Meteorological instruments are scientific instruments used in the study of weather. Studying the weather requires the use of equipment that can measure things like wind direction, humidity, atmospheric pressure, solar radiation, rainfall, temperature, wind speed, evaporation rate, and so forth. Other instruments assist people with visible observations, such as studying clouds and storm systems, recording visual data that can be perused or studied later and compared against other visual data from different locations and times.
These specialized scientific instruments are often made by companies that focus on just this type of equipment. These companies constantly conduct research to refine and improve their products, and to find new measuring methods that may be helpful for scientists. Meteorologists can order instruments through supplier catalogs or individual companies, and may sometimes work on the development of specialized custom instruments for particular applications. Customized equipment may be used for special weather investigations, including the study of weather on other planets, which can require some very unique devices.
For a weather station where scientists take continuous readings and observations, some meteorological instruments might include the following:
- barometers for pressure along with barographs to record pressure readings;
- thermometers for temperature;
- anemometers to measure wind speed;
- actinometers for solar radiation measurements;
- psychrometers for relative humidity;
- evaporimeters, also known as atmometers, to measure the evaporation rate;
- and weather vanes to indicate wind direction.
Many of these instruments can be attached to devices which take logs so that researchers can analyze the data they collect and access it remotely when they cannot visit the weather station in person.
Meteorologists also launch satellites to make weather observations from space, classically to record the movement of clouds and storm systems. They also use tools like weather balloons and radiosondes to make weather observations in the Earth's atmosphere. These devices include instrument packages that can take an assortment of measurements and either beam them back to a weather station or store them so that they can be access when the device is collected.
Some instruments used in meteorology are very old, while others are more recent inventions. Like other scientific instruments, meteorological equipment needs to be kept in good condition to take accurate measurements. Because it is exposed to the weather, special care must be taken to keep it clean and properly calibrated. Failure to maintain instruments can result in faulty readings, which would skew or compromise the data being collected. Instrument companies will often take them back for recalibration and repair by arrangement.