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For others, it is essential to their day to day lives.
Whether you are a weekend weather warrior, or someone whose makes a living based on rain which does or does fall, there is a rain gauge out there for you to measure the rainfall just like the pros.
Here’s a guide to the best rain gauges available online…
For more than 20 years, I’ve been using what is called an “eleven inch double cylinder” rain gauge. This is the gauge given out by the National Weather Service to observers who finish their SkyWarn classes.
The gauge is relatively easy to read, is accurate to 1/100th of an inch and can hold up to 11 inches of rain before overflowing. Keep in mind, this is a “manual” gauge, meaning you must actually walk outside to read it – then dump it out. These gauges run about $30 and should last you at least 5-10 years.
I bought my first one of these in 1983 and have replaced it twice over the years. And, if it is pouring down rain and it’s almost news time, I do have to grab an umbrella and walk across the parking lot to get the latest rainfall total to use on the air. But, it’s worth it. Very reliable. The only problem with this gauge, it’s big enough for birds to sit on and, well, do what birds do. You might need to hose it down from time to time.
This basic Chaney Instrument Five Inch Rain Gauge is probably the simplest of all. You can find it at pretty much any hardware store or big box retailer.
This gauge holds up to 5 inches of rain before needing to be dumped. It is accurate to 1/10″ of an inch and generally costs around $5. I need my rainfall readings to be more accurate than this gauge provides. And, we have been known to get more than 5 inches of rain in one big storm. But if you’re not keeping records and just want to have an idea of how much rain fell, this one should suffice.
Electronic rain gauges are very handy! This one from Oregon Scientific will keep you up-to-date with your rainfall total as the rain falls – with you never needing to leave the comfort of your home. There are many models like this one available at prices ranging from about $35 up to hundreds of dollars.
Most electronic models are wireless and update your indoor digital readout regularly during the rainstorm. I have had trouble with some of the more pricey electronic rain gauges. Sometimes the technology inside the rain collector can’t keep up with the heavier rainfall. Also, strong winds can lead to false rainfall readings.
While not the exact model shown here, we have used Oregon Scientific in our office and very quickly resorted to our 11″ manual gauge because of various problems. Electronic rain gauges, in general, are very convenient and good for the techie. But, for good long-term accurate readings, I’d stay with the 11″ manual gauge above.
This E-Z Read Jumbo Rain Gauge is a great idea. It’s about 3 feet tall and has giant yellow numbers. Because of the funnel on the top, the proportions are such that a full gauge still represents only 5 inches of rain. There is a bright orange disc which floats on top of the water inside the gauge. So, you can stand at your window, look across the yard, and see how much rain has fallen.
I’ve had two of these over the years. There are a couple of downsides. First, its accuracy is not quite 1/10″. Secondly, both of mine leaked after about 3 months outside. A leaking rain gauge isn’t very useful. A good idea – but this rain gauge falls short.
Of course, there are many, many other rain gauges out there which will do the job. If you have questions about a particular rain gauge, drop me a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer!
I'm a TV weatherman in south Texas. I get blamed for the bad weather, but I also get credit for the beautiful days. I absolutely love my job!