The classic rhyme says that April showers bring May flowers. But what do March showers bring, besides mud puddles?
Recently a friend and I were discussing our gardens. “I’ve already got my garden dug” he stated. “Mine is still too wet” I responded. As we walked across the lawn to look and confirm my comments, water ponded in our footsteps. “I see what you mean” he said.
In the previous week we’d had more than 50 millimeters of rain. I know the numbers because I have a Davis weather station, and it has a tipping bucket rain monitoring system. Rain falls into a funnel and is directed onto a seesaw with tiny “buckets” on each end that spill when rain accumulates enough to make them tip. The number of “tips” is counted, and the station calculates the conversion to quantity of rainfall in inches or millimeters. The station is linked directly to my computer. The program can report the data in various formats from daily rainfall to storm totals, or any number of other ways to analyze the data.
Previously I checked rainfall amounts using a glass cylinder with calibration marks in inches. I would watch it daily (if I remembered) and would empty it weekly or when accumulation exceeded 4 inches, whichever came first. Crude but accurate. I wish I still had it to confirm the readings in the weather station. Why would I doubt the readings with the tipping bucket (beyond my natural skepticism with new technology)? For comparison, “official” weather stations have collectors surrounded by wind baffles, to minimize the different results that can be caused by strong winds. Changing wind directions and wind patterns near buildings can cause small changes in rain accumulations. (Official weather stations also use tipping bucket measurements for monitoring rainfall.)
The other reason I wonder how accurate the weather station is originates from my observations of how fast open buckets collect rain around our yard. Quite often I will see more water in a bucket than the “measured” amount of rainfall. Admittedly, these white plastic buckets are slightly tapered, but is the opening at the top large enough to collect double the amount of rain of a collector the size of the bottom? Sometimes you can see the influencing factors, such as when the bucket is close to or under a tree. Individual limbs can sometimes shed a lot of rain. In our case, I have a tool shed with a short metal roof. I have positioned buckets along the drip line of the roof. It is amazing how the volume of water differs in each of these buckets! In one spot the roof seems to collect more than 5 or 6 times the rain compared to a bucket in the open. Obviously a function of the area of roof intersecting the rain. But why does that section of roof collect so much more than other similar areas of roof?
We also collect roof rain in 45 gallon barrels, and save it for watering the garden in the summer. I am frequently surprised how quickly these can fill from a single rainfall event.
We have numerous buckets, and plant pots, and plastic containers of all sizes collecting rainfall (not intentionally). This is not a problem at this time of year, and in fact, an issue I ignore. But a little later, as in April and May, each of these containers becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It is important to inspect the garden areas and empty all these containers in order to prevent mosquito populations from building up.
I still haven’t figured out the difference between “raining” and “showers”.