It's great fun!

I can't wait to tell you how much pleasure my husband and I derive from one simple daily task: tracking precipitation by checking our rain gauge. It has become a competition as to who can get out to check it first, and we keep a chart of our findings on a clipboard that hangs just inside our back door. We can look back to previous weeks, months, and years to see patterns or anomalies, and it is a fascinating and quite accurate record.

Why does checking a rain gauge connect you with nature?

First, it gets you outside. While focused on what you're going to find in the gauge, you look around, check the clouds, look for the sun, feel the breeze, note the temperature. You simply become more aware of the local weather when you're out in it, and you can't help but engage in the natural tendency to make predictions or related observations:

  • If it keeps up at this rate, it will soon be over the low water bridge.
  • If it gets any colder, this is going to turn to ice.
  • With this wind, we're likely to have to pick up branches tomorrow (or sweep leaves off the walk or dip leaves out of the pool).
  • I saw a flash of lightning. I'd better disconnect the computer.
  • I'll bet this will make the seeds I planted yesterday pop out soon.
  • The clouds are so low, I can't even see the mountain!
  • I wish I'd gotten the leaves out of the gutter.
  • I'd better check the drains in the patio and make sure they're clear.
  • Look at those pine trees swaying in the wind!

It's easy to become a rain tracker!

You can buy a rain gauge almost anywhere, and if you've already got one, you can start with what you have on hand. We've tried many over the years. The most satisfactory and accurate one–and the one we use now– is just like the one pictured here, available from Amazon. Click on either image to zoom in for a closer look. It consists of three parts in addition to the mounting bracket:

  1. An outer clear plastic cylinder
  2. An inner tube/cylinder that measures up to an inch and is marked to the hundredth of an inch
  3. A top funnel piece that holds the two cylinders together, captures falling rain and funnels it into the inner tube.

When there is more than an inch of rain, the inner tube overflows into the outer tube, which holds up to 10 additional inches. If you ever need to hold more than 11 inches, you're either not emptying the gauge often enough or you'd better be heading for higher ground! To get an accurate measurement when there's water in the outer cylinder, just remove and empty the inner tube, then pour water from the outer cylinder into the inner tube as many times as necessary to get an accurate measure.

The mounting bracket goes on a post, and the outer cylinder can be easily removed for emptying, cleaning, or bringing it inside for the winter so it won't freeze and crack.

I've created a blank record sheet so you can track your own rainfall. RIGHT CLICK HERE (or command-click on a Mac) to download it.

What do you do in the winter?

We have a very high tech tool for measuring snow in the winter. It's called a yardstick.

Get started right now

If you don't have a rain gauge, you can get started with any flat-sided container and a ruler. Place your container in an unobstructed area away from trees and overhangs. This won't be as accurate as a rain gauge, because rain can splash out, but it will certainly give you a record of the rainfall patterns over time.

Are you already a rain tracker? Share your experiences in the comments below or head on over to my Facebook page and join the conversation.

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