Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Nine Habits of Highly Effective CoCoRaHS Observers

Resolutions for self-improvement usually accompany the start of the New Year. I'm not typically one for resolutions but I'm going to give it a try this time around. It's been about 3 months since my last blog post and I won't bore you with the reasons/excuses of why it's been so long. It's a new year and I am going to try and get back on track. So, if there are topics you would like to me write about or revisit again let me know - ideas are always welcome.

Now to the topic for this blog post. A few months ago I was thinking about what characteristics make an effective CoCoRaHS rainfall observer and jotted down a list. I recalled seeing the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" published in 1989 by Stephen Covey, and that inspired the title of this post.

So, here's what I've come up with for the nine habits of highly effective CoCoRaHS observers.

Report every day

One of the attributes of a good climate record is consistent, regular observations. Consistent observations over a period of time help identify patterns and trends. Precipitation varies a lot in time and space, so regular observations are needed to capture these variations. Effective observers realize this and make an effort to have a report for each day. It usually is a daily report, but sometimes is an amount that spans two or more days (a multi-day report).  The bottom line is that at the end of the month or end of the year, each day is accounted for by an observation.

Report zeros

This goes hand-in-hand with #1. Effective observers know that zero is a number and a measurement. Zero is NOT equivalent to no measurement. A missing measurement does not mean "it did not rain". It's just missing. Effective observers also report zero for snowfall and snow depth when there is no snow or no snow on the ground, even when it's too warm for snow.

Make sure to have the correct observation time

Effective observers make sure to enter the correct observation time if it is different from the default time on the entry form. Sometimes life gets in the way and we can't always make our observation when we need to. The correct observation time helps those using the precipitation data to interpret it correctly.

Check submissions AFTER hitting the Submit button

Effective observers almost always remember to check their observation after they have submitted it on the CoCoRaHS web site. They easily do that by scrolling down the page past the Message of the Day to view their observation. They quickly catch the typos (for example, entering 10.00 instead of 0.10) and make what they entered is what they intended.

Keep a local record of observations

Even the most conscientious observer can get sidetracked and forget to enter the observation on any given day. Effective observers keep a separate written record of their observations for a period of time as a backup "just in case". They also realize that they may be contacted by their local coordinator or the CoCoRaHS staff about a past observation if an error is suspected or an observation needs to be verified. A written record can help answer those questions.

Review observations at the end of the month

Effective observers check their observations at the end of the month to be sure that all days are accounted for and there are no obvious errors. This is where that written record can save the day.

Periodically review the training materials

Everyone can use a refresher from time to time. It helps to review certain topics, like snow measurement and reporting prior to the winter season. Effective observers review the training animations and other training information on the web site from time to time as needed.

Follow correct procedures

Effective CoCoRaHS observers use the 4-inch standard rain gauge, make their observation at about the same time each day, and submit their observations using the correct form (Daily Report for daily observations, Multi-Day Report for multi-day accumulations). They know when and how to submit a Significant Weather Report or Hail Report.

Enjoy what they do

CoCoRaHS observers are typically highly motivated and enjoy what they do. They realize that many users count on the observations they make and report every day. They are dedicated and enthusiastic. Many recruit family and friends to join and/or help, and strive to never miss an observation.

Happy New year, everyone!


  1. 7 out of 9 for a long time observer, not too shabby!

  2. If you want everyone to enter monthly zeroes, make it easier not harder for them! practice what you preach!