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Since most rainfall is less than an inch, a true rain gauge
is designed to catch a relatively wide area of rainfall and
to funnel the rain into a narrow area so that it will be deep
and can be measured more easily.

However, any open container with straight sides can be used
to measure amounts of rainfall. When the rain has been
collected, stick a ruler into the container to see how deep
the water is. If the water is 1 inch deep, then 1 inch of
rain has fallen.

Measurements must be taken very soon after a rainfall, or
some of the rain will evaporate and readings will be

Attach a test tube beside a strip of paper on a block of
wood. Pour water into a wide mouthed, straight sided jar
until there is 1 inch of water in the jar. Pour this water
into the test tube, and mark the height of the water on
the strip of paper.

Repeat this procedure using 3/4 inch, 1/2 inch, and 1/4 inch
of water. Place the jar outdoors in the open. When rain is
collected in the jar, pour it into the test tube to measure
how much rain fell.

Use a rain gauge in conjunction with a wind vane to measure
wind direction and rainfall for a one month period. The
information can be recorded on a table. A graph of the data
will reveal how much rain falls in your area in a month and
which winds bring rain.

You can probably do that with snow, if you're lucky enough to
live where there is snowfall. It might even be interesting
to measure the depth of the water you use in the shower!

Explain how a one-inch depth of water in a bathtub would be
the same as a one-inch depth in a jar. I guess that one inch
of water in a jar would amount to a far smaller quantity than
one inch of water in a bathtub. Perhaps the report of rain
in inches does not speak to quantity in terms of acre-feet or gallons. Obviously, more water would fall out of the sky if it rained in all of a county than if it rained in only one small area of a county. 

In order to know whether a certain number of inches of rain amounts to a "lot" of rain (or a "heavy" rain, or a rain that
causes people to worry), one would have to know how many inches of rain would it take to cause a flood, or how many inches of rain would be sufficient to generate one acre-foot of water for irrigation purposes, or how many inches of rain would fill the
catchment basins found in many municipalities.

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