• barometer
    A barometer measures atmospheric pressure.

    Photograph by Senior Airman Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force

    Storm Glass
    A storm glass is a type of barometer used centuries ago. A storm glass is a sealed glass container with an open spout, partly filled with colored water. If the water level in the spout rises above the water level in the container, observers expect low pressure and stormy weather.

    A barometer is a scientific instrument used to measure atmospheric pressure, also called barometric pressure. The atmosphere is the layers of air wrapped around the Earth. That air has a weight and presses against everything it touches as gravity pulls it to Earth. Barometers measure this pressure. 
     
    Atmospheric pressure is an indicator of weather. Changes in the atmosphere, including changes in air pressure, affect the weather. Meteorologists use barometers to predict short-term changes in the weather. 
     
    A rapid drop in atmospheric pressure means that a low-pressure system is arriving. Low pressure means that there isn’t enough force, or pressure, to push clouds or storms away. Low-pressure systems are associated with cloudy, rainy, or windy weather. A rapid increase in atmospheric pressure pushes that cloudy and rainy weather out, clearing the skies and bringing in cool, dry air.
     
    A barometer measures atmospheric pressure in units of measurement called atmospheres or bars. An atmosphere (atm) is a unit of measurement equal to the average air pressure at sea level at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). 
     
    The number of atmospheres drops as altitude increases because the density of air is lower and exerts less pressure. As altitude decreases, the density of air increases, as does the number of atmospheres. Barometers have to be adjusted for changes in altitude in order to make accurate atmospheric pressure readings.
     
    Types of Barometers
     
    Mercury Barometer
    The mercury barometer is the oldest type of barometer, invented by the Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli in 1643. Torricelli conducted his first barometric experiments using a tube of water. Water is relatively light in weight, so a very tall tube with a large amount of water had to be used in order to compensate for the heavier weight of atmospheric pressure. 
     
    Torricelli’s water barometer was more than 10 meters (35 feet) in height, which rose above the roof of his home! This odd device caused suspicion among Torricelli’s neighbors, who thought he was involved in witchcraft. In order to keep his experiments more secretive, Torricelli deduced that he could create a much smaller barometer using mercury, a silvery liquid that weighs 14 times as much as water. 
     
    A mercury barometer has a glass tube that is closed at the top and open at the bottom. At the bottom of the tube is a pool of mercury. The mercury sits in a circular, shallow dish surrounding the tube. The mercury in the tube will adjust itself to match the atmospheric pressure above the dish. As the pressure increases, it forces the mercury up the tube. The tube is marked with a series of measurements that track the number of atmospheres or bars. Observers can tell what the air pressure is by looking at where the mercury stops in the barometer. 
     
    Aneroid Barometer
    In 1844, the French scientist Lucien Vidi invented the aneroid barometer. An aneroid barometer has a sealed metal chamber that expands and contracts, depending on the atmospheric pressure around it. Mechanical tools measure how much the chamber expands or contracts. These measurements are aligned with atmospheres or bars. 
     
    The aneroid barometer has a circular display that indicates the present number of atmospheres, much like a clock. One hand moves clockwise or counterclockwise to point to the current number of atmospheres. The terms stormy, rain, change, fair, and dry are often written above the numbers on the dial face to make it easier for people to interpret the weather. Aneroid barometers slowly replaced mercury barometers because they were easier to use, cheaper to buy, and easier to transport since they had no liquid that could spill.
     
    Some aneroid barometers use a mechanical tool to track the changes in atmospheric pressure over a period of time. These aneroid barometers are called barographs. Barographs are barometers connected to needles that make marks on a roll of adjacent graph paper. The barograph records the number of atmospheres on the vertical axis and units of time on the horizontal. A barograph’s tracking tool will rotate, usually once every day, week, or month. The spikes in the graph show when air pressure was high or low, and how long those pressure systems lasted. A severe storm, for instance, would appear as a deep, wide dip on a barograph. 
     
    Digital Barometers
    Today’s digital barometers measure and display complex atmospheric data more accurately and quickly than ever before. Many digital barometers display both current barometric readings and previous 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-hour readings in a bar chart format, much like a barograph. They also account for other atmospheric readings such as wind and humidity to make accurate weather forecasts. This data is archived and stored on the barometer and can also be downloaded onto a computer for further analysis. Digital barometers are used by meteorologists and other scientists who want up-to-date atmospheric readings when conducting experiments in the lab or out in the field.
     
    The digital barometer is now an important tool in many of today’s smartphones. This type of digital barometer uses atmospheric pressure data to make accurate elevation readings. These readings help the smartphone’s GPS receiver pinpoint a location more accurately, greatly improving navigation
     
    Developers and researchers are also using the smartphone’s crowdsourcing capabilities to make more accurate weather forecasts. Apps like PressureNet automatically collect barometric measurements from each of its users, creating a vast network of atmospheric data. This data network makes it easier and faster to map out storms as they develop, especially in areas with few weather stations.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    accurate Adjective

    exact.

    adjacent Adjective

    next to.

    adjust Verb

    to change or modify something to fit with something else.

    air Noun

    the layer of gases surrounding Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: air
    air pressure Noun

    force pressed on an object by air or atmosphere.

    align Verb

    to put in a straight line.

    altitude Noun

    the distance above sea level.

