Eleven years ago next week, I stuck up a rain gauge in the backyard and starting dutifully writing down daily data on NOAA WS FORM B-91, “Record of River and Climatological Observations.”
Today, my employer kindly indulged my little hobby, affording me space on the front page of the newspaper for a riff on the problem of determining how much it rained in a geographically diverse place like Albuquerque (sub/ad req):
I’m a weather nerd, and my trip to the city’s official rain gauge was something of a pilgrimage. I’ve been keeping rainfall data at my house for more than a decade, and I’m always comparing it to the official airport total. But I had never actually visited the official weather station.
So on a bright summer morning a couple of weeks back, Journal photographer Marla Brose and I joined Camacho and a group of his colleagues, piling into a pair of National Weather Service trucks. Through a guarded gate, with Camacho in regular contact with the airport tower to make sure we didn’t get run over by a jetliner, we drove down the taxiways and onto the dirt next to a line of instruments that collect Albuquerque’s weather data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
There are thermometers, a device that looks up to measure cloud cover and an ultrasonic wind sensor. But it was the rain gauge that interested me, the AWPAG — All Weather Precipitation Accumulation Gauge.
It looks like a big shiny bucket, with a funnel on the top and a very precise scale inside to measure the water that falls. Fiber optics connect it to a nearby rack of communication gear and, via a network of weather websites, to the world.
If you look up “the weather in Albuquerque,” this is most often what you get.
As if the weather gods somehow knew I was working on the column, we had a lovely rainstorm last night in Albuquerque. I got 0.14 inch at my house. They got 0.13 at the airport. For once, we almost match. (updated with embarrassing typo on rainfall amount fixed)