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Rain Gauge Cleaning (photos)

Posted February 24, 2008, 9:45 AM.

Last month, one of the WeatherCurrents tipping bucket rain gauges (in Murrieta) became clogged, something that is an ordinary problem for rain gauges everywhere. We went out to the Murrieta station on a Sunday, during a break in the storm that day, and cleaned it out. As part of the cleaning, we chronicled how we went about it in pictures.

All of the WeatherCurrents rain gauges are of the tipping bucket design. These gauges work by funneling water into tipping buckets. A tip of a bucket signifies .01", and sends an electrical pulse back to the station console, where the rain is recorded. The tipping bucket rain gauges meet National Weather Service specifications for aperture size, but are not right for all climates.

The typical clog is due to bird excrement. Birds like to perch on the rim of the gauges, and their waste materials eventually clog the bottom of the gauge. When that happens, water goes through at a reduced rate or not at all, sitting in the bucket of the gauge instead.

The major cleaning trick involves measuring the standing water in the gauge. We have to funnel the water back in, typically through a punctured paper cup, in order to maintain an accurate reading for the storm. Maintaining an accurate hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute reading, which is the WeatherCurrents standard, is unfortunately not possible when a gauge is clogged.

Some rain gauges (Fallbrook, for example) are regularly cleaned out when a storm is coming. The Fallbrook gauge has a resident owl.

The Murrieta gauge has been cleaned out only once in its four year history.

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The San Jacinto, California weather pages are a service of WeatherCurrents. San Jacinto is located in the heart of the San Jacinto Valley, near Hemet, the Soboba Casino, and at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains.
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