Iowa's state climatologist Harry Hillaker needs your help

Iowa's state climatologist Harry Hillaker needs your help

Local volunteer precipitation observers are invited to join the community collaborative rain, hail and snow network.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship’s State Climatology Office, together with the National Weather Service, are again recruiting volunteer precipitation observers across Iowa. They need weather reporters to participate in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network, known as “CoCoRaHS” (pronounced “KO-ko-rozz”).

APPLY ONLINE: Local community weather observers are needed everywhere in Iowa. More observers are needed to better document the amount and variability of rain and snow across the state.

All that is needed to participate is an interest in the weather, a 4-inch diameter rain gauge, a suitable location to set up the gauge and access to the Internet. All data collected are immediately available for free online and are routinely used for flood forecasting, drought assessment, news media stories, scientific research and general weather interest.

Learn how to accurately measure and report rain and snow
More information about the network is available on the CoCoRaHS website at cocorahs.org. The website includes information on how to join, where to buy your rain gauge and how to accurately measure and report rain and snow. 

The network was established by the Colorado Climate Center in 1998 and has now spread to all 50 states and Canada. Iowa joined this volunteer network in 2007 and now has over 300 registered CoCoRaHS observers across the state. However, more observers are needed to better document the amount and variability of rain and snow across Iowa.

Observations are provided by citizen weather reporters
“In 2015, much of central and southwestern Iowa experienced very wet weather from May through September,” says Harry Hillaker, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “A welcome break in the wet weather occurred in October, but was followed by a very wet November and record wet December.”

For the year as a whole record high annual precipitation totals were recorded at Bedford, Shenandoah, Clarinda, Carroll, Audubon, Cherokee and Denison while portions of northeast and extreme northwest Iowa saw slightly less rain than usual. “Current soil moisture levels over much of the state are the highest for this time of year since the aftermath of the 1993 floods,” says Hillaker. “Whatever weather comes our way this year, the observations obtained by this network can help obtain a clearer picture of Iowa’s weather.”

Weather observers are needed everywhere in Iowa. But the most critical needs are in Osceola, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Worth, Wright, Allamakee, Calhoun, Carroll, Shelby, Audubon, Cedar, Adams, Monroe, Louisa, Davis and Van Buren counties.

Iowa Preliminary Weather Summary for February 2016
In other news from the state climatologists’ office, here’s the weather summary for Iowa through February 2016. The following was written by Harry Hillaker, state climatologist at the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

General Summary. For the month of February 2016, Iowa temperatures averaged 28.1 degrees F, which is 4.1 degrees above normal. Precipitation for the month totaled 0.92 inches or 0.13 inches less than normal. This ranks as the 31st  warmest and 65th driest February among 144 years of records. Snowfall averaged 9.0 inches or 2.2 inches above normal to rank as the 37th  snowiest February among 129 years of records. This was the seventh consecutive snowier than normal February.

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Temperatures. Bitter cold weather made a relatively brief appearance in Iowa during February with subzero temperatures reported on only the 4th , 5th and 10th through the 13th. Temperatures were above average every day from the 15th through the end of the month with only a handful of locations seeing readings dip below 20 degrees during the second one-half of February. Cresco reported the month’s lowest temperature with a minus 17 degrees below 0 reading on the morning of February 13. Temperatures reached 73 degrees at Shenandoah and Sidney on the 18th while Sidney reached 75 degrees on the 27th .

Iowa soils were completely frost-free by end of February
These are the highest February temperatures recorded in Iowa since 1999 (76 degrees at Glenwood on Feb. 10). In response to the milder late-month weather, soils began to thaw across central and southern Iowa on the 19th and were completely frost-free over about the southern one-half of Iowa at month’s end. The late-month warmth also melted most of the snow cover that had persisted over northern Iowa since December 28. Some flooding occurred in response to the snowmelt and ice jams that resulted from the break-up of river ice.

Heating degree day totals. Home heating requirements,  as estimated by heating degree day totals, averaged 25% less than last February and 8% less than normal.   Season-to-date degree day totals are running 17% less than last season at this time and 14% less than normal.  The warmer weather and lower energy prices should result in considerably smaller heating bills this winter compared to recent years.

Precipitation. Over one-half of the month’s precipitation fell very early in the month with the major winter storm of the 2nd to 3rd. Heavy snow fell across the northwest one-half of Iowa with greatest amounts reported of 14.0 inches at Washta, 13.6 inches at Akron and 13.5 inches at Sheldon. However, only a cold rain fell across extreme southeast Iowa with this storm. There were very frequent light snow and/or rain events between the 3rd and 21st. The largest of these events came on the 13th -14th when 2 to 4 inches of snow fell over much of the northeast one-half of the state.

However, winds gusts of 40 to 50 mph combined with light snowfall and deep snow cover left from the Groundhog Day storm system to create blizzard conditions over north-central Iowa from the night of the 7th  through the morning of the 9th.

Finally, winter weather made a return visit late on the 29th into March 1st with 2 to 5 inches of snow falling across the northern one-third of the state.

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Overall monthly precipitation totals were well below normal over east-central and southeast Iowa and well above normal over the northwest. February precipitation totals varied from 0.35 inches at Gilman and Toledo to 1.92 inches at Sheldon. Monthly snowfall totals varied from only 1.3 inches at Clarinda to 23.4 inches at Sheldon.   Snow totals have been well above normal in three of the past four months in northwest Iowa.

Severe weather. Wind gusts in the 50 to 60 mph range were common statewide on the 19th with Iowa City Airport reporting the highest USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Winter summary. Temperatures over the three mid-winter months averaged 26.8 degrees or 4.7 degrees above normal while precipitation totaled 6.57 inches or nearly double the seasonal normal of 3.34 inches. This ranks as the wettest and 17th warmest winter among 143 years of state records. The last warmer winter came four years ago (2011-2012), averaging 1.1 degrees warmer than this one. Despite slightly below normal precipitation in January and February these two months brought enough precipitation when combined with December 2015’s record total to easily surpass the 6.00 inch total of the 1914-15 winter for the wettest on record.

TAGS: USDA
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