In this post I'll show you how you can set up your own home weather station mostly with items you likely already have around the house.
Make A Barometer:
Barometers measure barometric pressure (also called atmospheric pressure). Changes in barometric pressure can help us predict the weather. Low pressure usually means cool rainy or snowy weather and high pressure usually means warm sunny weather. Making your own barometer to measure changes in barometric pressure is simple. You will need:
- A glass jar (mason jars work well)
-A thick rubber band
-A piece of paper
First cut the top off the balloon. Then stretch the balloon over the opening of your glass jar. It should be pulled tight enough that there are no dimples. Use the rubber band to hold it in place. You want the rubber band tight so it seals and creates a vacuum inside your jar.
Next tape the straw on the balloon so that the end of the straw sits in about the middle of the balloon.
Pick a place indoors to set up your barometer away from windows or heating and air vents. Behind your barometer, set up a piece of paper. Mark a line where the straw points. Then mark a line about an inch above and another about an inch below. Draw a sun by the upper line and rain by the lower line.
Explain to your children that air is made up of tiny particles. Because the balloon is over the jar, no particles can enter or leave the jar, but they can push against the jar and the balloon. The particles in the air outside the jar do the same, only outside the jar. If the pressure inside the jar is greater than the pressure outside, it pushes up on the balloon causing the straw to point down. If the pressure inside the jar is lower than outside the jar, it pushes the balloon down, causing the straw to point upward.
Make A Rain Gauge:
A rain gauge is a simple instrument that measures rainfall. Making one is really simple. Here's what you need:
-An empty plastic two liter bottle
-A permanent marker
-Some electrical or duct tape
Cut the top off the two liter bottle right below where it begins to taper and remove the lid.
Set the top of the bottle upside down on top of the bottom half and tape in place.
Using the ruler and permanent marker, mark a line every quarter inch starting above the uneven part at the bottom.
And that's it. Your rain gauge is now ready to measure rainfall. Next time it rains, pre fill it with water to the first line (this eliminates the uneven part at the bottom from your measurement and provides some weight to keep your gauge from blowing over in the wind). Find an area outside clear of trees and other obstacles and set your rain gauge out to collect rain.
There's another very simple version of a rain gauge if you don't have a 2 liter bottle. This one requires just any container that is a true cylinder or rectangular box. Basically, it just can't have any irregularities. Then just mark off the inches and quarter inches with a ruler and permanent marker. This type just tends to be a little less accurate because as it gets full, water splashes out.
Make A Wind Vane:
Wind vanes tell us what direction the wind is blowing. A change in wind strength or direction can indicate an incoming storm. To make your own wind vane you will need:
-A paper or Styrofoam drinking cup with a lid.
-A handful of pebbles
-A drinking straw
-A piece of tag board
-A pencil with a fresh eraser
-A finishing nail (the tiny ones that come in picture hanging kits are perfect)
Start by cutting a small triangle and square out of the tag board, about an inch and half tall. Then cut a small slit in each end of the straw. Slide the triangle into the slit on one side and tape in place. Do the same with the square on the other side.
Carefully poke the finishing nail through the middle of the straw and then into the eraser on the end of the pencil. The straw should be able to turn fairly freely.
Carefully set aside the pencil and straw part of your wind vane. Place the handful of pebbles in the lid for your cup.
Set the cup upside down onto it's lid and poke the sharp end of the pencil through the bottom of the cup. And that's it, you have a simple wind vane. When the wind picks up, take it outside with your compass to see what direction it's blowing.
Buy An Outdoor Thermometer:
The only part of this backyard weather station you can't make yourself is an outdoor thermometer. If you don't already own one you can usually buy one at almost any garden center or Amazon has lots. We bought ours for $1 at Dollar General.
Now you have a simple backyard weather station that can measure rainfall, wind direction, temperature, and changes in barometric pressure. Enjoy your weather tracking!
If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my other fun science posts:
-The Naked Egg Experiment
-Make A Backyard Compost Bin and Learn About Soil
-Make Your Own Mineral Identification Kit