99 Middle School Measurements Leading to Investigation of Precipitation Patterns

Monday, 7 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
J. R. Snider, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie, WY; and J. Kropf, D. Bremer, M. Burkhart, K. Burkhart, B. Heesen, N. W. Snider, and S. fuller

Handout (2.6 MB)

This project started with an email from a colleague who was offering two automatic weighing precipitation gauges recently removed from a field site. The gauges originated from a well-known vendor, were research-quality, and were only a few years old. We accepted the offer, configured the gauges to communicate with a PC, developed analysis software, and inquired in the Laramie K-12 community to see if there was interest in developing an outreach program. The Middle School in Laramie (grades 6 to 8) accepted. Four years on, our measurements of precipitation and temperature at two locations adjacent to the school have been the focus of several sessions involving students and faculty from both the Middle School and the University of Wyoming. Example summertime and wintertime precipitation events are shown in the attached figures. In our sessions with the Middle School students we have them compare and contrast the patterns seen in these plots. They easily relate to the contrast between warm summertime rain events (short duration and high intensity) and the cool wintertime snow events (longer duration and low intensity). The students are also quick to see that the more sheltered gauge reports more precipitation than the more wind-exposed gauge. This discrepancy is consistent, at least qualitatively, with the known effect of wind on precipitation particle catch efficiency. We also demonstrate how to validate a gauge’s measurement of precipitation. This involves challenging the gauges with a reference weight. Finally, we recently installed a large monitor that displays the temperature and precipitation data in real time. Because the measurements are now displayed immediately, we hope this helps the students understand all aspects of the weather-data enterprise (i.e., sensors, data interface, computer, and display), how real-time weather measurements can be accessed via the web, and how those measurements can be factored into day-to-day planning. By using precipitation measurements to illustrate patterns in data that the students can explore, this outreach program addresses Wyoming Science Content and Performance Standards.
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