Meteorologists – the scientists who study the weather – use a variety of instruments to help them keep track of changing conditions and accurately predict the weather. One of these instruments – the rain gauge - appears to be nothing more than a funnel positioned on top of a simple glass container. However, the rain gauge is among the most vital tools that meteorologists employ to measure how much rainfall a certain location had over hours, days, or weeks.
The simplest rain gauge version uses a funnel of a specific size to catch rainwater and fill a clear measuring device with marks to gauge the volume of rain. In the United States, two common varieties include the U.S. standard rain gauge used by the National Weather Service (NWS), and the tipping-bucket type of gauge. In the NWS version, the graduated cylinder used to collect rainwater is placed inside a much larger overflow container to ensure that excess amounts of rain can still be measured. In the tipping bucket version, rainwater goes into the funnel and lands on a see-saw like container. When enough rain is collected, the lever tips over and dumps the water. A recording device then tracks the number of times the lever dumps water. This handy rain gauge diagram provides a clear and detailed illustration on the different parts found in a standard rain gauge.