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Name: Kerry
Status: educator
Grade: 9-12
Location: PA
Country: USA
Date: Fall 2011

I am having a disagreement with my buddy over rainfall. When I returned to Pennsylvania from a bow hunt in Wyoming I sat my cooler which was empty, outside in the level yard with the lid open facing up. Nothing overhead but sky. After the rain was over, the cooler was filled and slightly running over. The coolers dimensions are 16"deep, 20"long and 16"wide. I said we had 16" of rain. He said no way. The weatherman said York county Pennsylvania had 11.5" of rain. I said that was an average and some had more. He said that is not correct since rain must be measured in an actual rain gauge. I disagree. If I would have had the cooler filled with rain gauges they all would have measured 16". I asked the physics teacher in my high school and he said I was right and had an excellent analogy. How much rain did we have at our house according to my cooler and am I correct in my thinking?


I would tend to agree with you, particularly if the wind speed that day was low. If there were thunderstorms at the time, the rainfall amount at your location could be either less or more, and substantially so, than a location only a few miles away. If the rain that you measured was a general rain produced by an ordinary frontal system, I would not expect rainfall amounts to differ much in adjacent locations.

I cannot think of a situation, other than wind driven rain, that could have artificially increased the rainfall amount that was collected in your cooler.

David R. Cook Meteorologist Climate Research Section Environmental Science Division Argonne National Laboratory

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