Looking at the data
MNgage is a volunteer-driven precipitation observing program began in the late 1960's in the Twin Cities and gradually expanded across the Minnesota in the 1970's. The program is administered by the DNR Minnesota State Climatology Office. The number of warm-season volunteer observers has remaining steady at around 1500 for the past four decades. Daily precipitation measurements that are reported on-line and by use of hard copy forms. To learn more about the MNgage program, read about its history.
Volunteers working through their Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) make up the majority of the observers in the MNgage program.
The following text comes from our good friend, Nolan Doesken, the former State Climatologist for Colorado. Nolan is the founder of CoCoRaHS, a citizen scientist-based precipitation monitoring project that acts as a companion to the MNgage Program and the National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Program. Nolan's comments highlight the value of volunteer-based precipitation measurements and they apply to all programs equally poignantly. The DNR State Climatology Office is tremendously grateful to the many diligent volunteers who contribute their time and effort to monitor our climate.
Why are backyard plastic rain gauges useful in this 'techy' time in world history? Honestly, itís because precipitation is really, really important (water supply, agriculture, forestry, transportation, commerce, recreation, and so much more). It varies a ton from day to day, year to year and place to place. It affects what we do, where we do it and how much we enjoy it. There are more and more sources of electronic measurements of precipitation and estimates by remote sensors -- from satellites in space as well as from ground-based weather radar. Technology is awesome, donít get me wrong -- but dollar for dollar, the CoCoRaHS-recommended manual rain gauge, properly placed and installed (and reported by an interested and observant volunteer), provides the most accurate measurement of rain, hail and snow. In fact, CoCoRaHS - along with Cooperative Observers and SKYWARN Storm Spotters for the National Weather Service - account for almost all the measurements we have for snow and hail.
Our measurements are used for weather, water supply and flood forecasts, for assessing drought severity and impacts, for severe storm prediction and verification, for crop growth and yield forecasts, for assessing hail damage, for contracting snow removal, for predicting mosquito outbreaks, for planning fishing and snowmobiling outings, and plenty more. Furthermore, the people who are using radar and satellite to estimate precipitation, snow cover, etc. are big fans of CoCoRaHS as they use our data to calibrate and validate their products.
So it may just look like a piece of plastic and feel a bit low tech for this day and age, but our CoCoRaHS measurements are really important and incredibly useful. Thanks so much for participating.