How to measure snow the right way and avoid spoiling future forecasts

Measuring snow is serious business. The reputation of meteorologists can rise and fall with the accuracy of their forecasts before a high-stakes snowstorm. The difference between five inches of snow and seven inches of snow doesn’t seem big, but reliable snowfall totals can go a long way in improving future weather forecasts. Here’s a quick guide to measuring snow correctly during the next snowstorm.

The right way to accurately measure snow is to use a snowboard, which is a flat surface (like plywood) that measures between one and two square feet. The purpose of a snowboard is to give you a flat, uncontaminated surface on which to take snow measurements that are not marred by hot concrete, fluffy grass, or wet ground. Snowboards should be white to minimize heat absorption, and they should have a stick or flag attached so you don’t lose sight of them. Snowboards should be cleaned at least every six hours to minimize the effects of compaction.

If you don’t have the time or space to maintain a dedicated snowboard, it’s still easy to take snowfall readings close enough to accuracy.

Try to measure the snow on a hard surface that does not melt too much. The best surface for measuring snow on the fly is a deck or other raised wooden surface. Bridges don’t get too hot and tend to hold accumulated snow well. A car’s roof can work in a pinch, but be aware that snow tends to compress and melt when it lands on the warm exterior of vehicles, especially at the onset of a storm.

Whatever you do, avoid the grass. It’s instinctive to want to wedge the ruler in the first patch of lawn at the gate. The grass is terribly unrepresentative of the snowpack. Sticking a ruler in the snow on the lawn can artificially inflate the build-up a few inches. Some blades of grass are thinner and more brittle than others, so some types of grass will cause snow to accumulate on the lawn itself instead of collecting on the ground between the individual blades. .

Do not measure at an angle. Sticking a ruler in the snow at an angle will make it look like more snow has fallen than it actually is. It’s great if you’re looking to outsmart the guy down the street, but reporting an inflated measurement can make it difficult for meteorologists trying to verify their forecasts and properly document a winter storm for the record books. Forecasters use these checks to improve forecasts of subsequent storms. Keep the ruler level and stable so that it gives you an accurate reading of the snow at that particular point.

It is important to take several steps. Snow does not fall in an even blanket. Some areas end up with deeper snow than others, especially when the wind starts to blow. The measurement of a snowdrift is only representative of the efficiency with which the wind has blown snow in a certain location. Snowdrifts can make it difficult to take accurate measurements, even under the best of circumstances. The safest way to account for potential drift issues is to take multiple measurements. Averaging five or six different measurements is the best way to get an accurate idea of ​​how much snow has fallen at your location.

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