By Joanna Bastian
Do you watch the Weather Channel for fun? Do your conversations begin with, “this weather reminds me of that warm spell in ’74, right before the ducks froze in place along the river as they landed?” Do you note the daily temperature and significant changes between seasons? Do you file the information for future reference?
Mark Turner, from the National Weather Service in Spokane, is looking for a volunteer in Methow to provide daily observations. The Cooperative Weather Observing Network, or COOP, is a nationwide weather- and climate-monitoring network. Thousands of volunteers observe and report weather information, which is then used by the National Weather Service to provide detailed forecasts and severe weather warnings.
“COOP observations form the backbone of temperature and precipitation – including snowfall – records describing U.S. climate,” says Mark. More information on the program can be viewed here: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/coop/.
The National Weather Service provides, installs and maintains all the required equipment, working with the homeowner to find a workable space. All you need is an Internet connection and a passion for weather.
Mark notes, “space required for the equipment is fairly small, a typical back yard will do just fine.”
Training is provided on observational techniques. Volunteers are asked to observe and record 24-hour maximum and minimum temperatures, 24-hour liquid precipitation amounts including melted snowfall, and snow depth. The COOP data is then reported online for instant use by the National Weather Service to create better localized weather forecasts.
Observations are transmitted almost instantaneously to the weather service and are displayed on the local webpage, www.weather.gov/climate. This is an interesting section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association website, and fun to use. Select your area of the map, and then view the NOWData tab to find detailed information for each area. You can view month-to-month and year-to-year comparisons.
I spoke with Rick LeDuc in Mazama, who has been a volunteer with the COOP program for years. He decided to start doing it because not only does he find weather interesting, but also, “weather seems to be the topic of conversation.” He finds that the Methow is an interesting place to observe because it has a history of weather extremes. He would encourage anyone who is interested to get involved.
Rick noted that the Methow Valley has a micro-climate that differs from weather events that may be going on in the same area. Remember the winter storm warnings last weekend? Spokane got hammered with snow, and the Methow stayed calm with clear blue skies.
Volunteers can help provide information that forms a clearer picture for weather forecasts. And, Rick adds, “it is pretty cool for your own record-keeping.”
If you would like to be a weather observation volunteer in Methow, contact Mark Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at
(509) 244-0110, extension 225.
The Methow Conservancy will host a community focus group in Methow to seek community input on future programs. Dessert and good conversation will be happening next Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Methow Community Club, aka the Old Schoolhouse, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
If you have questions or would like to share your perspectives but cannot attend, please contact Jason Paulsen at the Methow Conservancy at 996-2870.