devised as well.

 

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

Christina Allday-Bondy is Chair of Education, Outreach and Advocacy of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association; and a CoCoRaHS volunteer.

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