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Meteorology Advances with the Barometer

March 24, 2015

There’s a keystone in every great invention.

It’s common knowledge that the weather affects people significantly. In many instances, different weather conditions will have a bearing on our day-to-day plans, which include commuting to or from work or school or participating in social activities. Weather can also affect people’s moods and even their overall health.

Several people depend on weather reports each day, and this information is vital for adjusting their daily routines accordingly. People seem to pay closer attention to these forecasts during times of harsh weather—such as the bitter winter we’ve been experiencing here on the U.S. East Coast.

One of the main instruments used by meteorologists is called the barometer. This device can measure the constantly changing pressure in our atmosphere, and help us predict upcoming weather conditions.

The first barometer dates back almost 400 years and had a slightly different initial use. Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli invented the device in 1643 to support the Grand Duke of Tuscany. At the time, the Duke was unable to obtain his desired water levels using a suction pump; well diggers and miners discovered that siphons and pumps could only raise water to about 33 feet. Torricelli realized that understanding pressures was the key to solving this problem.

Function of the Barometer

Torricelli’s barometer consisted of a 40-inch straight glass tube that was sealed on one end. The sealed end was filled with mercury, and once the tube was inverted, the mercury fell to the bottom and left a small vacuum.  Air pressed onto the exposed surface of the mercury, pushing it back up the tube. As the mercury rose higher, this measured the force of the air pressure.

The design of “Torricelli's tube," as it was called, led to the development of a new type barometer—the aneroid barometer.

The aneroid barometer was patented in 1843 by French scientist Lucien Vidie, and it utilizes a sealed flexible container to measure pressure instead of mercury. This container, which was similar to an accordion, expanded or contracted depending on ambient pressures.

The barometer became popular among meteorologists, as there is a noted connection between atmospheric pressure and the weather. When used with a thermometer, the barometer helps create weather predictions based on following patterns of high and low pressure systems. Barometric readings can indicate clear skies, high winds, snow, rainstorms, or sunny weather. Meteorologists compare the relative pressure changes in different areas, and make predictions using that information.

In modern meteorology, many professionals rely on digital barometers. The concept is similar to that of earlier models, but digital barometers have electronic sensors to measure both pressure and altitude. These devices have analog-to-digital converters, and their findings are shown a digital display.

Digital barometers can be set automatically to record wind chill, the rate of barometric changes, and even temperatures, as well. Many of these instruments rely on Keystone components, including Fuse Clips & Fuse Holders, Battery Clips, Contacts & HoldersScrews & Panel Hardware, Mounting Brackets,  Spacers & Standoffs ,Plugs & Pins, and others.