Being a weather observer presents an interesting opportunity to those studying Meteorology at Rutgers University. Many times, meteorologists are stuck behind a computer, looking at numbers, data, and previously-made observations. To physically record and experience a tangible observation in front of you, however, is something different. At Rutgers University, weather observers are given this opportunity.
Eight AM each morning is the starting time for the observers. When entering the gated area, observers will grab the observation sheet where everything is recorded (as can be seen below), and get to work. The first observation, temperature, is measured in three ways. The first way is by simply going online to the Rutgers Weather Center and reading the current, maximum, and minimum temperature, provided by the Campbell thermometer. The second method is to look at the electronic Maximum Minimum Temperature System (MMTS), nicknamed “Nimbus”, which keeps a record of the highest and lowest temperature since the last time the reset button was hit.
The third method of measuring temperature, which is perhaps the most archaic but most hands-on experience, is to check is the liquid thermometers. While these observations are likely not used for official temperatures (since an improper reset of the thermometers or even breathing on them could alter the temperature), they are always there as a backup in case a power outage ever hit Rutgers Gardens, and are always checked as well. Located in a Stevenson screen (pictured below, both open and closed) as to not be affected by the sun’s rays, observers will find both a maximum and minimum liquid thermometer in here. Beyond air temperature, observers make sure to log soil temperature at different depths (two inches, four inches, and eight inches), with different types of soil (bare or grassy).
Precipitation is the next observation made. A metal can at the western side of the enclosed area is used to catch any precipitation falling in the past twenty-four hours. When there is only rain, the job is easy. Liquid is transferred from the metal can into a National Weather Service (NWS) standard rain gauge and a ruler is used to measure the amount of liquid to the nearest hundredth of an inch. When there is snow, the process is a little different. Snow is first measured with a classic yardstick to get the depth of the snow that fell in the past twenty-four hours. Then, the snow is melted on an electric stove so that the liquid precipitation equivalent can be measured.
After precipitation, the observer must write down other observations such as sky cover, current weather, and ground condition. Evaporation is also measured in the summer by using a hook gauge, a very precise device that can measure the change in depth of water (in an evaporation pan) to the nearest thousandth of an inch. By measuring this daily change of water, observers can approximate how much water evaporated in the past twenty-four hours. See below for a run-down of the observations collected at Rutgers Gardens, courtesy of the Rutgers Weather Center!
After the entire process is completed, the observer uploads the information online. All records of Rutgers Gardens observations from students can be found here for the interested reader.
To learn more about other stories related to wide world of weather observations, be sure to click here!
Photo Credit to Forecaster Joseph DeLizio
©2018 Forecaster Joseph Fogarty