You may have heard the term “it’s raining cats and dogs,” and knew that if you stepped outside, you wouldn’t see Fluffy or Fido falling from the sky. Instead, you know that the term means it’s raining heavily. Rainfall is measured in inches and fractions of inches. A sprinkle is generally one tenth of an inch of rainfall or less per hour, while moderate rainfall is from one tenth to one third of an inch per hour. When it gets heavy and soggy is when it falls at a rate that is over one third of an inch per hour.
Rainfall was the first weather element that was ever accurately measured. It isn’t known who measured it first or where the first rain gauge was used. Since nothing more than a bucket and ruler are required to get accurate rainfall data, it’s easy to see how this could have been done many hundreds of years ago. History shows that the Greeks kept rainfall records as early as the 5th century B.C, though they never had a measurement for when it was raining cats and dogs.
In order to measure rainfall precisely, the gauge should be located out in the open and away from tall buildings, trees and any other obstructions. Inaccurate measurements are taken if the gauge is too close to large, impeding objects. The science behind the gauges isn’t totally precise, as water that is blowing or falling off of structures can enter the gauge, showing that it was raining cats and dogs when in actuality, it was only a moderate rain shower.
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