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Weather Forecasting Instruments

Weather forecasters are people who study the weather so they can tell us what to expect when we go outside.

Another word for a weather forecaster is a meteorologist.

How Do You Measure Weather?

A meteorologist uses different weather instruments to measure the weather

  • Temperature
  • The amount of moisture in the air
  • How fast the wind is blowing
  • Which direction the wind is blowing
  • What kind of air is in the atmosphere in different places
  • Which direction air masses are moving.

They use a weather station that has all the equipment for measuring the current conditions to help provide information for weather forecasts.

A weather station can be on land or sea. Currently, there are over 10,000 in the world. Some of these are manned and some are automatic stations that have systems in place to send data on current weather conditions in that location.

Instruments used in a Weather Station

Barometer

An instrument that measures the pressure of the air. If the air pressure is rising (getting higher), the weather will be calm and mild. If the air pressure is falling, the weather is going to be rainy or stormy.

Thermometer

A thermometer is used to measure how hot or cold something is. It’s a simplistic device usually made with a glass tube and contains alcohol or mercury. These expand with heat or cold, which makes the liquid move up or down. On the corresponding scale, you’ll then see temperature.

Sling Psychrometer

Measures the humidity in the air. Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air, so this instrument tells weather forecasters how much moisture is in the air. If the air is Moist air is heavier than dry air, so when the air is humid, we sweat more (or it shows more) because our sweat cannot evaporate in the heavy, moist air.

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Windsock

A simple solution to help determine wind speed and the direction the wind is blowing is a windsock.

You can measure the wind speed by the angle of the windsock to the mounting pole as the wind blows. If the sock is low, the wind speed is low, and the higher the windsock, the higher the wind speed.

You might have seen these at airports, especially near the runway, so pilots can observe the direction and speed of the wind before takeoff.

The FAA has standards for determining wind speed at airports. The windsock will be fully extended when 17 miles an hour winds are blowing, and in order to determine the direction, the wind must blowing at 3 .5mph.

Some chemical plants also use windsock’s so they can reduce any exposure to dangerous toxins to the environment.

Rain gauge

A rain gauge is used by meteorologists to help them measure the amount of rain over a period of time.

It’s a simple device and generally just a cylinder that catches rainfall. You can measure the amount of rain that has accumulated by using the scale on the outside.

Unfortunately, there are some conditions when they cannot be used, such as a hurricane, because the wind will affect the ability of the gauge to accurately measure rainfall.

Anemometer

An anemometer is a weather tool used to measure wind speed. You’ll find them in weather stations and airports to help airplanes etc.

Different types include the thermal anemometer, vane anemometer, and the cup anemometer.

They are an important part of a weather station because they can help with the study of air movement and weather patterns.

The Italian inventor and architect Leon Battista Alberti invented the first mechanical anemometer around 1450

Weather satellites and computers

Tracks the weather patterns from high up in the atmosphere and collects the data so the weather forecasters can use it.

The satellites can see the clouds from ABOVE and send the information to forecasters on the ground using a computer.

Radar

An electronic instrument used to track how much precipitation is falling, where it is falling, and which direction it is moving. Radar also tracks tornadoes, hurricanes, and other types of storms.

Weather Balloon

A weather balloon (or sounding balloon) is used to carry instruments into the upper atmosphere to measure humidity, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, and temperature.

The different kinds of radar

DOPPLER RADAR

Tells forecasters how strong a storm is, the wind direction and speed, and how much rain or snow there will be. Doppler Radar also gives forecasters the ability to see severe storms before they hit; thunderstorms that cause hail, strong winds, and even tornadoes. By knowing these storms are coming, weather forecasters can warn people to protect themselves.

NEXRAD RADAR

NEXRAD or Next Generation Radar is used by the National Weather Service and Is a more up-to-date version of Doppler radar. It gives forecasters the ability to see storms forming sooner than they could before.

With this weather forecasting instrument, it allows them to observe weather patterns and systems for tracking a thunderstorm over a period of time to help with any weather prediction that they have.

A job that always changes

The weather is always changing and there is nothing we can do about it—it’s just nature.

That is why weather forecaster cannot always predict the weather correctly. But using the instruments they have and by watching the sky itself, they do the very best they can.

A meteorologist will use the weather station to help when they are forecasting. They also have access to weather satellites, which can help them to see cloud cover, thunderstorms, wildfires, and the effect it has on local weather conditions, snow cover, etc.

The forecast is used by ships so that they steer away from storms. Scientists to help them track and map weather over time, for monitoring weather systems to give people on the ground warnings.