MUSCODA, Wis. — Tom Gozinske originally began tracking weather conditions so he would know what to wear.
“Maybe five years ago, I got interested in monitoring and knowing what the weather was doing outside as far as the temperature extremes for the day, which led me to figure out how to dress for either 90 degrees on a hot summer day or minus 20 in the dead of winter and how many layers to put on,” Gozinske said.
Now, the 65-year-old Muscoda resident shares the weather data he collects with a wider audience, as a volunteer with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow network. It is known in the weather community by its acronym, CoCoRaHS, and supplies precipitation data for a variety of uses.
“It’s nice having a weather station in my own rural area — a personal station — so I know the exact weather conditions,” Gozinske said. “It’s a fun little hobby.”
Gozinske isn’t the only one benefiting from the data he collects.
The CoCoRaHS network began as a mapping project by the Colorado Climate Center after a devastating flash flood in Fort Collins, Colo. Members of the CoCoRaHS network take weather observations at their homes.
Jeff Boyne, a meteorologist with the weather service in La Crosse, Wis., said CoCoRaHS data supplements information gathered from official measuring stations such as airports and a cooperative network of observers used by the weather service.
“A lot of these CoCoRaHS observers are in rural areas,” Boyne said. “Maybe there’s not a good co-op or airport in that area, but there’s a CoCoRaHS and we could use that data.”
The data collected by the volunteers is provided to meteorologists, emergency managers, city planners and utility companies, insurance adjusters, farmers and others.
“They could be helping their neighbors or they could be helping themselves,” Boyne said. “Some of this data can help when there is heavy rainfall to show the state to use for flood declarations. We can compare (the CoCoRaHS data) to rainfall estimated on radar. It can also be used to monitor for drought.”
Gozinske said he was intrigued by weather as a kid.
“Growing up, I always wondered where they measured the snow,” he said.
That interest has deepened.
“I like monitoring the weather,” Gozinske said. “I’ve had a weather station for a couple of years and I found out about CoCoRaHS, and I started sending them data.”
His weather equipment is set on the upper corners of a fenced dog kennel in his backyard.
Gozinske collects data from an outdoor rain gauge manually.
A Davis Instruments wireless weather station sits on another corner of the kennel fence. It collects information about temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind direction and wind speed throughout the day and night and transmits the data to Gozinske’s computer every 10 minutes.
“The equipment that I bought is not that expensive, so it’s an easy hobby to get into,” Gozinske said. “A simple rain gauge is only $20 or $30. An electronic monitoring station that’s hooked up to the Internet is several hundred to several thousand dollars. So depending on how much you want to get involved in the hobby, you can do that. I opted for just a basic station for my needs for several hundred dollars.”
Gozinske tracks his local conditions regardless of weather.
“This has been the first year that I’ve measured snowstorms. And we didn’t have that heavy of a winter here, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it,” he said. “It’s just nice getting out and measuring the snow and finding out what the moisture content is in the snow and how fast the snow dissipates.”
Gozinske received some video training when he joined the CoCoRaHS network. The training demonstrated tasks such as collecting samples, analysis of snow moisture content and reporting of data. He first shared weather data while living in Beaver Dam, Wis. He moved to Grant County in September after getting married.
“It’s fun for me to provide the information on my little piece of paradise here, so that other people can gain from it,” he said.