This series of Haby Hints examines meteorology that can be done in the backyard with and without the aid of basic weather observing instrumentation and online weather data. Weather happens outside thus the goal of this series is to expand upon the sensory information that can be gained by directly observing the weather. Unlike computer models, backyard meteorology offers the most direct view and experience of the atmosphere. The first topic that will be focused on is temperature.

Temperature is one of the basic components for weather observation. It will influence the comfort level when outside and how a person dresses for the weather. To develop an intuitive sense for the outside temperature, start with standing outside for a couple of minutes and then guessing what the temperature is outside. Then look at a backyard temperature sensor or local temperature from another source and determine how many degrees you were off. Remember to factor in elements that will make the temperature feel cooler or warmer such as direct sunlight, wind chill, humidity and clothing. Attempting these guesses without knowing the observed temperature in a variety of weather will increase the intuitive feel for the actual temperature outside. When first attempting this activity it can be common to miss the temperature by 5 F, 10 F or more degrees. With practice though, you should be able to guess the actual temperature within 3 F when going outside and not knowing what temperature to expect outside. Keep in mind that actual temperature is measured in the shade and is not changed by apparent temperature changes from wind chill or heat index. With practice and experience, sunlight, wind, humidity and clothing will result in less error in your guess at the outside temperature.

There are a variety of interesting experiences in the backyard that can be examined when it comes to temperatures. Several include:

1) Feeling the temperature change from a frontal passage such as the rapid cool down from a cold front

2) Feeling the rapid warm-up that often occurs in the morning hours on a sunny day

3) Feeling the temperature drop to the freezing mark, observing water start to freeze

4) Feeling triple digit heat, 100 F or higher

5) Feeling the temperature change that occurs from thunderstorm outflow

6) Observing unusually cold or warm temperatures

7) Recording high and low temperature for the day on a backyard weather station