Volume 6, Number 11 August 2016
First, let me quash the suggestion that CoCoRAHS rain gauges attract rain, although it might have seemed that way in August.
Just because the average of all the CoCoRAHS volunteer rain watchers' gauges across the state reported almost an inch of rain more than our 24-cities sample in August (4.90" vs. 3.86") doesn't give us a cause and effect relationship. It just reminds us that (A) summer weather in the south is usually a hit and miss kind of thing that is often difficult to track, and (B) Alabama needs more CoCoRAHS volunteers.
The August weather was ... spotty. The same weather system that stalled over Louisiana, dropping more than 20 inches of rain in a couple of days and causing horrible floods, also swirled some rain into Alabama. It wasn't generally enough to relieve the drought, even along the coastal areas.
Mobile and Brewton were more than 1½ inches below normal for August, although Fairhope and Dothan each got just over an inch more rain than normal.
Montgomery was the only station in our monthly survey to hit 100° in August, with an average temperature in August that was 3.8° warmer than normal. Selma, only 40 miles away, was a degree cooler than normal.
Generally speaking, rain brings lower temperatures, but Huntsville got 1.4" more rain in August than is normal, but saw temperatures that were 4.1° warmer than their August norms.
Spotty and quirky.
The short-term forecast for the first part of September shows little that is likely to reduce the effects of the ongoing drought, although we can hope.
Now, a quick pitch for CoCoRAHS — the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network. Using their official rain gauges, CoCoRAHS volunteers provide valuable information about daily precipitation. They help fill in the gaps between other official weather stations, including those operated by the National Weather Service, the FAA and others.
This information is used every day by the weather service to verify its radar estimates of rainfall across the state. It is especially helpful during times of flooding, when access to reliable and accurate rainfall data is critical for emergency management agencies who need to know as soon as possible where rain fell, how much rain fell and where it is likely to flow.
Alabama has 23 counties with no CoCoRAHS volunteers, and another 13 with only a single volunteer. That represents more than half of the state, which means we have some substantial gaps in our data. Rural volunteers and volunteers in locations at least a mile from an official NWS or FAA weather station are especially helpful, in part because our weather can be so very spotty.
The official CoCoRAHS rain gauge costs only $30.50 and is available at http://www.weatheryourway.com/cocorahs/index.html. Joining and participating in CoCoRAHS costs only the commitment of a few minutes a day. Please check it out at CoCoRAHS.org.
- John Christy