We got some rain last night. First thing this morning I went out and checked my back yard rain gauge. It showed four tenths of an inch. As I emptied it so the next hoped-for rainfall could be measured, I celebrated. I even said, “Yippee” as I skipped around.
Yes, they got too much rain in other parts of the world, and I’m sorry about that, but here in the American Southwest we treasure every drop, even when it sometimes comes a bunch all at once.
When it rains at our place we get on the phone and call all the neighbors, asking, “Did you get any of this rain? How much?”
Answers often vary, like, “We got six tenths in the south pasture, eight tenths in the east pasture, but only 35 hundredths here at the house.”
Ranch people have rain gauges placed in every pasture because, as we all know, summertime rains tend to be spotty as in the weather man’s prediction of “scattered showers.” Sometimes the gauges gather bugs, and a bug at the bottom of a funnel-shaped rain gauge can really mess up the precipitation total. Also, sometimes the gauges fall prey to birds, who grab the things in their beaks and fly away with them. I never figured out what the attraction is in that situation.
These simple devices have been around for hundreds of years. The ancient Greeks were the first known rainfall record keepers, about 500 B.C. A hundred years later people in India used bowls to record the rainfall.
As usual, political considerations integrated themselves into even this simple device. Readings from the bowls were correlated against expected growth and used as a basis for land taxes. Each state grain storehouse was equipped with a standardized rain gauge to classify land for taxation purposes.
The Tennessee Valley Authority owns and maintains almost 300 rain gauges strategically located in watersheds across the TVA region.
TVA uses self-emptying rain gauges that funnel precipitation into a bucket that tips when a certain amount of rainfall is collected. The gauge records the number of tips and transmits information to TVA by satellite hourly or every three hours, depending on the gauge.
TVA also receives data from 62 gauges on the Cumberland River system that are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and 29 gauges in watersheds throughout the TVA region that are operated by the U.S. Geological Survey. The National Weather Service, municipalities, and other government agencies also use data from TVA’s rain gauges.
I’m wondering if there’s anything at all the “government” hasn’t co-opted. The only things I can think of are my personal rain gauges – so far.
I’m sure of one thing — government bureaucrats could never keep up with my celebration dance when my rain gauge shows four tenths of an inch or more. A week or so ago I happened to be in an eastern New Mexico town when it got more than two inches of rain in one night.
That definitely was exciting.