Be a Weather Watcher

If you have aspirations to be a seasoned weather watcher, follow this advice to observe and predict the weather from your own backyard, come rain or shine.

  • Whether you place a few instruments around the house or build a full weather station outside, forecasting can easily be at your fingertips.
    Photo by Getty/stoonn
  • A barometer is an instrument that measures air pressure.
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • You can make weather forecasts from your own backyard with a few simple tools and techniques.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Bits and Splits
  • You can measure snow precipitation through a rain gauge by simply bringing the gauge inside so the collected snow melts, giving you a rainwater equivalent.
    Photo by Adobe/Alexey Kljatov
  • A basic tenet of weather forecasting is, "Will tomorrow be the same as or different from today?"
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • Weather vanes show which direction the wind is blowing, so place them in an area where they won't be obstructed.
    Photo by Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • Gritty's Tip: Standard atmospheric pressure at sea level is 29.92 inches of mercury.
    Photo by Brad Anderson Illustration

Those of us who are really into the weather, it’s not enough to say it’s warm outside or it rained yesterday. We want to know how warm it was or how much rain fell. Besides satisfying our meteorological curiosity, measuring the weather puts us more in touch with it. And by closely observing the current weather, we can even make forecasts about our future weather, and in the process, become experienced weather watchers.

 Weather Instruments 101

A variety of weather instruments are available to everyone. For all of the “standard instruments,” many of which were developed centuries ago, there are electronic counterparts. You may give up some accuracy, but you gain continuous readings that can be monitored remotely.

Measuring the amount of rainfall isn’t just for weather enthusiasts it’s critical for gardeners too. Rain gauges come in a variety of sizes and prices, and are sold in many stores. Cheap, plastic gauges cost only a few dollars, but they’re not always accurate. A popular and accurate standard is the classic 4-inch gauge (the measurement refers to the diameter of the tube), which is made of durable plastic. The surface area of the top funnel is 10 times the area of the measuring tube that sits inside the larger overflow tube, which magnifies the actual amount of rain and makes it easier to get an accurate measurement. If you receive more than 1 inch of rain, the overflow will be caught by the outer tube. The electronic version of a rain gauge is called a “tipping bucket.” An electrical signal is generated every time 0.01 inch of rain is collected, and this is sent to a display and/or recorder that tracks how much rain has been collected.

In winter, you can remove the funnel cone from the top of the 4-inch gauge and use it to measure snowfall. Bring your gauge indoors and allow the snow within to melt. This will give you a rainwater equivalent for your records. You can also go around with a ruler and measure snow on the ground, taking several readings and averaging them. Be sure to avoid snow drifts or bare spots.

Outdoor thermometers will show you the current temperature. If you want to keep track of the high and low temperatures for the day, you can get a maximum/minimum thermometer, which uses indicators that become fixed at the warmest and coldest points after measuring the temperature over a period of time. After you record your readings, just reset them. There are electronic temperature sensors that are actually very accurate, and again provide the convenience of remote readings and constant monitoring.

Hygrometers typically give you the relative humidity reading: how saturated the air is in terms of a percentage. Again, you can either use a mechanical or electronic sensor. The humidity reading will vary greatly between outdoors and indoors.

9/13/2019 7:47:21 AM

Weather stations tipping rain measuring units are rarely accurate. Even in the 1000 plus dollar stations. Many tube types are the same. has free rain and snow measuring training. Plus measuring unit recommendations. Being a CoCoRaHS measurer is needed and rewarding. Kids enjoy it too.

8/3/2018 1:56:58 PM

Would have helpful if you had provided suppliers for the 4” rain gage for example. However, all in all an interesting article. Thank you.

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters