Where and How to measure snow

  1. Ideally, you want to measure snow on a snow board. You can make your own. It is just a clean board (about 2 X 3 feet). Place the board on the ground away from trees, buildings, fences etc as much in the open as possible. Allow snow to accumulate on top of it and measure the depth with a ruler.
  2. Less accurate alternatives include measuring on a deck or patio. These surfaces are more likely to be warmer and melt some snow or be sheltered by the house etc, but it is a second choice.
  3. Measuring on the ground with no snow board works if there is no grass or the grass is extremely short and compact to the ground. If not, don’t jam the ruler down too far so you don’t measure the dirt and grass with the snow.
  4. Measuring on a driveway might work if the temperatures before the snow are well below freezing so that all the snow falls accumulates and does not melt. If your driveway is paved, just use a ruler. If gravel, do not jam the ruler into the gravel, just penetrate the snow until you hit stone.
  5. Don’t wait too long to measure the snow. Snow packs down soon after it falls. This compaction process is faster for wet, heavy snow. Sleet also aids the compaction process.

Other Important Tips on Measuring Snow

  1. Sampling – If you are not using a snow board, you should sample several locations and take an average. If windy conditions are causing drifting of snow, do not average the drifts. Measure the drifts separately.
  2. Drifts –Only report if a drift is much greater than the snowfall. For instance, the wind blows all but a trace of snow off your board, but you have a 3 foot drift against your house. Report drifts in feet (not inches).
  3. Reading the Ruler- Measure new snow to the nearest tenth of an inch. Measure snow depth to the nearest whole inch. If possible, average several readings together. Always round upward.
  4. When to Report- Storm total amounts and snow rates of greater than 1” per hour.