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Precipitation Science Project



If you are interested in weather and climate you may have fun with this precipitation science project. This article provides information and ideas for building a rain gauge and suggestions and extenstions for doing explorations using the gauge.

Introduction

This project includes two parts. In the first, students build a rain gauge and use it to track rainfall. In the second part, more advanced students build on their observations with their rain gauge by comparing them to other data to try to discover trends or changes.

To extend the project, you can try out the following suggestions:

  • Check to see how the intensity of rain changed during a storm by checking the rain gauge every hour during a rain storm. See if you can figure out how much rain fell in each hour without dumping out the water from your rain gauge.
  • After a substantial snowfall (if there is snow where you live), bring the rain gauge into the house for a little while till the snow melts. Compare the height of the water to the height of the snow.
  • Make a second rain gauge and place it either in a very different spot on your property or at some other location that you can easily reach to record observations (a neighbor’s yard, for example). Compare the results in the two places. How do you account for any differences you find?
  • Experiment with different forms of charts and graphs to record your data in a cogent way.
  • Research major precipitation events that have influenced local (or state, regional, national, or world) history.

Build a Rain Gauge

In this project, students make a simple model to demonstrate the greenhouse effect. This project requires a sunny day.

Materials

  • A plastic or glass container. This can be either a beaker or a jar or glass with as flat a bottom as possible and straight sides.
  • An indelible marker with a fine point or a plastic ruler
  • A flat location for the rain gauge to sit and, if necessary, something to fix it in place.
  • Adhesive to attach the ruler to the inside lip of the jar, so it will stand straight.
  • Funnel the width of the jar.

Directions

  1. Insert the ruler into the jar and attach it or mark the side of the jar in metric or standard units of measure by ¼ inch or .5 cm divisions.
  2. Set the jar in a flat location that is a) not blocked from the rain by anything (for example, a roof extension or a tree) and b) is not in direct sunlight (which would cause the water to evaporate. This place could be at the center of a bird feeder; on a picnic table or bench, on a wall or barbecue grill, on a paving stone, etc. Make sure that it is both not likely to be a hazard itself and also is not likely to be knocked over by activity in the area.
  3. Check and empty your rain gauge every day at the same time to be sure your readings are always for 24 hours.
  4. Keep a chart for a month showing the amount of precipitation that fell each day.

Extend Your Understanding of Precipitation

In this project, students do research to extend their understanding of their observations. They can do some or all of the following.

Directions

  1. Each day, compare your rain gauge measurements with the daily listing in a local paper or the local page of an Internet weather service. Do you see any patterns or trends? How accurate is your homemade rain gauge?
  2. Look up the local precipitation data for other years. This may be available through old newspapers, a library reference, or a local museum that collects meteorological data, for example. Compare it with the data you’ve collected. What trends, similarities, and differences do you see?
  3. Collect data to allow you to compare your observations about local precipitation to state, regional, or national data. What trends, similarities, and differences do you see?
  4. Add to your store of knowledge about local weather by conducting interviews about the effects of precipitation on people’s lives. Think of some questions that will allow you to learn about people’s associations with precipitation, the impact precipitation has and has had on their lives, the most important precipitation event they’ve experienced, and their general impression of any trends or changes in local precipitation. What conclusions can you draw?