You are on page 1of 13


Measurement of Precipitation
magnitude, intensity, location, patterns
of precipitation
quantity of precipitation as well as, the
PRECIPITATION spatial and temporal distributions of
the precipitation have considerable
effects on the hydrologic response.

Measurement of Precipitation Measurement of Precipitation

Amount of Precipitation Precipitation is measured by:
The amount of precipitation means the vertical depth
of water that would accumulate on a level surface, if Raingauge
the precipitation remains where it falls. The amount of
precipitation is measured in length units (inches, ft., Radar
cm., mm., etc).
Intensity or Rate of Precipitation
Amount of precipitation per unit time is called the
intensity or rate of precipitation (mm/hour, etc.)

Both the amount and rate of precipitation are

important in hydrologic studies.


Rain Gauges Types of Rain Gauges

The purpose of a rain gauge is to measure There are two types of rain gauges:
the amount of rainfall at a single point a. Non-recording rain gauge (Standard rain gauge)
Measure What? b. Recording rain gauge
A non-recording rain gauge is typically a
Depth of water on a flat surface
catchment device calibrated to provide visual
Depth is assumed to be same as observation of rainfall amounts.
surroundings Recording gauges are equipped with paper
charts and/or data logger equipment.

Non-recording Rain Gauge

Container of varying dimensions and heights e.g.
- Symons Rain Gauge (127 mm diameter)
- U. S. Weather Bureau Rain Gauge (200 mm
- Sharp edge
- Rim falls away vertically
- Prevent splashing
- Narrow neck prevents evaporation


U. S. Weather Bureau Rain Gauge

The standard gauge of U. S. Weather Bureau has a
collector of 200 mm diameter and 600 mm height.
Rain passes from a collector into a cylindrical
measuring tube inside the overflow can. The
Image here
measuring tube has a cross-sectional area 1/10th of the
collector, so that 2.5 mm rainfall will fill the tube to 25
mm depth. A measuring stick is marked in such a way
that 1/10th of a cm depth can be measured. In this way
net rainfall can be measured to the nearest 1 mm. The
collector and tube are removed when snow is expected.
The snow collected in the outer container or overflow
can is melted, poured into the measuring tube and
then measured.

Non-recording Gauges

Two types of standard storage raingauge



Recording Rain Gauges Analogue Recording Rain Gauges

Weighing Bucket Rain Gauge
Standard instrument used to quantify rainfall.
Analogue Devices
Spring scale beneath the collecting bucket
Weighing Bucket Rain Gauge platform that is calibrated to mark the rainfall
depth on a paper chart.
Float Type Rain Gauge
The chart is rotated by a spring-driven or
Digital Devices electric clock at speeds of 1 revolution in 6, 9, 12,
24, or 192 hours.
Tipping Bucket Rain Gauge
The rain gauge chart is a record of the
Optical Rain Gauge accumulated of rainfall for the selected time

Weighing Bucket Rain Gauge


Weighing Bucket Rain Gauge Analogue Recording Rain Gauges

The weighing rain gauge consists of a metal canister that
houses a funnel, a pail that sits atop a scale, and an analog Float Type Rain Gauge
recorder (a rotating drum with paper). Once 0.01 inches of Standard instrument used to quantify rainfall.
rain falls through the funnel into the pail, the weight of the Float within collecting bucket rises with level
water on the scale triggers the pen on the recorder to move Vertical movement marked by pen and shows rainfall
upwards. As more rain falls, the pen continues to move depth on a paper chart.
upwards creating a time series of rainfall amount on the The chart is rotated by a spring-driven or electric
chart paper of the rotating drum, which is turned by a clock at speeds of 1 revolution in 6, 9, 12, 24, or 192
clock mechanism. Although precipitation is measured by hours.
its weight, it is converted to inches on the chart. The chart The rain gauge chart is a record of the accumulated
paper is replaced weekly, but the pail is emptied only when of rainfall for the selected time interval.
it becomes too full, every two months or so.

Analogue Recording Rain Gauges


Analogue Recording Rain Gauges Digital Recording Rain Gauges

Float Type Rain Gauge with Siphon Tipping Bucket Rain Gauge
Standard instrument used to quantify rainfall. Two containers on balance beam form a tipping bucket
Usually with Float Type Rain Gauges Rain fills one container until it threshold weight reached
System siphons itself at a certain level (typically 25mm) Bucket then tips over, emptying collected water into total
Empties container completely container and continues to collect rainfall in other container
Stores siphoned water in separate (total) container Magnet generates electric pulse which is recorded
Total container as check
Pen returns to bottom line
Evaporation from buckets
15 seconds to siphon
Discontinuous record in light rain
Cannot record snow Susceptible to freezing
Susceptible to freezing


Digital Recording Rain Gauges

Optical Rain Gauge (ORG)
The ORG is mounted on a small pole
The ORG sends a beam of light (which cant be seen)
from one of its ends to a detector at the other end.
When raindrops fall, they break the beam. The rain
rate is measured by the ORG by measuring how
often the beam is broken.
The rain rate can be used to calculate the total
amount of rain that has fallen in any given period
ORG measures the rate of rainfall in millimeters per
hour (mm/hr).


