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Becoming A Coop Observer

Are you interested in becoming an official weather observer?  Several unique opportunities exist for weather observers in New Mexico.  Each one is described below in more detail.  If you have questions or would like additional information, please send an email to:
 sr-abq.webmaster@noaa.gov

Cooperative weather observers generally record temperature and precipitation daily and electronically send those reports to the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Many cooperative observers provide additional hydrological or meteorological data, such as evaporation or soil temperatures. Data are transmitted via computer or, in special cases, by mail.  Equipment used at NWS cooperative stations is typically owned by the NWS, and requires a small unobstructed space that can be dedicated to house the NWS instrumentation.  See our proper siting requirements for further details.

There is no requirement to take any tests to become a cooperative observer, but every prospective observer needs to demonstrate a willingness to dedicate a few minutes each day to recording weather data while quality assuring it.  Volunteer weather observers conscientiously contribute their time so that observations can provide the vital information needed.  These data are invaluable in learning more about the floods, droughts, heat and cold waves affecting us all. The data are also used in agricultural planning and assessment, engineering, environmental-impact assessment, utilities planning, and litigation.  Cooperative weather observer data plays a critical role in efforts to recognize and evaluate the extent of human impacts on climate from local to global scales.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque serves the northern two-thirds of New Mexico, and we are often looking for new cooperative weather observers. We are most interested in areas of the state where Cooperative Weather Stations are few and far between.  The NWS goal is a spacing of about one station every 25 miles (one per 625 square miles), but as you can see from the map to the right, that density is typically less in New Mexico due to the low population and sharp changes in elevation. 

Becoming a Cooperative Weather Observer is Easy!

The specific requirements for NWS Cooperative observers include the following:

  1. A commitment to long-term recordkeeping: minimum of 10 years at one location (businesses, utilities, family farms, and state parks are popular candidates).
  2. The ability to learn and perform daily observation duties.
  3. A willingness to allow NWS to place measuring instruments on your property.
  4. A willingness to allow at least one visit per year from a NWS representative.
  5. Ownership of a personal computer with Internet access.

If you are selected to become an official NWS Cooperative station, the NWS will provide you with the training and support needed.  Depending on your station's instrumentation, your site will typically be visited once or twice every 12 months.  Unfortunately, volunteers are not paid except in a few very unusual situations.

Using an internet-based website or an automated phone system, observers send daily high and low temperatures, as well as 24-hour precipitation totals directly to the NWS.  At the end of each month, a form with all the recorded weather elements are sent to the NWS.  These data are quality controlled and then sent to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, where they are digitized and collectively made part of the official national climate database. 

If you or anyone you know are interested in volunteering for this unique NWS program, please contact us at (505) 243-0702.

 

SKYWARN Spotter banner
The National Weather Service office in Albuquerque issues forecasts, weather statements, and warnings for the northern two-thirds of New Mexico where a wide variety of extreme weather occurs throughout the year.  Reports from volunteer storm spotters improve our weather statements, advisories, warnings, and other services in a number of ways. 
 

Due to the rural nature of New Mexico, our current observation network lacks the spatial resolution necessary to adequately cover the state.  Observers are often clustered around cities and major highways, with many areas void of weather data.  Weather radars also have limitations, as the radar beams are commonly blocked by the high elevation mountains, and other large gaps in radar coverage also exist due to the size of our large state.  Enter SKYWARN storm spotters, vital assets that can provide real-time ground truth information to meteorologists!  This SKYWARN network of storm spotters is independent of the Cooperative Observer Program, but many coop observers are also storm spotters.  Storm spotters report tornadoes, funnel clouds, hail, winds 50 mph or greater, flooding, snowfall, ice accumulation, and any hazardous weather causing injury, death or damage.  Spotters can call a toll free number 1-888-386-7637 or use a storm report form on our webpage.  Please note, however, you will be required to attend a SKYWARN spotter training course developed by the NWS.  It takes about 2.5 hours to complete. Check our our SKYWARN page for the latest list of training sessions in your area, or you can contact Kerry Jones, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, at 505-244-9150 ext. 223.

 

CoCoRaHS Observer Banner

CoCoRaHS (cocorahz), the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) was begun in Colorado in 1998. This supplemental network, brainchild of Nolan Doesken, assistant state climatologist for Colorado, allows volunteer weather observers to enter rainfall, snowfall, hail and snow reports into a web-based system.  The result is displayed on maps and can be accessed by anyone with Internet capabilities. 

The near real-time data from CoCoRaHS observers can provide valuable information to meteorologists as they fine-tune their forecasts and make critical decisions about weather warnings.  CoCoRaHS is not intended to replace the NWS cooperative observer program, but to supplement it.  CoCoRaHS precipitation data helps scientists fill in the gaps, and ultimately this paints a better picture of observed rain, hail, and snowfall. 

All you need to join is a rain gauge, internet access, and a willingness to volunteer your precise precipitation observations on a consistent basis.  For more information on this network and the training session, see the CoCoRaHS web page:  http://www.cocorahs.org/.