Meteorological instrumentation is the equipment used to sample the state of the
atmosphere at a given time. Each science has its own unique sets of laboratory
equipment. However, meteorology is a science which does not use much lab equipment
but relies more on field-mode observation equipment. In science, an observation, or
observable, is an abstract idea that can be measured and for which data can be taken.
Rain was one of the first quantities to be measured historically. Two other accurately
measured weather-related variables are wind and humidity. Many attempts had been
made prior to the 15th century to construct adequate equipment to measure atmospheric
variables. The devices to measure these three sprang up in the mid-15th century and were
respectively the rain gauge, the anemometer, and the hygrometer. The 17th century saw
the development of the barometer and the Galileo thermometer, while the 18th century
saw the development of the thermometer with the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. The 20th
century developed new remote sensing tools, such as weather radars and weather
satellites, which provide better sampling both regionally and globally. Remote sensing
instruments collect data from remote weather events and subsequently producing weather
information. Each remote sensing instruments collects data about the atmosphere from a
remote location and, usually, stores the data where the instrument is located.
• 1 History of measurement and scales
• 2 Types
• 3 Weather stations
• 4 Surface weather observations
• 5 References
 History of measurement and scales
A hemispherical cup anemometer
In 1441, King Sejongs son, Prince Munjong, invented the first standardized rain gauge.
These were sent throughout the Joseon Dynasty of Korea as an official tool to assess land
taxes based upon a farmer's potential harvest. In 1450, Leone Battista Alberti developed a
swinging-plate anemometer, and is known as the first anemometer. In 1607, Galileo
Galilei constructs a thermoscope. In 1643, Evangelista Torricelli invents the mercury
barometer. In 1662, Sir Christopher Wren invented the mechanical, self-emptying,
tipping bucket rain gauge. In 1714, Gabriel Fahrenheit creates a reliable scale for
measuring temperature with a mercury-type thermometer. In 1742, Anders Celsius, a
Swedish astronomer, proposed the 'centigrade' temperature scale, the predecessor of the
current Celsius scale. In 1783, the first hair hygrometer is demonstrated by Horace-
Bénédict de Saussure. In 1806, Francis Beaufort introduced his system for classifying
wind speeds. The April 1960 launch of the first successful weather satellite, TIROS-1,
marked the beginning of the age where weather information became available globally.
Modern aneroid barometer
See also: List of weather instruments
A thermometer measures air temperature, or the kinetic energy of the molecules within
air. A barometer measures atmospheric pressure, or the pressure exerted by the weight of
the Earth's atmosphere above a particular location. An anemometer measures the wind
speed and the direction the wind is blowing from at the site where it is mounted. A
hygrometer measures the relative humidity at a location, which can then be used to
compute the dew point. Radiosondes directly measure most of these quantities, except for
wind, which is determined by tracking the radiosonde signal with an antenna or
theodolite. Supplementing the radiosondes a network of aircraft collection is organized
by the World Meteorological Organization, which also use these instruments to report
weather conditions at their respective locations. A sounding rocket, sometimes called a
research rocket, is an instrument-carrying rocket designed to take measurements and
perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight.
A pyranometer is a type of actinometer used to measure broadband solar irradiance on a
planar surface and is a sensor that is designed to measure the solar radiation flux density
(in watts per metre square) from a field of view of 180 degrees. A ceilometer is a device
that uses a laser or other light source to determine the height of a cloud base. Ceilometers
can also be used to measure the aerosol concentration within the atmosphere. A ceiling
balloon is used by meteorologists to determine the height of the base of clouds above
ground level during daylight hours. The principle behind the ceiling balloon is a balloon
with a known ascent rate (how fast it climbs) and determining how long the balloon rises
until it disappears into the cloud. Ascent rate times ascent time yields the ceiling height.
A disdrometer is an instrument used to measure the drop size distribution and velocity of
falling hydrometeors. Some disdrometers can distinguish between rain, graupel, and hail.
Rain gages are used to measure the precipitation which falls at any point on the Earth's
Remote sensing, as used in meteorology, is the concept of collecting data from remote
weather events and subsequently producing weather information. Each remote sensing
instruments collects data about the atmosphere from a remote location and, usually, stores
the data where the instrument is located. The common types of remote sensing are Radar,
Lidar, and satellites (or photogrammetry). The main uses of radar are to collect
information concerning the coverage of precipitation and wind. Satellites are chiefly used
to determine cloud cover, as well as wind. SODAR (SOnic Detection And Ranging) is a
meteorological instrument also known as a wind profiler which measures the scattering of
sound waves by atmospheric turbulence. SODAR systems are used to measure wind
speed at various heights above the ground, and the thermodynamic structure of the lower
layer of the atmosphere. RADAR and LIDAR are not passive because both use EM
radiation to illuminate a specific portion of the atmosphere. Weather satellites along
with more general-purpose Earth-observing satellites circling the earth at various
altitudes have become an indispensable tool for studying a wide range of phenomena
from forest fires to El Niño.
