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Weather Watch - Rain and Temperature Print E-mail
Written by William Finney   
Thursday, 23 August 2007

Clouds over the Tower



If you watch the morning or evening news, unless there is a major tragedy occurring you probably are most interested in the weather forecast.  In our modern world the weather can have much larger effects than whether you have your picnic in the park or you take the umbrella with you when you go out.  Strong storms can cause travel delays and even devastate cities.  Too much or too little rain or cold can damage crops.  Even excessive heat can cause illness and death.  What can we learn about the weather?



But I can get the weather from the news, why would I want to make my own observations?

Weather observations are often made from a weather station (or from several stations) at fixed points at places like airports, at schools, or other prominent places where they can operate without interference by our activity and often they have to be placed out in an exposed area.  This weather station could be several miles from where you live, and depending on your geography and landscape might record very different conditions than where you live.  Besides, it can be a lot of fun! 

Expected Time Requirement

These activities can be done over the course of several days to several months, depending on the interest and dedication of the student.  Making measurements should not take more than 15-20 minutes to start and 5 minutes with practice.

Measuring Precipitation

Measuring the rainfall is probably one of the simplest and most important measurements that you can make.  Rainfall can be measured with a commercial rain gauge, which you can find at your local hardware store.  People use them all the time to tell how much water they put on their lawns.  This brings up an important point, the rain gauge, and any of your instruments, should be out in the open where it is not obstructed by the overhang of your roof, nearby trees, or be near where you water your lawn.

If you donít want to buy a rain gauge, you can make one from a water or soda bottle and a clay pot.  This can be an economical alternative to purchasing a rain gauge.   Make your measurements once a day at a regular time, so that they are more easily comparable.

Recording the Temperature

A thermometer is a scientific instrument that is used to measure temperature.  There are A LOT of different kinds and styles of thermometers.  There are liquid filled, bimetallic spring and electronic models to choose from.  For simplicity I would recommend a standard liquid filled thermometer.  Even liquid filled thermometers come in a variety of forms some suited for a particular use.  You do not want to use a thermometer that is used for cooking, making candy, or for taking your temperature for recording the outside temperature, you should use an outdoor thermometer .  

The calibration, or how closely the thermometer reads to the true value, should be checked at least once per year.  This can be done easily by immersing the thermometer in an ice/water mixture which will be 0 degrees C and carefully in boiling water which will be 100 degrees C.  Make sure that you warm the thermometer up slowly in the water as you heat it and donít let it touch the bottom of the pan.  If you notice a difference from what the scale reads and these values donít panic, simply record the difference in your notebook.  We will discuss how you can use these values at a later time.  If the values are off by more than a degree or two, you might want to consider replacing the thermometer.

While a thermometer like that mentioned above will allow you to measure what the air temperature is at the moment you are reading the thermometer it is often useful to know what the daily high and low temperatures are.  A Max-Min thermometer is a specialized thermometer that will record the high and low temperature values.  These can be purchased from a variety of sources .  

It may take a while to get comfortable reading these thermometers and to remember to reset the markers each day, but once you do you can record the daily high and low temperatures like discussed on the news.

An important note about choosing a location for your thermometers is that they should not be out in the direct sun, or against an object that is in the direct sun.  If they are, they can read temperatures that are artificially high.  Here is a suggestion of how you might correct for this.  Here is another idea.


 What's Next?


Look out for Part 2 - Pressure and Humidity! 


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