Types of Weather Instruments

Professional and home meteorologists use many types of weather instruments. Weather instruments are used for simple tasks, such as measuring wind speed and air temperature, and for more complex tasks, such as determining the track and action of severe weather systems. Each type of weather instrument serves its own specific function.

  1. Anemometer

    • An anemometer is a weather instrument used to calculate wind speed, according to the Royal Meteorological Society's (RmetS) "Simple Weather Measurements" packet. Anemometers are available in hand-held and mounted varieties. Commercial anemometers are often called ventimeters, and they provide information on wind speed and wind direction


    • Barometers are used to measure atmospheric pressure, according to the RMetS. Pressure measurements vary depending on how high a barometer is from sea level, and most barometers are able to be calibrated to the atmospheric pressure found at sea level.


    • A dropwindsonde is a packet of instruments used to obtain data on the atmosphere over the ocean, notes NASA's website. Dropwindsondes are attached to parachutes and then dropped from an airplane. As they float down toward the ocean, they radio atmospheric information back to the airplane.


    • Radars are used to detect storms. Weather radars detect the presence of rain, snow and hail when used in reflectivity mode, according to NASA's website. When used in Doppler, or velocity mode, radars note the air circulation patterns and determine how the air inside a weather system is moving.


    • The radiosonde is a package of instruments that measures humidity, pressure and temperature, according to NASA's website. Radiosondes are sent up into the atmosphere attached to a large weather balloon and send radio signals with gathered information to meteorologists. When the weather balloon reaches its maximum height, it pops and the radiosonde parachutes back to earth.

    Rain Gauge

    • Rain gauges are used to determine rainfall or snowfall amounts over a period of time, notes the RMetS. Rain gauges collect rain or snow, and then the amount of collected precipitation is measured to determine the rain or snowfall amount.


    • Weather satellites are used to measure winds, track severe weather systems and obtain measurements of temperatures, according to NASA's website. Weather satellites gather information over large, continuous areas and over oceans and water, areas that land-based weather systems are often unable to access.


    • A thermometer measures the temperature of the nearby air. Thermometers are most accurate when placed away from direct sunlight, according to the RMetS. Simple thermometers measure the current temperature, while a min-max or electronic thermometer records the daily high and low temperatures.

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  • Photo Credit thermometer image by Dusan Radivojevic from Fotolia.com

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