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Siting Considerations for Rain and Snow Gauges

The exposure of a rain gauge is very important for obtaining accurate measurements. Gauges should not be located close to isolated obstructions such as trees and buildings, which may deflect precipitation due to erratic turbulence. Gauges should not be located in wide-open spaces or on elevated sites, such as tops of buildings, because of wind and the resulting turbulence problems. The best location is where the gauge is uniformly protected in all directions, such as in an opening in a grove of trees. The height of the protection should not exceed twice its distance from the gauge. As a general rule, the windier the gauge location is, the greater the precipitation error will be. Wind shields may be used to minimize the loss of precipitation. This loss is much greater during snowfall than rainfall, so shields are seldom installed at cooperative stations unless at least 20 percent of the annual precipitation falls in the form of snow. In areas where heavy snowfall occurs; e.g., mountainous areas in the western U.S., gages are mounted on towers at a height considerably above the maximum level to which snow accumulates, at or somewhat below the level of tree tops. Good exposures are not always permanent. Man-made alterations to the area and the growth of vegetation may change an excellent exposure to an unsatisfactory one in a very short time, necessitating the moving of precipitation gages to sites having better exposures.


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