 Weather stations
A weather station is a facility with instruments and equipment to make observations of
atmospheric conditions in order to provide information to make weather forecasts and to
study the weather and climate. The measurements taken include temperature, barometric
pressure, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and precipitation amounts. Wind
measurements are taken as free of other obstructions as possible, while temperature and
humidity measurements are kept free from direct solar radiation, or insolation. Manual
observations are taken at least once daily, while automated observations are taken at least
once an hour.
 Surface weather observations
Main article: Surface weather observation
Weather station at Mildura Airport, Victoria, Australia.
Surface weather observations are the fundamental data used for safety as well as
climatological reasons to forecast weather and issue warnings worldwide. They can be
taken manually, by a weather observer, by computer through the use of automated
weather stations, or in a hybrid scheme using weather observers to augment the otherwise
automated weather station. The ICAO defines the International Standard Atmosphere,
which is the model of the standard variation of pressure, temperature, density, and
viscosity with altitude in the Earth's atmosphere, and is used to reduce a station pressure
to sea level pressure. Airport observations can be transmitted worldwide through the use
of the METAR observing code. Personal weather stations taking automated observations
can transmit their data to the United States mesonet through the use of the Citizen
Weather Observer Program (CWOP), or internationally through the Weather
Underground Internet site. A thirty-year average of a location's weather observations is
traditionally used to determine the station's climate.
1. ^ a b Jacobson, Mark Z. (June 2005) (paperback). Fundamentals of Atmospheric
Modeling (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 828. ISBN
2. ^ Grigull, U., Fahrenheit, a Pioneer of Exact Thermometry. Heat Transfer, 1966, The
Proceedings of the 8th International Heat Transfer Conference, San Francisco, 1966, Vol.
3. ^ Beckman, Olof, History of the Celsius temperature scale., translated, Anders Celsius
4. ^ Bill Giles O.B.E. (2009). Beaufort Scale. BBC. Retrieved on 2009-05-12.
5. ^ Peebles, Peyton, , Radar Principles, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, ISBN
6. ^ Office of the Federal Coordinator of Meteorology. Surface Weather Observation
Program. Retrieved on 2008-01-12.
7. ^ Weather Underground. Personal Weather Station. Retrieved on 2008-03-09.
8. ^ MetOffice. Climate Averages. Retrieved on 2008-03-09.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteorological_instrumentation"
SIX'S MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM
Six's maximum and minimum thermometer is a popular thermometer among gardeners
for use in greenhouses. Its purpose is to record the maximum and minimum temperatures
reached since the thermometer was last read. Generally speaking a minimum temperature
occurs during the night and a maximum during the day. It was invented by James Six
towards the end of the eighteenth century, and consists of a fairly large cylindrical bulb
full of alcohol, or oil of creosote, connected by a U- shaped stem to a second bulb nearly
full of alcohol or oil of creosote. The bend of the U contains a thread of mercury. Two
scales are provided, one against each limb of the tube so that the temperature may be read
against either of the mercury levels. Resting on each of the mercury surfaces are small
steel indexes provided with light springs to hold them in position in the stem. Expansion
or contraction of the fluid in the larger bulb causes a movement of the mercury thread.
Consequently, one or other index is pushed forward by the mercury and left in the
extreme position reached. Thus, the lower end of the index on the left indicates the
minimum and that on the right the maximum temperature attained. It is interesting to note
that Six's maximum and minimum thermometers were still being used in 2000 of exactly
the same design and construction as ones produced over 100 years ago.
A mercury barometer has a glass tube of at least 33 inches (about 84 cm) in height, closed
at one end, with an open mercury-filled reservoir at the base. The weight of the mercury
actually creates a vacuum in the top of the tube. Mercury in the tube adjusts until the
weight of the mercury column balances the atmospheric force exerted on the reservoir.
High atmospheric pressure places more force on the reservoir, forcing mercury higher in
the column. Low pressure allows the mercury to drop to a lower level in the column by
lowering the force placed on the reservoir. Since higher temperature at the instrument
will reduce the density of the mercury, the scale for reading the height of the mercury is
adjusted to compensate for this effect.
Torricelli documented that the height of the mercury in a barometer changed slightly each
day and concluded that this was due to the changing pressure in the atmosphere. He
wrote: "We live submerged at the bottom of an ocean of elementary air, which is known
by incontestable experiments to have weight".
