Brief Weather Watching History: What are the Types of Tools for Measuring the Weather?

Brief Weather Watching History: What are the Types of Tools for Measuring the Weather?

The need for tracking the weather dates back centuries. In fact, in the United States, meteorology got its start in the early 1800s! Today, we have many different options for tracking and measuring the weather around us. These are the most common types of tools available and a little bit of history behind meteorology.

Smithsonian and the Start of Weather Tracking

In the early-to-mid 1800s, the Smithsonian began distributing weather supplies to telegraph companies such as thermometers. The goal was for the telegraph companies to report back daily findings to the Smithsonian so they could produce weather maps.

By 1869, Cincinnati-based Telegraph service began collecting all weather data and supplying the charts. Technology began to advance during the late 1800s when a self-recording thermometer was invented by William Eddy.

Since then, we've had the opportunity to use many tools for weather tracking that are reliable for predicting hurricanes or simply determining on-the-spot wind direction.


A classic weather measurement tool, the thermometer tells us how much heat is in the air---outdoor or indoor. In the early 1700s, a physicist invented a thermometer with mercury inside the glass. The mercury thermometer began a new era of highly accurate weather and temperature tracking.

Wind Vane

A wind vane tells you the direction that the wind is coming from. There are several types of wind vanes including the classic weather vane, which is still found sitting on top of churches, barns, and even homes today. They're traditionally in the shape of a rooster and read “N” “S” “E” and “W” to determine wind direction. Digital weather vanes are also available today.

Rain Gauge

A rain gauge is a relatively simple device that collects rainwater and measures the amount. Meteorologists use this to gather data on the amount of rainfall in a given area and time.

Fun fact: the first-known records of rainfall was by the ancient Greeks in 500 BC.


This tool measures air pressure. Patterns in air pressure can help us predict upcoming storms, cold fronts, and warm fronts.

Weather Satellite

A weather satellite orbits the earth and tracks weather anywhere on the globe. Some satellites will orbit the entire planet while some stay in the same range along the equator. In addition to clouds, weather satellites can see ice mapping, energy currents, auroras, dust storms, and more.

Kestrel Weather Meters

While you can't launch Kestrel Weather Meters into space (at least not yet!), Kestrel combines all of the technological advancements of weather tracking in one convenient place. These devices are available as a hand-held instrument, a small device to hang in an area such as a barn, or you can even set it up as a full-fledged mini weather station. It's suitable for many different types of uses, from personal to professional meteorology. They measure elements including:

  • Temperature
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Barometric pressure
  • Dew point
  • Relative Humidity
  • Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT)
  • Density Altitude
  • Air flow
  • Evaporation rate
  • Heat stress index
  • Wind chill
  • And more

For an all-in-one weather meter, you simply can't go wrong with Kestrel weather meters. Be sure to browse our inventory to find the instrument that's perfect for you!

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