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Measuring precipitation. Oh, and happy new year...

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Welcome to 2011. Goodbye to 2010; a little sadly, as it was a great year. Packed full of fun and excitement, and chopped up into little slices of human-created time. 2011 is going to be filled with learning, as well as fun. Right now, it's grey and miserable outside, but warm and cosy in here. If a little befuddled... and so we begin.

I did say that I would begin my first experiment today - and begin it I have. This is the experiment at the end of Chapter 2 - Global warming - an interdisciplinary issue. I need to measure precipitation over two weeks (I do feel a little like I'm back at school, which to be honest is not a bad thing...) so I have Started Thinking About It.

I need two rain gauges, and I'm supposed to think about how I will measure the mean daily precipitation over two weeks. Considering the following questions:

  • What type of collecting vessel will you use for the rain gauge? Should it have a particular size or shape? Does it need some form of cover?

I need two gauges. One with a funnel, one without - in order to look at the effects of evaporation. I will use a jam jar for the funnel-less receptacle; an Evian bottle for the funnelly one (left behind after the new year celebrations by my best friend Emma). I've cut the top third of the bottle off, and inverted it to make a funnel. This also ensures that the opening of the gauge is the same size as the bottom. Although, Evian bottles are not straight-sided - so I may need to change this to a lemonade bottle with straight sides. The same principle applies though.

They need to be flat-bottomed and straight sided. So, at the suggestion of my lovely assistant Joe, I may melt some wax and cover the bottoms of the gauges with this, in order to create a flat bottom.

  • Where will you site the rain gauge?

Well. We have a back garden, but it's pretty sheltered, with overhanging trees and shrubs. And a lot of birds on our bird feeders (which is great, but I don't want them messing with my experiment!) We are lucky enough to have a front garden too, which is pretty private, and with plenty of room to site a rain gauge. So there it shall be. To the left of the front door, between the front window and the box hedge, but not too sheltered.

  • How will you measure the amount of precipitation?

I have access to rulers, which I will use. However, we also have a Vernier gauge, which will be very accurate indeed. I shall measure both inside the vessel, in the water itself, and outside the vessel.

  • How often will you record the data? Should you empty the rain gauge after each measurement?

I will measure the precipitation and record the data every day at around 6.30pm (if possible). I will not empty the rain gauge after each measurement, because it is entirely possible that some days there will not be enough to physically measure with my rulers.

  • What problems might you have in measuring the precipitation?

The amount collected may be too small to measure each day. This is one reason why I will not empty the gauge after each measurement. Measurements taken from the outside of the vessel may be distorted visually by the material. The meniscus will need to be taken into account.

I'm going to set up my gauges either tomorrow or the next day, depending on which receptacle I decide to use.

My other task is to start planning my studying time. I really need to print off a timetable of some sort and stick it on the wall. I also need a decent sized diary. I need lists, and things written down, as well as online calendars. It's like the difference between books and e-books. E-books have their uses - great for holidays when you don't want your luggage allowance taken up with books - but they are not tangible things. They don't smell. You can't really touch them. So they're not really real.

And an unreal study plan and calendar is no use to man nor beast. Nor intrepid voyager.

Study space preparation has begun. Tidying has happened. I need to make a blind or curtain. And a cushion. But I do have a very nice new lamp, courtesy of my best friend Emma (she who provided the Evian bottle). It's from Cornwall, and it's stripy, and it's bloody lovely. So now I have a comfortable study space.

Couple more pictures on the walls; a calendar; a diary; and we're almost ready to be off. Tomorrow will be spent studying Chapter 2 itself.

I wish you all a very happy new year. May it bring you everything you desire.

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