Date: Fall 2011
I am having a disagreement with my buddy over rainfall. When I returned to Pennsylvania from a bow hunt in Wyoming I sat my cooler which was empty, outside in the level yard with the lid open facing up. Nothing overhead but sky. After the rain was over, the cooler was filled and slightly running over. The coolers dimensions are 16"deep, 20"long and 16"wide. I said we had 16" of rain. He said no way. The weatherman said York county Pennsylvania had 11.5" of rain. I said that was an average and some had more. He said that is not correct since rain must be measured in
an actual rain gauge. I disagree. If I would have had the cooler filled with rain gauges they all would have measured 16". I asked the physics teacher in my high school and he said I was right and
had an excellent analogy. How much rain did we have at our house according to my cooler and am I correct in my thinking?
I would tend to agree with you, particularly if the wind speed that
day was low. If there were thunderstorms at the time, the rainfall amount at
your location could be either less or more, and substantially so, than
a location only a few miles away. If the rain that you measured was
rain produced by an ordinary frontal system, I would not expect
to differ much in adjacent locations.
I cannot think of a situation, other than wind driven rain, that could have
artificially increased the rainfall amount that was collected in your cooler.
David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012