Winter weather enthusiasts needed to help improve forecasting

The Mountain Rain or Snow project is a collaboration between Lynker, the Desert Research Institute and University of Nevada-Reno. The project began in 2019. More than 1,100 people took part in 2022.

A group of scientists is looking for a few good men and women to submit weather reports during the winter to help determine when rain, snow or even a mix of precipitation is falling from the sky.

The project known as Mountain Rain or Snow was launched in 2019 and reported that more than 1,100 people submitted weather observations last year.

The group said satellites and radars currently struggle to differentiate between rain and snow when temperatures are near the freezing point, and this is when observations can make a difference.

"With the help of community observers, we are amassing a very large database of observations of rain, snow, and mixed precipitation," Meghan Collins, a research scientist associated with the project, said in a statement. "These will ultimately help to ‘ground-truth’ and improve the predictive technologies that satellites use."


The collected data will be available for a NASA-funded project that could improve the accuracy of weather predictions.

Aside from weather forecasts, the data could advance avalanche warnings, snowpack water storage outlooks and road safety.

The group received more than 23,000 reports of rain, snow or mixed precipitation in 2022, with a goal of expanding observations around the Great Lakes this year.

Forecasting winter weather around the lakes is considered to be vital and also comes with challenges. 

Depending on wind flows over the water, lake-effect snow bands can sprout, producing feet of frozen precipitation over some communities, while towns just a few miles away miss out. Last winter, the National Weather Service reported Buffalo saw one of its top five snowiest seasons on record, but just a few miles away, communities suffered deficits.


How to participate

Interested observers are encouraged to visit to determine if they live in a region where weather observations are needed.

Once users find their region, a link will be provided to download a web-based app.

"The data the community observers have helped us collect is a big step towards being able to make those improvements," Collins said. "We understand the state of the problem much better now and will use the next three years to advance the solution."

The Mountain Rain or Snow project is a NASA-funded collaboration between Lynker, Desert Research Institute and the University of Nevada-Reno.