The mercury barometer's design gives rise to the expression of atmospheric pressure in
inches or millimeters (torr): the pressure is quoted as the level of the mercury's height in
the vertical column. 1 atmosphere is equivalent to about 29.9 inches, or 760 millimeters,
of mercury. The use of this unit is still popular in the United States, although it has been
disused in favor of SI or metric units in other parts of the world. Barometers of this type
normally measure atmospheric pressures between 28 and 31 inches of mercury.
Design changes to make the instrument more sensitive, simpler to read, and easier to
transport resulted in variations such as the basin, siphon, wheel, cistern, Fortin, multiple
folded, stereometric, and balance barometers. Fitzroy barometers combine the standard
mercury barometer with a thermometer, as well as a guide of how to interpret pressure
changes. Fortin barometers use a variable displacement mercury cistern, usually
constructed with a thumbscrew pressing on a leather diaphragm bottom. This
compensates for displacement of mercury in the column with varying pressure. To use a
Fortin barometer, the level of mercury is set to the zero level before the pressure is read
on the column. Some models also employ a valve for closing the cistern, enabling the
mercury column to be forced to the top of the column for transport. This prevents water-
hammer damage to the column in transit.
On June 5, 2007, a European Union directive was enacted to restrict the sale of mercury,
thus effectively ending the production of new mercury barometers in Europe.
 Aneroid barometers
See also: Barograph
Old aneroid barometer
Modern aneroid barometer
An aneroid barometer uses a small, flexible metal box called an aneroid cell. This
aneroid capsule (cell) is made from an alloy of beryllium and copper. The evacuated
capsule (or usually more capsules) is prevented from collapsing by a strong spring. Small
changes in external air pressure cause the cell to expand or contract. This expansion and
contraction drives mechanical levers such that the tiny movements of the capsule are
amplified and displayed on the face of the aneroid barometer. Many models include a
manually set needle which is used to mark the current measurement so a change can be
seen. In addition, the mechanism is made deliberately 'stiff' so that tapping the barometer
reveals whether the pressure is rising or falling as the pointer moves. It also was invented
by Blaise Pascal.
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Weather vane and bell on the roof of the Cathedral Saint-Étienne of Bourges (France)
A weather vane is an instrument for showing the direction of the wind. They are
typically used as an architectural ornament to the highest point of a building.
Although partly functional, weather vanes are generally decorative, often featuring the
traditional cockerel design with letters indicating the points of the compass. Other
common motifs include ships, arrows and horses. Not all weather vanes have pointers.
The word 'vane' comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'fane' meaning 'flag'.
• 1 Operation
• 2 History
• 3 Slang term
• 4 See also
• 5 References
• 6 Further reading
• 7 External links
A pig weather vane on a barbecue restaurant in North Carolina
"Sighting the Course for Seacoast New Hampshire" NH Welcome Center, Seabrook,
New Hampshire, 1-96; By William Barth Osmundsen, a NH Percent for Art Award.
Wind vane on a church in Norway
The design of a wind vane is such that the weight is evenly distributed each side of the
surface, but the surface area is unequally divided, so that the pointer can move freely on
its axis. The side with the larger area is blown away from the wind direction. The pointer
is therefore always on the smaller side (a north wind is one that blows from the north).
Most wind vanes have directional markers beneath the arrow, aligned with the
Wind vanes, especially those with fanciful shapes, do not always show the real direction
of a very gentle wind. This is because the figures do not achieve the necessary design
balance: an unequal surface area but balanced in weight.
To obtain an accurate reading, the wind vane must be located well above the ground and
away from buildings, trees, and other objects which interfere with the true wind direction.
Changing wind direction can be meaningful when coordinated with other apparent sky
conditions, enabling the user to make simple short range forecasts. From the street level
the size of many weathercocks is deceptive. 
The Tower of the Winds
The Tower of the Winds on the ancient Roman agora in Athens once bore on its roof a
wind vane in the form of a bronze Triton holding a rod in his outstretched hand, rotating
as the wind changed direction. Below, the frieze was adorned with the eight wind deities.
The eight metre high structure also featured sundials, and a water clock inside dates from
around 50 BC.
The wind vane evolved from a Triton to a weathercock as the Roman Empire converted
to Christianity. Many churches have a weathercock on the tower or spire. The cock refers
to the fall of St Peter and to intimate the necessity for watchfulness and humility.
Functional modern wind vane
Early weather vanes had very ornamental pointers, but modern wind vanes are usually
simple arrows that dispense with the directionals because the instrument is connected to a
remote reading station. Modern aerovanes combine the directional vane with an
anemometer (a device for measuring wind speed). Co-locating both instruments allows
them to use the same axis (a vertical rod) and provides a coordinated readout.
