Measure the Weather

The weather affects what we do each day, influencing the clothing we wear, the activities we do and how we will move around. Whilst predicting the weather is often considered more of an art than a science, measuring the weather is a little easier to do.

Weather and climate
It is important to distinguish between the terms weather and climate. The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology website explains the difference:
The weather of any place refers to the atmospheric variables for a brief period of time. Climate, however, represents the atmospheric conditions for a long period of time, and generally refers to the normal or mean course of the weather.
When observing and measuring the weather, we expect to see changes in a short period of time (hours or days) but changes in climate are observed over long periods of time (years, decades, centuries etc.).
Double rainbow (Image: Eric Rolph, Wikipedia Commons)

History of weather observations
Indigenous Australians have been observing the weather for thousands of years and used observations of seasonal changes in their local environment. These observations guide their activities, such as hunting and gathering of food and movement of campgrounds.
Arriving with the First Fleet in 1788, an English scientist named Lieutenant William Dawes started recording observations and measurements of the weather in the first years of the New South Wales colony. His journal is the oldest known written record of Australian weather. This journal is preserved in the library of the Royal Society London and is a very important historical document recording meteorological data from 1788 to 1791, when Dawes returned to England.
Lieutenant William Dawes Journal (Image: Joelle Gergis, Climate History Australia)
However, it wasn’t until 1 January 1908 that the first national weather agency, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) was established. You can read a little more about the history of the BoM here.

Bureau of Meteorology
Today, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) is responsible for both recording measurements of weather conditions as well as predicting future weather in Australia. They advise many people about the weather including emergency services agencies, farmers, aviation personnel as well as the general public.
Meteorology, the study of weather, is a great example of international cooperation in science. The BoM communicate with similar agencies around the world to try and give the most accurate predictions possible. This includes using data from satellites shared with other countries.

Himiwari-8 satellite (Image: Japan Meteorological Agency )

Measuring the weather
The design of scientific instruments to measure weather conditions such as temperature, rainfall, humidity and wind direction is quite simple and there have not been many changes in the last century. Many people may have weather stations at home, these use very similar technology to those used by professional meteorologists.
It is quite simple to make your own instruments to measure wind direction and rainfall using things you’ll find around the home. Watch the PALMS video Measuring the Weather to find out how.
You can also find PALMS activities to make a weather vane here and a rain gauge here. To find lots more fun, hands-on activities, take a look at the PALMS website.