The Alabama Climate Report

Brought to you by the Office of the Alabama

Volume 6, Number 4 January 2016

After a rather dramatic December, January turned out to be ... well, just another January. Our sample of stations around the state says January was a bit cooler than normal (on average) and somewhat drier than normal. But January, at least, was generally short on drama.

It is worth noting that both December and January were months under the influence of the ongoing El Nino Pacific Ocean warming event. While there are some weather patterns related to El Nino, they are more general trends than specific forecasts. Which is why two El Nino-influenced months back-to-back can be so very different.

On an unrelated topic, a conversation overheard this week here at UAH reminded me how important our CoCoRAHS volunteers are to our weather enterprise. One of our students was talking to a faculty member about an experimental rain gauge set out in front of the storms that went through earlier this week.

The gauge, it seems, measured what seemed like not enough rain that night. The official rain gauges at the airport and at UAH weren't close enough to compare to the experimental gauge. A CoCoRAHS volunteer station, however, was apparently close at hand, and the data from that gauge was trusted ... and it showed there had been significantly more rain in that immediate area than was recorded by the experimental rain gauge.

So, back to the drawing board and another chance to get it right.

The important thing, however, is that the dense network of rain gauges here in Madison County had a very real impact on the work we do. Which is the long way around to say we appreciate the volunteers who are devoted to collecting and reporting accurate rain data around the state. And we could use more.

Raw numbers show that between January 2015 and January 2016 we lost about 20 CoCoRAHS volunteers statewide. There are 21 counties in which we have no CoCoRAHS gauges, and another 13 where there is only one. That's more than half of the state.

It isn't an expensive thing to do. The official CoCoRAHS rain gauge costs only $25. There is a link on the state climatologist website that includes information on ordering the gauge and what is needed to report the data.

More data, especially accurate reliable data, is always better.

- John Christy