World's largest weather vane in Jerez, Spain
Another wind direction device is the windsock used at airports to show wind direction
and strength. The wind fills the sock and makes it blow away from the prevailing wind.
Strong winds make the sock point almost horizontally, while light airs allow the sock to
hang limply. Because of its size, the windsock can often be seen from the air as well as
the ground. Even the most technologically-advanced airports still use windsocks.
According to the Guinness World Records, the world's largest weather vane is located in
Jerez, Spain. A challenger for the title of world's largest weather vane is located in
Whitehorse, Yukon. The weather vane is a retired Douglas DC-3 atop a swiveling
support. Located beside Whitehorse International Airport, the weather vane is used
mainly by pilots to determine wind direction. The weather vane only requires a 5
km/hour wind to rotate. 
An anemometer is a device for measuring the wind speed, and is one instrument used in
a weather station. The term is derived from the Greek word anemos, meaning wind. The
first known description of an anemometer was given by Leon Battista Alberti in around
Anemometers can be divided into two classes: those that measure the wind's velocity, and
those that measure the wind's pressure; but as there is a close connection between the
pressure and the velocity, an anemometer designed for one will give information about
• 1 Velocity anemometers
o 1.1 Cup anemometers
o 1.2 Windmill anemometers
o 1.3 Hot-wire anemometers
o 1.4 Laser Doppler anemometers
o 1.5 Sonic anemometers
o 1.6 Ping-pong ball anemometers
• 2 Pressure anemometers
o 2.1 Plate anemometers
o 2.2 Tube anemometers
o 2.3 Effect of density on measurements
• 3 See also
• 4 Notes
• 5 References
• 6 External links
 Velocity anemometers
 Cup anemometers
A simple type of anemometer is the cup anemometer, invented (1846) by Dr. John
Thomas Romney Robinson, of Armagh Observatory. It consisted of four hemispherical
cups each mounted on one end of four horizontal arms, which in turn were mounted at
equal angles to each other on a vertical shaft. The air flow past the cups in any horizontal
direction turned the cups in a manner that was proportional to the wind speed. Therefore,
counting the turns of the cups over a set time period produced the average wind speed for
a wide range of speeds. On an anemometer with four cups it is easy to see that since the
cups are arranged symmetrically on the end of the arms, the wind always has the hollow
of one cup presented to it and is blowing on the back of the cup on the opposite end of the
When Robinson first designed his anemometer, he wrongly claimed that no matter how
big the cups or how long the arms, the cups always moved with one-third of the speed of
the wind. This was apparently confirmed by some early independent experiments, but it
was very far from the truth. It was later discovered that the actual relationship between
the speed of the wind and that of the cups, called the anemometer factor, depended on the
dimensions of the cups and arms, and may have a value between two and a little over
three. Every single experiment involving an anemometer had to be done all over again.
The three cup anemometer developed by the Canadian John Patterson in 1926 and
subsequent cup improvements by Brevoort & Joiner of the USA in 1935 led to a
cupwheel design which was linear and had an error of less than 3% up to 60 mph.
Patterson found that each cup produced maximum torque when it was at 45 degrees to the
wind flow. The three cup anemometer also had a more constant torque and responded
more quickly to gusts than the four cup anemometer.
The three cup anemometer was further modified by the Australian Derek Weston in 1991
to measure both wind direction and wind speed. Weston added a tag to one cup, which
causes the cupwheel speed to increase and decrease as the tag moves alternately with and
against the wind. Wind direction is calculated from these cyclical changes in cupwheel
speed, while wind speed is as usual determined from the average cupwheel speed.
Three cup anemometers are currently used as the industry standard for wind resource
A windmill style of anemometer
 Windmill anemometers
The other forms of mechanical velocity anemometer may be described as belonging to
the windmill type or propeller anemometer. In the Robinson anemometer the axis of
rotation is vertical, but with this subdivision the axis of rotation must be parallel to the
direction of the wind and therefore horizontal. Furthermore, since the wind varies in
direction and the axis has to follow its changes, a wind vane or some other contrivance to
fulfill the same purpose must be employed. An aerovane combines a propeller and a tail
on the same axis to obtain accurate and precise wind speed and direction measurements
from the same instrument. In cases where the direction of the air motion is always the
same, as in the ventilating shafts of mines and buildings for instance, wind vanes, known
as air meters are employed, and give most satisfactory results.
 Hot-wire anemometers
Hot wire anemometers use a very fine wire (on the order of several micrometers)
electrically heated up to some temperature above the ambient. Air flowing past the wire
has a cooling effect on the wire. As the electrical resistance of most metals is dependent
upon the temperature of the metal (tungsten is a popular choice for hot-wires), a
relationship can be obtained between the resistance of the wire and the flow velocity.
