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Home arrow Experiments arrow Weather Watch - What to do with it all?
Weather Watch - What to do with it all? Print E-mail
Written by William Finney   
Tuesday, 28 August 2007

White Trout Lily






We now know what to measure in order to make weather observations but what should we do with those measurements?  In this final part we activities that involve watching the weather.  These projects can be as short as a day or as long as a lifetime and can provide valuable information to meteorologists worldwide.



Keep a Weather Journal

One thing you can do is to keep a weather journal.  This could be a separate notebook from your regular laboratory notebook.  Each entry should include the time of your observations, the temperature, high and low temperatures if you have a min/max thermometer, barometric pressure, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction and if you have constructed a sunshine recorder, perhaps the previous days sunshine record.  

In addition to these objective measures of the weather you should include a short synopsis of the previous dayís weather.  In this discussion it is acceptable to include more subjective descriptions of the weather but be careful to avoid including opinions that are not supported by your direct observations.  If you decide to say it was a beautiful day, what do use to decide that it is a beautiful day?  Was it particularly sunny?  Was it not too warm or cold?  Was there a gentle breeze?  Describe storms that pass through your area.  Record the duration and severity of the storms.  Was there a lot of lightening?  Did local creeks and rivers flood?  Was there hail?  If so, how large was the hail?  Were branches brought down from trees or were trees blown over?  How large of an area did the storm effect?  What happened immediately before or after the storm?  A good description of the kinds of weather that occur in the hours or days after observing certain conditions is the basis of weather forecasting. 

You donít have to only discuss storms, perhaps today was the first day you saw buds on the trees open.  Perhaps there is a short-lived spring flower that you could record when it opens, where I grew up the Trout Lily was a good sign that spring had arrived.  Did you see migrating geese today?  Changes in the weather patterns are connected to the changes in the seasons and more generally our climate!

Here is a suggestion of how to keep your weather journal so that you can make a table of the objective data your instruments records and leave space to write your observations.  Start your table on the last page of the notebook, put your entry on the top of the page and work backwards, as long as you record the date and time of your entries it should be easy enough for you to follow at a later date.  The subjective discussion you can start writing from the front of the notebook.  Make sure to date each entry and make note of which days you are discussing.  When your discussions reach the data table in the back you have filled the notebook and can start a fresh one.  In this way it is easy to use your tabulated data and look for trends and segregating the objective data from your subjective account of the weather.

Participate in a Observer Program

Another activity that you can participate in is becoming a member of an observer program.  These are programs where you as an individual can collect weather observations and submit them to national and international databases for use by scientists all over the world.  Many of these programs have particular requirements for the type and quality of the instrumentation that you use and how you make your measurements.  While this may not be easy for a younger student, an older or more advanced student could find this a very rewarding way to participate in the larger scientific community and to meet like minded people from around the world.  A quick search shows that there are

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has their Cooperative Observer Program, the Citizenís Weather Observer Program is another program and the WeatherUndergroundís Personal Weather Station Project are all ways to contribute to the record of weather in the US. 

If you donít qualify for one of these programs you can always make your own web page and post your own weather observations.  Make sure to clearly describe the equipment and conditions around your observation station.  Keep your records up to date.  Share the location of your website with your friends, perhaps they know someone in another location that would be interested in doing the same and you can use the Internet as a tool to share your data!

Create your own weather forecasts

Once you have collected some weather data and discussed your observations in your journal you may start to patterns in the weather.  Certain trends in our weather data might signal that the weather is changing or that be predictors of a certain type of weatherís arrival (Note:  I am being purposefully vague here because I feel that these trends are something that a student can find for themselves or look up on their own and gain a better appreciation for in doing so).  Modern forecasting uses data from hundreds if not thousands of ground stations, weather balloons, satellites and aircraft reports and large scale computer simulations and can give us predictions of the trends in the weather that are accurate several days out, which is beyond what we can do with our own measurements from our single station.

Here is an activity to try, take your observations from the past few days and try to predict the weather for the next day.  Try to be as descriptive as you can with your predictions.  What do you think the high temperature will be?  Will it be sunny or cloudy?  If it will be cloudy, will it rain?  Write these down in your notebook as well as the reasoning behind your predictions, discuss the next day how close your predictions were.  Try this for several weeks to see if you get better at making predictions.

Follow Up questions.

If you need an idea of some other activities that you could do with your data here are some questions that you can answer.

Measure the temperature once an hour on the hour from sunrise to sunset.  Note the position of the sun in the sky, was your highest temperature recorded when the sun was at its highest?

Make a graph of the daily high and low temperatures.  Calculate the average high and low temperature for several individual weeks, months or two seasons ( like summer and winter).  What trends do you see in your graphs? 

Make a graph of your daily barometric pressure readings.  Mark on the graph when you had clear sunny weather and when you had cloudy and rainy weather or storms.  Do you see any patterns emerging?

Do winds out of certain directions bring certain kinds of weather?  Do you see higher wind speeds when the weather is changing or when it is steady?

Make a graph and plot relative humidity vs. barometric pressure.  Do you see a relationship between the two?

Hopefully these questions will help you ask some more.  Do you have favorite weather related activities?  Let me know!


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