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Extension Service Offers Training for Amateur Weather Watchers

ALAMOGORDO - The only sure thing about precipitation across New Mexico's vast landscape is its unpredictability. The weather forecast may say it's going to rain, but the reality can vary widely from place to place.

Hans Steinhoff checks a rain gauge outside his home near Cloudcroft. Steinhoff serves as the volunteer coordinator for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network in Otero County. The more people who participate in the network of weather-watchers, the more complete the data the network can compile about precipitation in New Mexico. (11/09/2005) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by Darrell J. Pehr)

"It may be raining like gangbusters here at the office, but at my house, five minutes away, it may be dry as can be," said Phil Wright, Otero County program director for New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

Weather-watcher Hans Steinhoff has rain gauges in several locations on his property south of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains. Steinhoff has had a longtime interest in monitoring the weather. Since moving to Cloudcroft several years ago, his interest has grown because he depends on harvested rainfall as his sole source of household water. His rainfall records from prior years help him estimate whether he can expect enough rain to fill the large water storage tanks that are fed by water channeled from his roof.

Steinhoff belongs to a network of weather watchers who are working to provide a more accurate picture of precipitation in New Mexico and nine other states.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network taps volunteers who are willing to measure precipitation and report their results. Sponsored primarily by the National Science Foundation, it was started in 1998 in Colorado. NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service is helping expand the network in New Mexico, and Steinhoff serves as the volunteer coordinator for Otero County.

More participants are needed for a more complete record of where rain, snow and hail falls in New Mexico.

A training session for people interested in joining the network will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the Otero County Fairgrounds. Organized by the Extension Service, the training is free and open to anyone in the area with an interest in measuring precipitation for the network.

To sign up, call the Extension office at (505) 437-0231. For more information or if you are an individual with a disability who is in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, please call the Extension office in advance.