Dave, while I won't question the number of Perseids you cite as having seen in a couple of long ago displays, I still hasten to point out that your particular situation differed markedly from that of the typical hobbyist and even more-so from the layman. Clearly you have been an experienced observer for many years and know where to go and the observing techniques involved. Likewise, you must have been out on the nights of peak Perseid activity (likely with the true peak occurring near your longitude) to gain those high rates. Given your listed home location, it is also very likely you were observing under skies far superior to those experienced by the average enthusiast here on CN. If you recall, an informal poll regarding posters' sky conditions was held here on CN a while back. It revealed that few of the many thread responders enjoyed skies even as dark as Bortle Class 6, most enduring decidedly worse. Such light pollution severely impacts the number of meteors that the would-be novice observer, or layman, might hope detect.
In conjunction with that, a very rapidly moving faint object is much more difficult to detect near the limit of vision than a stationary one, even more-so in a bright sky. This implies that under say a Bortle Class 6 sky it is unlikely that the observer will detect more than a few meteors fainter than magnitude +3.5 or +4.0 on even a totally moonless night, especially if the radiant is quite low. Given that the brightness distribution of meteors in a shower generally doubles their numbers for each one magnitude fainter you go this further infers that a person under the sky conditions indicated above fails to see at least 75% , potentially even more, of the meteors visible in a reasonably good sky! So, your reported rates might well be 5x-10x greater than would be the case for the average CN observer - worse yet in the case of the layman!
Also overlooked in most overly-hyped announcements concern forthcoming meteor showers is how brief shower peaks often are and that potential rate numbers can be halved within less 6-8 hours either side of peak time, in some instances even much less. And considering that for a given longitude on the Earth a Perseid peak is likely to occur at just the right hour before dawn at your longitude perhaps only once in a decade, even under good skies the odds of seeing high rates won't often favor you.
Now I won't go on, but there are numerous further variables which impact observed meteor shower rates, each decreasing the number of meteors the observer might potentially see. I suppose that for some simply going out and spotting a few bright meteors over the course of an hour, or so, on a shower night may be found rewarding. However, a broadly based public announcement, one presenting already highly unrealistic rates, saying that you can go out this weekend and see a meteor shower with an appearance rate of 50 (75) (100+) per hour simply by looking up, I have to regard that as downright deceptive and misleading for the casual hobbyists and general public, in the end not instilling much in the way of confidence in what those supposedly knowledgeable in the subject have to say, nor encouraging them to join in.
Edited by BrooksObs, 13 August 2014 - 04:07 PM.