Sources of Error Sources of Error

Mistakes in reading the scale of gauge Blowing wind may tilt the rains from vertical
Dents in collector rim and measuring tube may which thus brings less rain catch in the gauge
change its receiving area Vertical upward air currents may impact
Instrumental error in gauge or in their upward acceleration to precipitation thus
recording or measuring arrangements brings less rain catch in the gauge
Some rainwater may get lost due to splash from Gauge inclined 10 from vertical will cater 1.5%
the collector less rainfall than it should or sometime gauge
receive more rain
Some initial rainwater may get lost in
moistening gauge funnel and inside surfaces i.e. No rainfall recorded during tipping of bucket
wetting the surface of the instrument Tipping of bucket may be affected due to
rusting or accumulation of dust on pivot

Measured Gauge Accuracy

(Un)avoidable Errors
Equipment failure
Observer error

Avoidable Errors
Ideally, the gauge should be sited
Splashing with some shelter, but not over-
Surrounds sheltered.


Windshields (i.e. splash guards) may

reduce the loss due to turbulence
(eddies) around the gauge

Measured Gauge Accuracy Measured Gauge Accuracy

Common Errors Two problems arise in quantifying precipitation
Evaporation - 1% input to a given land area:
Adhesion - 0.5% how to measure precipitation at one or more
Inclination - 0.5% points in space
Splash +1% how to interpolate/extrapolate these point
Wind -5-8% measurements to determine the total amount
of water delivered to a particular land area.


EXAMPLE Advantages of Recording Rain Gauges

Example 3.1
A rain gauge recorded 125 mm of precipitation. It was Rainfall is recorded automatically, therefore no
found later that the gauge was inclined at an angle of need of attendant
20 degree with the vertical. Find the actual Recording rain gauge also gives intensity of
precipitation. rainfall at any time, while non-recording gauge
gives only total rainfall for time interval
Solution: Recording rain gauges can be installed far off
places as no need of attendant
P (measured) = 125 mm
Possibility of human error is obviated
Angle of inclination () = 200 with the vertical
P(actual) = P(measured)/cos () = 125/cos 200 = 133 mm

Disadvantages of Recording Rain Gauges Recording of Data

Costly in comparison to non-recording gauges Paper Charts
Error in recording rainfall due to fault in Data Loggers
electrical or mechanical mechanism


Recording of Data
Paper Charts
Simplest method
Chart moved by spring or electronically driven clock
past pen
Pen moves with weight/float etc
Two Types
Drum - rotates
Strip - moves past pen

Recording of Data
Data Loggers
A data logger is a computer that records and stores
data from sensors both analog (voltage) and
The data logger requires a program to tell it what to
Preloaded computer chip that already has the program in it
or create the program
Data can then be accessed by a computer to monitor
current conditions or download stored data.


Recording of Data
Data Loggers
Vandalism due to desirability of batteries

Recording of Data Rain Gauge Network

Telemetry Design of Precipitation Network depends upon
Data stored by logger can transferred directly to a
the purpose:
Developing & managing water resources
base station via some form of telecommunication
Operational purposes like flood forecasting,
Telemetry is the highly automated communications operation of reservoirs, research, etc
process by which measurements are made and other Factors Affecting Density
data collected at remote or inaccessible points and Physiographical and hydrological factors like terrain
transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring and rainfall regimes
Flat regions of temperate and tropical zones
Mountain regions
Arid and Polar regions
Stream network
Population density and economic activity



World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recommendation:
Network density of rain gauges depends upon
1. In flat regions of temperate, Mediterranean and tropical zones: Uses for which the rainfall data intended
ideal 1 station for 600 900 km2
Represent picture of the aerial distribution of rainfall
acceptable 1 station for 900 3000 km2
Area (Sq Km) Rain Gauge Stations
2. In mountainous regions of temperate, Mediterranean and
topical zones: 0 - 80 1
ideal - 1 station for 100250 km2 80 160 2
acceptable - 1 station for 2501000 km2 160 320 3
3. In arid and polar zones: I station for 150010,000 km2 320 560 4
depending on the feasibility. 560 800 5
10 % of the raingauges should be self recording to know the intensity of 800 1000 6
the rainfall


Measurement of Precipitation by Radar

Modem technique for measurement of rainfall rate.
Can also detect local movement of areas of
The electromagnetic energy released and received
back by radar is a measure of rainfall intensity.
The measurement is appreciably affected by trees
and buildings. However extent of rainfall can be
estimated with reasonable accuracy.
Use of radar is useful where number of rain gauges
installed in an area is not sufficient