What is a Rain Gauge?

A rain gauge is an instrument designed to measure the amount of precipitation that falls over a set period, providing valuable data for weather forecasting and climate studies. By understanding rainfall patterns, we can better predict floods and manage water resources. How might this simple tool be impacting your daily life? Discover its surprising influence as we explore further.
A Kaminsky
A Kaminsky

Whether amateur or professional meteorologists, whether farmers or gardeners, many people want to know how much rain falls. The easiest way to measure this is with a rain gauge. These devices measure rainfall in increments as small as one one-hundredth of an inch.

The ingenious rain gauge can be as simple as a funnel flowing into a tube, or as complex as a plastic container attached to a computerized gauge. The basic rain gauge consists of two long glass or plastic tubes. One tube has a funnel on top and fits inside the overflow tube. The tube with a funnel is marked in hundredths of an inch and can be read from the outside. This rain gauge usually has a mounting bracket so it can be placed against the side of a home or storage building.

A rain gauge can help determine the difference between a dry spell and a drought.
A rain gauge can help determine the difference between a dry spell and a drought.

A more elaborate rain gauge consists of a plastic bucket atop a computerized reader. These gauges hold a lot more rain and will often measure rainfall over an extended period of time. Some computerized gauges even have a wireless feature! The readings are shown on a small LCD device that looks rather like a kitchen timer. This means the weather watcher doesn't have to go outside while it is still wet to know how much rain has fallen. These fancy versions may also record other weather information, such as temperature, humidity and barometric pressure - all available on the remote readout.

Accurately measuring rainfall is important because agriculture and other industries dependent on weather need to know how wet it is. That information may have an impact on what the business is able to accomplish. These measurements also give scientists a better picture of the climate in an area, whether for a day or over a long period of time. Accurate rainfall measurements are crucial in determining the difference between a "dry spell" and true drought, for instance.

A simple rain gauge may be purchased at any home supply store, sometimes for as little as US$5. The more elaborate, computerized gauges are available in some stores and online, as well. Considering all the things they do, they are moderately priced. One wireless rain gauge with a self-emptying rain bucket is about US$45. Most are priced in the $30 to $60 range and a quick Internet search will turn up a host of vendors and varieties.

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Discussion Comments


@gameaddicted - You just cover the plants. If they are potted and in danger of drowning you can easily move them. Your little rain gauge tube will help you to figure out if it's raining too much. I would assume that if the soil still looks moist because you just watered the plant and it is going to rain soon then you should make arrangements to pull the plant from the potential downpour. Just to be safe, of course.


@bbpuff - When you have plants that are in danger of getting too much water, what do you do with them? We have an electronic rain gauge that will help us out, but here in the south we don't get a bunch of rain, so I'm not sure if it's always good or bad. Most of the time it rains right after I water them, ugh!


@doppler - We live in Washington and have a garden rain gauge for that very purpose! Some plants cannot survive whenever there is too much water to be had. So our little plastic rain gauge adds a lot of help whenever we need to figure out if we should withdraw the plants or not.


Rain gauges can be very technical to very simplified. You can also find digital rain gauges now that are very simple and easy to use. It's kind of a fun learning tool for children as well as something for adults to keep track of rain for plants.

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    • A rain gauge can help determine the difference between a dry spell and a drought.
      By: sakura
      A rain gauge can help determine the difference between a dry spell and a drought.