December 6, 2010 - Help Us Measure Snow!

By: Mallory Brooke
By: Mallory Brooke

The first snow of the season fell Saturday - likely not to be the last snowfall for Winter 2010-2011. Today's blog is about accurately measuring snowfall - read on!

Our first snow of the season has come and gone in some parts of the Valley. But did you know there's actually a science to measuring snowfall? Well, there is! I'll lay it out for you in today's blog.

This information is from the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky and is the procedure that all National Weather Service employees follow to measure snow. It's a little more work, but it's very accurate!

The first thing you will need is a snowboard - no, not what you're going down the slopes on - but a 16"x16" piece of wood that is painted white. If you have a deck or patio that extends 20 to 30 feet away from structures - that works too. Taking measurements on grassy surfaces tend to be inaccurate because snow may accumulate on individual grass blades and not on the ground itself.

If you want to measure snow depth in addition to new snowfall, you'll need a second snowboard. The "new snowfall" board will be cleaned after each measurement, whereas the "snow depth" board will be left untouched. This will allow for natural compacting and melting that occur day in and day out, giving us a more representative snow depth measurement.

Let's start with new snowfall measurements first. You'll want to make sure that it's completely clear before a snow event begins. You can measure snowfall every hour, but make sure that the board is cleared only ONCE every 6 hours. Therefore, it's easier to measure once every 6 hours and clear the board after your measurement. You should measure to the nearest tenth of an inch. If there has been a lot of drifting snow, you may want to take several measurements across your snowboard and average them together.

Snow depth is important, especially after major snowstorms. Lingering snow pack causes concern when it comes to black ice, flooding, and even temperature fluctuations. Snow depth is usually measured once a day and to the nearest inch. Once again, if there has been drifting, you may want to take several measurements across your board and average them together.

Thank you again to NWS Jackson, KY for these great tips on snowfall measurement. Remember you can always call in your snowfall totals to the TV3 Weather Line (540-564-0855), post them to Facebook/Twitter, or email them!

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