Several ways of implementing this exist, and hot-wire devices can be further classified as
CCA (Constant-Current Anemometer), CVA (Constant-Voltage Anemometer) and CTA
(Constant-Temperature Anemometer). The voltage output from these anemometers is
thus the result of some sort of circuit within the device trying to maintain the specific
variable (current, voltage or temperature) constant.
Additionally, PWM (pulse-width modulation) anemometers are also used, wherein the
velocity is inferred by the time length of a repeating pulse of current that brings the wire
up to a specified resistance and then stops until a threshold "floor" is reached, at which
time the pulse is sent again.
Hot-wire anemometers, while extremely delicate, have extremely high frequency-
response and fine spatial resolution compared to other measurement methods, and as such
are almost universally employed for the detailed study of turbulent flows, or any flow in
which rapid velocity fluctuations are of interest.
 Laser Doppler anemometers
Drawing of a laser anemometer. The laser is emitted (1) through the front lens (6) of the
anemometer and is backscattered off the air molecules (7). The backscattered radiation
(dots) re-enter the device and are reflected and directed into a detector (12).
Laser Doppler anemometers use a beam of light from a laser that is split into two beams,
with one propagated out of the anemometer. Particulates (or deliberately introduced seed
material) flowing along with air molecules near where the beam exits reflect, or
backscatter, the light back into a detector, where it is measured relative to the original
laser beam. When the particles are in great motion, they produce a Doppler shift for
measuring wind speed in the laser light, which is used to calculate the speed of the
particles, and therefore the air around the anemometer.
 Sonic anemometers
3D ultrasonic anemometer
Sonic anemometers, first developed in the 1970s, use ultrasonic sound waves to measure
wind speed and direction. They measure wind velocity based on the time of flight of
sonic pulses between pairs of transducers. Measurements from pairs of transducers can be
combined to yield a measurement of 1-, 2-, or 3-dimensional flow. The spatial resolution
is given by the path length between transducers, which is typically 10 to 20 cm. Sonic
anemometers can take measurements with very fine temporal resolution, 20 Hz or better,
which make them well suited for turbulence measurements. The lack of moving parts
makes them appropriate for long term use in exposed automated weather stations and
weather buoys where the accuracy and reliability of traditional cup-and-vane
anemometers is adversely affected by salty air or large amounts of dust. Their main
disadvantage is the distortion of the flow itself by the structure supporting the
transducers, which requires a correction based upon wind tunnel measurements to
minimize the effect. An international standard for this process, ISO 16622 Meteorology
—Sonic anemometers/thermometers—Acceptance test methods for mean wind
measurements is in general circulation.
Two-dimensional (wind speed and wind direction) sonic anemometers are used in
applications such as weather stations, ship navigation, wind turbines, aviation and
 Ping-pong ball anemometers
A common anemometer for basic use is constructed from a ping-pong ball attached to a
string. When the wind blows horizontally, it presses on and moves the ball; because ping-
pong balls are very lightweight, they move easily in light winds. Measuring the angle
between the string-ball apparatus and the line normal to the ground gives an estimate of
the wind speed.
This type of anemometer is mostly used for middle-school level instruction which most
students make themselves, but a similar device was also flown on Phoenix Mars Lander.
 Pressure anemometers
The first designs of anemometers which measure the pressure were divided into plate and
 Plate anemometers
These are the earliest anemometers and are simply a flat plate suspended from the top so
that the wind deflects the plate. In 1450, the Italian art architect Leon Battista Alberti
invented the first mechanical anemometer; in 1664 it was re-invented by Robert Hooke
(who is often mistakenly considered the inventor of the first anemometer). Later versions
of this form consisted of a flat plate, either square or circular, which is kept normal to the
wind by a wind vane. The pressure of the wind on its face is balanced by a spring. The
compression of the spring determines the actual force which the wind is exerting on the
plate, and this is either read off on a suitable gauge, or on a recorder. Instruments of this
kind do not respond to light winds, are inaccurate for high wind readings, and are slow at
responding to variable winds. Plate anemometers have been used to trigger high wind
alarms on bridges.
 Tube anemometers
Helicoid propeller anemometer incorporating a wind vane for orientation.