    Encyclopedic Entry: altitude
    analysis Noun

    process of studying a problem or situation, identifying its characteristics and how they are related.

    aneroid barometer Noun

    tool that determines atmospheric pressure by measuring how much a metal chamber expands or contracts.

    app Noun

    (application) specialized program downloaded onto a mobile device.

    archive Verb

    to keep records or documents.

    associate Verb

    to connect.

    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    atmosphere (atm) Noun

    (atm) unit of measurement equal to air pressure at sea level, about 14.7 pounds per square inch. Also called standard atmospheric pressure.

    atmospheric pressure Noun

    force per unit area exerted by the mass of the atmosphere as gravity pulls it to Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmospheric pressure
    axis Noun

    an invisible line around which an object spins.

    Encyclopedic Entry: axis
    bar Noun

    (b) unit of measurement for pressure; 1 bar is about equal to the atmospheric pressure at sea level.

    barograph Noun

    barometer that tracks changes in atmospheric pressure over time.

    barometer Noun

    an instrument that measures atmospheric pressure.

    Encyclopedic Entry: barometer
    barometric pressure Noun

    atmospheric pressure as read by a barometer.

    chamber Noun

    sealed compartment.

    cloud Noun

    visible mass of tiny water droplets or ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: cloud
    compensate Verb

    to make up for a loss or injury, usually in money, goods, or services.

    complex Adjective

    complicated.

    conduct Verb

    to transmit, transport, or carry.

    contract Verb

    to shrink or get smaller.

    crowdsourcing Noun

    technique that enlists the public to assist with a specialized task.

    data Plural Noun

    (singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.

    decrease Verb

    to lower.

    deduce Verb

    to reach a conclusion based on clues or evidence.

    density Noun

    number of things of one kind in a given area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: density
    digital Adjective

    having to do with numbers (or digits), often in a format used by computers.

    display Verb

    to show or reveal.

    elevation Noun

    height above or below sea level.

    Encyclopedic Entry: elevation
    Evangelista Torricelli Noun

    (1608-1647) Italian physicist.

    exert Verb

    to force or pressure.

    expand Verb

    to grow or get larger.

    forecast Verb

    to predict, especially the weather.

    GPS receiver Noun

    device that gets radio signals from satellites in orbit above Earth in order to calculate a precise location.

    graph paper Noun

    paper marked with small boxes, or intersecting horizontal and vertical lines.

    gravity Noun

    physical force by which objects attract, or pull toward, each other.

    horizontal Adjective

    left-right direction or parallel to the Earth and the horizon.

    humidity Noun

    amount of water vapor in the air.

    Encyclopedic Entry: humidity
    indicate Verb

    to display or show.

    instrument Noun

    tool.

    interpret Verb

    to explain or understand the meaning of something.

    invent Verb

    to create.

    low-pressure system Noun

    weather pattern characterized by low air pressure, usually as a result of warming. Low-pressure systems are often associated with storms.

    measurement Noun

    process of determining length, width, mass (weight), volume, distance or some other quality or size.

    mercury Noun

    chemical element with the symbol Hg.

    mercury barometer Noun

    tool that determines atmospheric pressure by measuring how much mercury moves in a glass tube.

    metal Noun

    category of elements that are usually solid and shiny at room temperature.

    meteorologist Noun

    person who studies patterns and changes in Earth's atmosphere.

    navigation Noun

    art and science of determining an object's position, course, and distance traveled.

    Encyclopedic Entry: navigation
    network Noun

    series of links along which movement or communication can take place.

    observer Noun

    someone who watches, or observes.

    physicist Noun

    person who studies the relationship between matter, energy, motion, and force.

    predict Verb

    to know the outcome of a situation in advance.

    pressure Noun

    force pressed on an object by another object or condition, such as gravity.

    previous Adjective

    earlier, or the one before.

    rain Noun

    liquid precipitation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: rain
    rapid Adjective

    very fast.

    rotate Verb

    to turn around a center point or axis.

    sea level Noun

    base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sea level
    smartphone Noun

    mobile telephone with additional features, such as a web browser or music playing device.

    storm Noun

    severe weather indicating a disturbed state of the atmosphere resulting from uplifted air.

    storm glass Noun

    glass container filled with water or another liquid that responds to changes in atmospheric pressure.

    suspicion Noun

    doubt or mistrust.

    temperature Noun

    degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

    Encyclopedic Entry: temperature
    transport Verb

    to move material from one place to another.

    vast Adjective

    huge and spread out.

    vertical Noun

    up-down direction, or at a right angle to Earth and the horizon.

    weather Noun

    state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weather
    weather station Noun

    area with tools and equipment for measuring changes in the atmosphere.

    wind Noun

    movement of air (from a high pressure zone to a low pressure zone) caused by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun.

    witchcraft Noun

    changing of everyday events using supernatural or magical powers.

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