Everyone is familiar with the old saying “April showers bring May flowers” but how many people can say they’ve tracked the changes in springtime weather that bring us those oh-so-beautiful May flowers? With spring just beginning and those good old April showers on their way, now is the perfect time to become a backyard scientist and track the changes in the weather with your very own homemade weather station!
Weather stations used by meteorologists to track and predict the weather can be complicated and very expensive, but you’d be surprised at how simple and fun it can be to make your own basic weather station, and you never know what kind of results you’ll get when making your own predictions!
What you’ll need
Your weather station should have at least four instruments to measure basic weather conditions like temperature, air pressure, rainfall and wind direction.
- Thermometer: As spring progresses into summer, we all know that the weather gets warmer, but what happens to the temperature from day to day? What happens when the sun goes down and night falls? What about when it rains or when it’s cloudy? Keeping track of changes in temperature is a great way for kids to learn some of the basics of weather science.
- Barometer: A little less common than the thermometer, the barometer is used to measure air pressure, and can tell us a lot about what type of weather to expect. When air pressure drops, it’s typically a sign that rain is on its way – make sure you’ve got your raincoats ready!
- Rain gauge: One of the simplest components of a backyard weather station, a rain gauge is used to measure the amount of rainfall. To make your own, take an empty can of tuna and fill it with water, then pour that water into a glass jar or any container with clear sides. Stick a piece of masking tape lengthwise on the jar, and mark the top of the water level on the tape, as well as the bottom of the jar. You can now see what an inch of water looks like! Using the scale marked off on the tape, you can mark off every extra inch of the jar, and you can even mark smaller increments to measure tenths of an inch.
- Wind vane: Last but not least, you’ll need something to track changes to wind direction. Wind vanes, or weather vanes as they’re sometimes called, can be easily bought at your local hardware store but if you’re feeling extra-crafty, you can make your own! Remember when taking note of wind direction, the arrow or head of the pointer will always point towards the direction the wind is coming from, not where it is going to.
You’ll need to start keeping a weather journal, where you can keep track of your observations and any measurements taken from the instruments in your weather station so that you can try to see how things change over time and how changes to one thing can coincide with changes to another. If you can, try to take measurements at least once a day so that you’ll have a better idea of what changes are occurring. Keeping track of changes is a great task for kids. Have them note whether the temperature and air pressure is higher or lower than the previous day, and have them note how much rain, if any, has fallen since the last time they checked the weather station.
And there you have it – you’re now officially a backyard scientist. Try to have fun with it, and see what kinds of predictions you can make based on your observations! We’d love to hear any stories you might have about building your weather station, and as always, feel free to share your pictures of the whole experience with the Nature Explorers community!