Because of Missouri's size and topography, there is significant climatic variation within the state. For perspective, the distance from the northwestern tip of the Show-Me state to the Bootheel is over 400 miles, or the same distance as going from the bootheel to the Florida panhandle! Annual average temperatures range from 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the northern tier counties to nearly 60 degrees at the bootheel tip. Annual precipitation ranges from less than 34 inches in extreme northwestern Missouri to 50 inches in the bootheel.
The climatic variation of Missouri also translates to temperature and precipitation differences on a much shorter time scale. For example, precipitation can be highly variable over short distances, especially during the summer when thunderstorm activity has a tendency to be localized. The hit and miss nature of rainfall during the growing season make it all that more important for an extensive monitoring network that will capture as much information on precipitation patterns in the state as possible. A large network of rain gauges across the state provides valuable information in regard to drought assessment and flood monitoring and prediction. Additionally, precipitation information is used by the National Weather Service, emergency managers, city utilities, engineers, farmers, hydrologists, teachers, students, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Missourians have recently been offered an opportunity to expand precipitation monitoring in the state via a program that began in Colorado called the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS. CoCoRaHS was established in 1998 and is a grass roots volunteer network of observers who measure and log precipitation for their local communities. The program has been well received in Colorado and has expanded to 30 additional states including Missouri. As stated in their mission statement, the only requirements to join are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can affect and impact our lives. Additionally, in order to provide consistent and accurate precipitation data, all observers are required to use a particular rain gauge model that retailers sell for twenty to thirty dollars each.
Once enrolled, the weather observer is assigned a station ID and uses an interactive Web site to submit their observation. The Web site allows the observer to see their observation mapped in real-time and provide valuable information for all data users. More than 200 Missourians currently report on a regular basis but we would like to double or triple the number.
If you would like to be a CoCoRaHS volunteer weather observer in Missouri, please go to www.cocorahs.org for more information or contact your state coordinators:
REVISED: February 1, 2012