Three Ways to Accurately Measure Snow

Accurately Measure Snow

If you’re a weather nerd, the first question that comes to mind when it starts snowing is, “how much has fallen?” Take a ruler with you and go outside. The solution should be straightforward. That’s not the case. There are rules, just like anything else. 

Let’s speak about how we can all get accurate snow measures without much or any planning before going into the most scientific way.

How to Measure Snow

So there’s going to be a big snowstorm, and you want to know how much snow will fall on your land. But how do you accurately measure snow? We’ve all been in that situation when you measure 6 inches, and your neighbor claims he measured 10 inches. “How is that even possible?” you wonder. It’s less than a mile to his place.”

 It’s always a lot of fun and exciting to measure the first big snowfall of the season, especially with kids, but getting precise readings can be challenging. That is until you’ve finished reading this article, of course! You should review these recommendations before the first snowfall of the season so that they are fresh in your mind.

Where to Measure Snowfall

It may seem like a no-brainer to measure snow, but if you want an accurate reading, it’s not as simple as thrusting a ruler into a backyard of frozen whiteness.

Take a site survey of your yard or lot. Look for an open area to measure the snow, away from any trees as much as possible. 

Remember that snow often falls during breezy weather, so your measuring spot should be at least eight feet away from your home or any outbuildings.

How deep is 4 inches of Snow

The overall depth of snow, ice pellets, or ice on the ground should be determined. With a measuring stick, this observation is taken once a day at the planned time of observation. It’s calculated by taking the average of many depth readings with a measuring stick at or near the normal place of observation or by measuring the total depth of snow on open ground at a permanently-mounted snow stake. 

If you’re going to use a measuring stick, make sure it’s pushed vertically into the snow until the bottom of the stick touches the ground. An ice coating or coated snow should not be mistaken for ground. 

At your measurement location, the measurements should reflect the average depth of snow, ice pellets, and glaze ice on the ground (not disturbed by human activities). Rooftops, paved places, and the like should not be used for measurements.

Weather Station with Snow Gauge

A snow gauge is a variation of a rain gauge adapted for cold-weather use. A large graduated cylinder is mounted on a fence or pole with the top open. Snowfall accumulation inside can be easily viewed and measured using this arrangement. Snow gauges have challenges: accuracy will suffer when it’s windy or a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow.


Facts of Snow Gauge

  1. The measurement of snowfall accumulation will be erroneous if rain and snow are accumulated in a snow gauge. To produce a rough estimate of snowfall, the observer must distinguish how much rain is and how much is snow.
  2. Other more advanced variations include the automated snow gauge and the snow pillow, in addition to the classic snow gauge consisting of a collecting container and funnel gauge.
  3. Weather stations are the most common users of automated snow gauges. They function in a similar fashion to a rain gauge. A huge catchment area in an automated snow gauge collects snow until a certain weight is reached. When it reaches the weight limit, it turns over and deposits the snow into a snow catch. Some are heated to produce a more precise snow weight measurement.
  4. A snow pillow snow gauge resembles a ground-level spherical bag. Antifreeze is routinely used to fill it. Manometers are attached to snow pillows. The manometer can tell how much snow is piled on top of the snow pillow. Although the snow pillow is effective and reliable in many situations, it will not produce very accurate readings if there is a lot of snow blowing.

How to make a Snow Measuring Board

To begin, you’ll require a snow measurement board, sometimes known as a “snowboard.” No, it’s not the same snowboard you saw on the slopes last season. 

You may simply create your snow measuring board if you don’t have an official National Weather Service snow measurement board. All you’ll need is a 24″ by 24″ piece of exterior quality plywood that’s either 3/8″ or 1/2″ thick. The thickness is merely for added weight to keep it from blowing away on you.

Then, using a flat, non-glossy exterior white paint, paint both sides and edges of the board. The board is painted white to guarantee that sunlight bounces off of it. Using a dark-colored board would absorb sunlight, causing the board to heat up, even more, skewing the snow depth measurement.

What is the Difference between Snowfall and Snow Depth


The total amount of precipitation falling over a specific period is referred to as snowfall. Rain, sleet, hail, freezing drizzle, and other types of precipitation are all included.

Snow Depth

The actual layer of snow covering the earth at any given time is referred to as snow depth. This implies that, while it may appear as if it has been raining heavily for hours, the snow has remained in the same place since the first flakes fell.

In other words, snow depth refers to the amount of snow on the ground prior to the storm. Because no new snow has fallen onto the tree trunk, you’d measure zero inches of snow depth if you were standing under a tree covered in thick snow.

However, if you traveled around the tree until you came to bare branches, you’d notice that the tree had accumulated many feet of snow. As a result, we say that as the storm progresses, the snow depth increases.

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