James Lind's anemometer of 1775 consisted simply of a glass U tube containing liquid, a
manometer, with one end bent in a horizontal direction to face the wind and the other
vertical end remains parallel to the wind flow. Though the Lind was not the first it was
the most practical and best known anemometer of this type. If the wind blows into the
mouth of a tube it causes an increase of pressure on one side of the manometer. The wind
over the open end of a vertical tube causes little change in pressure on the other side of
the manometer. The resulting liquid change in the U tube is an indication of the wind
speed. Small departures from the true direction of the wind causes large variations in the
The highly successful metal pressure tube anemometer of William Henry Dines in 1892
utilized the same pressure difference between the open mouth of a straight tube facing the
wind and a ring of small holes in a vertical tube which is closed at the upper end. Both
are mounted at the same height. The pressure differences on which the action depends are
very small, and special means are required to register them. The recorder consists of a
float in a sealed chamber partially filled with water. The pipe from the straight tube is
connected to the top of the sealed chamber and the pipe from the small tubes is directed
into the bottom inside the float. Since the pressure difference determines the vertical
position of the float this is a measure of the wind speed.
The great advantage of the tube anemometer lies in the fact that the exposed part can be
mounted on a high pole, and requires no oiling or attention for years; and the registering
part can be placed in any convenient position. Two connecting tubes are required. It
might appear at first sight as though one connection would serve, but the differences in
pressure on which these instruments depend are so minute, that the pressure of the air in
the room where the recording part is placed has to be considered. Thus if the instrument
depends on the pressure or suction effect alone, and this pressure or suction is measured
against the air pressure in an ordinary room, in which the doors and windows are
carefully closed and a newspaper is then burnt up the chimney, an effect may be
produced equal to a wind of 10 mi/h (16 km/h); and the opening of a window in rough
weather, or the opening of a door, may entirely alter the registration.
While the Dines anemometer had an error of only 1% at 10 mph it did not respond very
well to low winds due to the poor response of the flat plate vane required to turn the head
into the wind. In 1918 an aerodynamic vane with eight times the torque of the flat plate
overcame this problem.
 Effect of density on measurements
In the tube anemometer the pressure is measured, although the scale is usually graduated
as a velocity scale. In cases where the density of the air is significantly different from the
calibration value (as on a high mountain, or with an exceptionally low barometer) an
allowance must be made. Approximately 1½% should be added to the velocity recorded
by a tube anemometer for each 1000 ft (5% for each kilometer) above sea-level.
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Standard Rain Gauge
Tipping Bucket Rain Gauge Recorder
Close up of a Tipping Bucket Rain Gauge Recorder chart
A rain gauge (also known as a udometer or a pluviometer [Pluviograph ] or an
ombrometer or a cup) is a type of instrument used by meteorologists and hydrologists to
gather and measure the amount of liquid precipitation (as opposed to solid precipitation
that is measured by a snow gauge) over a set period of time.
• 1 History
• 2 Principles
• 3 Types
o 3.1 Standard rain gauge
o 3.2 Weighing precipitation gauge
o 3.3 Tipping bucket rain gauge
o 3.4 Optical rain gauge
• 4 See also
• 5 References
• 6 External links
The first known records of rainfalls were kept by the Ancient Greeks about 500 B.C. This
was followed 100 years later by people in India using bowls to record the rainfall. The
readings from these were correlated against expected growth, and used as a basis for land
taxes. In the Arthashastra, used for example in Magadha, precise standards were set as to
grain production. Each of the state storehouses were equipped with a standardised rain
gauge to classify land for taxation purposes.
In 1662 AD, Christopher Wren created the first tipping-bucket rain gauge in Britain.
Garden rain gauge
Most rain gauges generally measure the precipitation in millimeters. The level of rainfall
is sometimes reported as inches or centimeters.
Rain gauge amounts are read either manually or by AWS (Automatic Weather Station).
The frequency of readings will depend on the requirements of the collection agency.
Some countries will supplement the paid weather observer with a network of volunteers
to obtain precipitation data (and other types of weather) for sparsely populated areas.
In most cases the precipitation is not retained, however some stations do submit rainfall
(and snowfall) for testing, which is done to obtain levels of pollutants.
Rain gauges have their limitations. Attempting to collect rain data in a hurricane can be
nearly impossible and unreliable (even if the equipment survives) due to wind extremes.
Also, rain gauges only indicate rainfall in a localized area. For virtually any gauge, drops
will stick to the sides or funnel of the collecting device, such that amounts are very
slightly underestimated, and those of .01 inches or .25 mm may be recorded as a trace.
Another problem encountered is when the temperature is close to or below freezing. Rain
may fall on the funnel and freeze or snow may collect in the gauge and not permit any
subsequent rain to pass through.
Rain gauges, like most meteorological instruments, should be placed far enough away
from structures and trees to ensure that any effects caused are minimized.
Types of rain gauges include graduated cylinders, weighing gauges, tipping bucket
gauges, and simple buried pit collectors. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages
for collecting rain data.
