With the arrival of March, the Mississippi Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network again is looking to recruit new observers of rainfall throughout the state.

Based at Mississippi State, the organization commonly referred to as CoCoRaHS is a joint effort among the National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the university's geosciences department.

Information collected is used by meteorologists and climatologists studying patterns of precipitation.

The state organization currently is taking part in a nationwide recruiting effort called "March Madness."

Along with other state networks, it is competing this month to sign up the most new rainfall network observers.

"We have two goals for this year's March Madness: to sign up someone in each of the 30 counties without an active observer and to increase the number of observers in those counties with only one or two volunteers," said Kathy Sherman-Morris, CoCoRaHS state coordinator and an assistant professor in the department.

"Ideally, we would like to have at least five or six observers evenly spread throughout each county," she said.

Mississippi joined the nonprofit program in August 2008 and currently has 189 reporting observers.

According to the organization's websitewww.cocorahs.org, counties in North Mississippi, the Delta and south central parts of the state are most in need of observers.

In addition to signing up online at the above listed website, volunteers must purchase an official-type rain gauge and report their readings online, preferably at the same time each day.

State Climatologist Mike Brown, an MSU assistant professor of geosciences, said the data provides important information for several areas of research.

"In a state with a large agricultural interest such as Mississippi, understanding the spatial distribution of rainfall is critical," Brown emphasized. "Since the advent of this rainfall network, we have seen widely ranging daily totals over the distance of a few miles.

"This network has shown us that farmers in particular need to participate in the collection of these data," Brown added. "These data provide critical information to forecasters and hydrologists as well as the farmers collecting the data in order to maintain the health of their crops."

For more information on CoCoRaHS or becoming an observer, contact Sherman-Morris at 662-268-1032 or kms5@msstate.edu.