Lets have a little science fun with the weather and make a rain gauge. We can learn about
the clouds and how rain forms, then measure the amount of rainfall.
Materials Make A Rain Gauge
- 2 Liter Plastic Bottle
- Scissors or Carpet Knife
- Duct Tape
- Sharpie Marker
Process To Make A Rain Gauge:
1) Empty and wash out the 2 liter bottle so it's nice and clean.
2) Take the scissors or carpet knife and cut off the spout top right where the taper or curve
3) Fill bottom of the bottle with 1/2 inch of sand. This will create ballast and keep the bottle
from falling over.
4) Pour in just enough water so you can see the water level above the sand. This is called
the saturation point.
5) Use the Sharpie Marker to draw a line at the saturation point above the sand. Next to the
line write "starting point".
6) Line the ruler up (from the starting/saturation point) and draw a line for every inch up to the
top of the bottle. Go back and use the marker to add dots for 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 inch spots between
7) Take the top "cut off" spout portion of the bottle and flip it upside down. Insert it into the
bottle and use some duct tape to secure it. This part will help catch and collect the rainfall by
funneling into your bottle.
8) Find a good place to put your rain gauge. Make sure nothing is blocking it from above and
its in a stable wide open area.
The Science Behind A Rain Gauge
Basically, any measuring glass left outside can serve as a rain gauge. However, since most
rain showers are usually quite windy, you'll want to fasten your rain gauge somewhere so
that it doesn't blow over.
Locate a good place for your gauge. There should be nothing overhead, like trees, electric
wires, or the edge of a roof. These obstructions can direct rainwater into or away from your
gauge, creating a false reading. The edge of a fence, away from the building, is often a good
place for your gauge.
Once you have found the spot, set your rain gauge in place. Wait for rain, then record your
measurement, and empty the gauge. Now grab some friends and Make A Rain Gauge.
The United States Weather Bureau is home to the official rain gauge. The device is a large
cylinder 19.7 inches tall with a 7.9 inch wide funnel. Professional rain gauges utilize a
protecting housing around the measuring cylinder inside the gauge to ensure accuracy.
Why Does it Rain?
When the water droplets or ice crystals that make up clouds become too large to remain
suspended in the air, they fall. Water in any form that falls from clouds-snow, rain, hail-is
called precipitation. Many different conditions cause precipitation. In tropical regions of the
world, air currents cause the water droplets in a cloud to bump into one another; this
bumping forces them together into larger droplets and they fall as rain. If the cloud is high in
the sky, and the air the rain passes through is warm and dry, the rain may evaporate before it
ever reaches Earth. In colder climates, most rain starts out as snowflakes or ice crystals.
Depending on how high the cloud and how warm the air, these crystals will fall to Earth either
as rain or as snow (or perhaps as sleet or hail).
The Science of Clouds
Clouds are a wonderful part of the weather cycle. They form when little tiny droplets of water
or ice crystals collect in the air. Weather scientists have a way to classify the clouds by their
height in the atmosphere, their shapes, and what they are made of.
Cirrus Clouds - are the highest of all clouds in earths atmosphere. Because they are so high
in the sky, they are made of ice crystals. These clouds appear thin and spread out with wispy
little tails that trail off them.
Alto Clouds - are found in the middle of the sky or atmosphere. They are made up of both
water droplets and ice crystals. Often when you see them they span the entire sky and have
dark grey portions. These clouds usually bring thunderstorms and
Stratus Clouds - are found at the lowest levels of the sky or atmosphere. These clouds have
the appearance of fog and often bring light mist.
Cumulus Clouds - are not classified by any particular height. Instead they are classified by
shape. They appear flat on the bottom and round at the top. These clouds can bring lots of
rain, snow, hail, thunder or lightning. If your watching this type of cloud, be on the lookout for
when the rounded top portion starts to grow taller and reach up higher in the sky. This
signals the storm may start soon.
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