 Standard rain gauge
The standard rain gauge, developed around the start of the 20th century, consists of a
funnel attached to a graduated cylinder that fits into a larger container. If the water
overflows from the graduated cylinder the outside container will catch it. When
measurements are taken, the cylinder will be measured and then the excess will be put in
another cylinder and measured. In most cases the cylinder is marked in mm and in the
picture above will measure up to 25 mm (0.98 in) of rainfall. Each horizontal line on the
cylinder is 0.2 mm (0.007 in). The larger container collects any rainfall amounts over 25
mm that flows from a small hole near the top of the cylinder. A metal pipe is attached to
the container and can be adjusted to ensure the rain gauge is level. This pipe then fits over
a metal rod that has been placed in the ground.
 Weighing precipitation gauge
A weighing-type precipitation gauge consists of a storage bin, which is weighed to record
the mass. Certain models measure the mass using a pen on a rotating drum, or by using a
vibrating wire attached to a data logger. The advantages of this type of gauge over tipping
buckets are that it does not underestimate intense rain, and it can measure other forms of
precipitation, including rain, hail and snow. These gauges are, however, more expensive
and require more maintenance than tipping bucket gauges.
The weighing-type recording gauge may also contain a device to measure the quantity of
chemicals contained in the location's atmosphere. This is extremely helpful for scientists
studying the effects of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere and their effects on
the levels of the acid rain.
 Tipping bucket rain gauge
The interior of a tipping bucket rain gauge
The tipping bucket rain gauge consists of a large copper cylinder set into the ground. At
the top of the cylinder is a funnel that collects and channels the precipitation. The
precipitation falls onto one of two small buckets or levers which are balanced in same
manner as a scale (or child's seesaw). After an amount of precipitation equal to 0.2 mm
(0.007 in) falls, the lever tips and an electrical signal is sent to the recorder. The recorder
consists of a pen mounted on an arm attached to a geared wheel that moves once with
each signal sent from the collector. When the wheel turns the pen arm moves either up or
down leaving a trace on the graph and at the same time making a loud click. Each jump
of the arm is sometimes referred to as a 'click' in reference to the noise. The chart is
measured in 10 minute periods (vertical lines) and 0.4 mm (0.015 in) (horizontal lines)
and rotates once every 24 hours and is powered by a clockwork motor that must be
The exterior of a tipping bucket rain gauge
The tipping bucket rain gauge is not as accurate as the standard rain gauge because the
rainfall may stop before the lever has tipped. When the next period of rain begins it may
take no more than one or two drops to tip the lever. This would then indicate that 0.2 mm
(0.007 in) has fallen when in fact only a minute amount has. Tipping buckets also tend to
underestimate the amount of rainfall, particularly in snowfall and heavy rainfall events
. The advantage of the tipping bucket rain gauge is that the character of the rain (light,
medium or heavy) may be easily obtained. Rainfall character is decided by the total
amount of rain that has fallen in a set period (usually 1 hour) and by counting the number
of 'clicks' in a 10 minute period the observer can decide the character of the rain.
Modern tipping rain gauges consist of a plastic collector balanced over a pivot. When it
tips, it actuates a switch (such as a reed switch) which is then electronically recorded or
transmitted to a remote collection station.
Tipping gauges can also incorporate weighing gauges. In these gauges, a strain gauge is
fixed to the collection bucket so that the exact rainfall can be read at any moment. Each
time the collector tips, the strain gauge (weight sensor) is re-zeroed to null out any drift.
To measure the water equivalent of frozen precipitation, a tipping bucket may be heated
to melt any ice and snow that is caught in its funnel. Without a heating mechanism, the
funnel often becomes clogged during a frozen precipitation event, and thus no
precipitation can be measured. The Automated Surface Observing System
(ASOS) uses heated tipping buckets to measure precipitation 
 Optical rain gauge
These have a row of collection funnels. In an enclosed space below each is a laser diode
and a phototransistor detector. When enough water is collected to make a single drop, it
drips from the bottom, falling into the laser beam path. The sensor is set at right angles to
the laser so that enough light is scattered to be detected as a sudden flash of light. The
flashes from these photodetectors are then read and transmitted or recorded.
A hydrometer is an instrument used to measure the specific gravity (or relative density)
of liquids; that is, the ratio of the density of the liquid to the density of water.
A hydrometer is usually made of glass and consists of a cylindrical stem and a bulb
weighted with mercury or lead shot to make it float upright. The liquid to be tested is
poured into a tall jar, and the hydrometer is gently lowered into the liquid until it floats
freely. The point at which the surface of the liquid touches the stem of the hydrometer is
noted. Hydrometers usually contain a paper scale inside the stem, so that the specific
gravity can be read directly. The scales may be Plato, Oechsle, or Brix, depending on the
Hydrometers may be calibrated for different uses, such as a lactometer for measuring the
density (creaminess) of milk, a saccharometer for measuring the density of sugar in a
liquid, or an alcoholometer for measuring higher levels of alcohol in spirits.
