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New Mexico State University

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New Mexicans Can Join Scientific Climate Study from Their Backyards

LAS CRUCES - Backyard weather watchers of all ages have a chance to help with a scientific study that could make a difference in the state.

Nolan Doesken, assistant state climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, will teach participants how to measure snowfall and use special rain gauges and hail pads made of Styrofoam covered with aluminum foil. They can then contribute to the New Mexico version of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.

People of all ages, from elementary-school students to retirees, can help.

The March 9 session is scheduled for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service office at 1510 Menaul NW in Albuquerque. Extension offices in Hidalgo, Valencia, Rio Arriba, Roosevelt, Guadalupe, Chaves, Santa Fe and Doņa Ana counties will carry this session over the Internet.

The March 11 session is set for 2 to 4 p.m. in Wooton Hall Room 105 at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

Registration is required. Those who attend will receive free rain gauges for their work.

Charlie Liles, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Mexico, said the climate study could benefit his organization and state residents.

"You can never have too much ground truth data in a state like New Mexico," he said. "A supplemental network such as this can help the National Weather Service in many ways, from helping to issue more timely flash flood warnings to monitoring drought."

He said timely warnings save lives and property.

The precipitation study began in Colorado in 1998 in response to a 1997 flash flood in Fort Collins that killed five people. Doesken said National Weather Service radar did not estimate precipitation rates from the localized storm well and no weather spotters reported heavy rain. Warnings came too late to save lives.

Doesken said scientists use data from the study in weather simulations, in forecasts and in verifying and calibrating radar.

In the West, precipitation can vary widely over short distances. Doesken said existing weather stations, often 20 miles apart or more, give general climate information but do not track individual storms adequately.

The community network does not replace the current weather observation system but provides additional data for a more accurate picture, he said.

For the study, volunteers measure precipitation and transmit daily reports over the Internet to the climate center, according to the project Web site.

Doesken said volunteers' learning through the study is important.

"There is no better way to learn about and appreciate our climate than to measure and record what we experience, and compare our experiences with those around us," he said.

What began as a Colorado network is expanding to Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, and Nebraska has started a related project, according to the Web site, http://www.cocorahs.org.

Doesken said it is a low-cost, low-tech way to increase resources for monitoring climate and its impact.

For more information, to register or if you are an individual with a disability who needs an auxiliary aid or service to participate, contact Leeanne DeMouche, a project organizer, at (505) 646-3973 or ldemouch@nmsu.edu. Those interested can also register on the project Web site.
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Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network