• 1 Principle
• 2 History
• 3 Ranges
• 4 Scales
• 5 Commercial uses
o 5.1 Lactometer
o 5.2 Alcoholometer
o 5.3 Saccharometer
o 5.4 Thermohydrometer
o 5.5 Barkometer
• 6 Soil analysis
• 7 See also
• 8 References
• 9 Sources
The operation of the hydrometer is based on the Archimedes principle that a solid
suspended in a fluid will be buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid
displaced. Thus, the lower the density of the substance, the further the hydrometer will
sink. (See also Relative density and hydrometers.)
An early description of a hydrometer appears in a letter from Synesius of Cyrene to
Hypatia of Alexandria. In Synesius' fifteen letter, he requests Hypatia to make a
hydrometer for him:
The instrument in question is a cylindrical tube, which has the shape of a flute and is about the
same size. It has notches in a perpendicular line, by means of which we are able to test the weight
of the waters. A cone forms a lid at one of the extremities, closely fitted to the tube. The cone and
the tube have one base only. This is called the baryllium. Whenever you place the tube in water, it
remains erect. You can then count the notches at your ease, and in this way ascertain the weight
of the water.
In low density liquids such as kerosene, gasoline, and alcohol, the hydrometer will sink
deeper, and in high density liquids such as brine, milk, and acids it will not sink so far. In
fact, it is usual to have two separate instruments, one for heavy liquids, on which the
mark 1.000 for water is near the top of the stem, and one for light liquids, on which the
mark 1.000 is near the bottom. In many industries a set of hydrometers is used —
covering specific gravity ranges of 1.0–0.95, 0.95–0.9 etc — to provide more precise
Modern hydrometers usually measure specific gravity but different scales were (and
sometimes still are) used in certain industries. Examples include:
• Baumé scale, formerly used in industrial chemistry and pharmacology
• Brix scale, primarily used in fruit juice, wine making and the sugar industry
• Oechsle scale, used for measuring the density of grape must
• Plato scale, primarily used in brewing
• Twaddell scale, formerly used in the bleaching and dyeing industries 
 Commercial uses
A modern hydrometer in a sugar solution
Because the commercial value of many liquids, including sugar solutions, sulfuric acid,
and alcohol beverages such as beer and wine, depends directly on the specific gravity,
hydrometers are used extensively.
A lactometer (or galactometer) is a hydrometer used to test milk. The specific gravity of
milk does not give a conclusive indication of its composition since milk contains a
variety of substances that are either heavier or lighter than water. Additional tests for fat
content are necessary to determine overall composition. The instrument is graduated into
a hundred parts. Milk is poured in and allowed to stand until the cream has formed, then
the depth of the cream deposit in degrees determines the quality of the milk. Another
instrument, invented by Doeffel, is two inches long, divided into 40 parts, beginning at
the point to which it sinks when placed in water. Milk unadulterated is shown at 14°.
An alcoholometer is a hydrometer which is used for determining the alcoholic strength of
liquids. It is also known as a proof and traille hydrometer. It only measures the density of
the fluid. Certain assumptions are made to estimate the amount of alcohol present in the
fluid. Alcoholometers have scales marked with volume percents of "potential alcohol",
based on a pre-calculated specific gravity. A higher "potential alcohol" reading on this
scale is caused by a greater specific gravity, assumed to be caused by the introduction of
dissolved sugars. A reading is taken before and after fermentation and approximate
alcohol content is determined by subtracting the post fermentation reading from the pre-
fermentation reading. 
A saccharometer is a hydrometer used for determining the amount of sugar in a solution.
It is used primarily by winemakers and brewers, and it can also be used in making
sorbets and ice-creams. The first brewers' saccharometer was constructed by John
Richardson in 1784.
It consists of a large weighted glass bulb with a thin stem rising from the top with
calibrated markings. The sugar level can be determined by reading the value where the
surface of the liquid crosses the scale. It works by the principle of buoyancy. A solution
with a higher sugar content is denser, causing the bulb to float higher. Less sugar results
in a lower density and a lower floating bulb.
A thermohydrometer is a hydrometer that has a thermometer enclosed in the float section.
For measuring the density of petroleum products, like fuel oils, the specimen is usually
heated in a temperature jacket with a thermometer placed behind it since density is
dependent on temperature. Light oils are placed in cooling jackets, typically at 15oC.
Very light oils with many volatile components are measured in a variable volume
container using a floating piston sampling device to minimize light end losses.
As a battery test it measures the temperature compensated specific gravity and electrolyte
A barkometer is calibrated to test the strength of tanning liquors used in tanning leather.