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NWS Wilmington Snow Measurement Page

How To Measure Snowfall

Measuring snow is a rough art, and can be very subjective. A lot depends on the frequency and location of your measurements. Ideally, you want a cold flat surface that is somewhat protected from the wind, but not so protected that snowfall measurements will be unrepresentative. Below are some helpful hints for measuring snow.

Surface:

First, choose a convenient spot away from obstacles such as a house, garage, shed, fence, large bushes, and trees. These objects aid in the piling up (drifting) of the snow near them. The ideal spot will usually be in the middle of your back or front yard away from trees. Below are two backyard examples with the red oval denoting the best place to measure snow. When measuring, take several readings within the red oval.


Above is an example of a good place to measure in a smaller backyard.


In a larger back yard like the one above, you'll want a bigger oval as drifting will be more of an issue

Ideally, a snowboard is the best measuring surface. A snowboard is simply a piece of plywood cut in about a 2 ft square and painted white. If you use a snowboard on the ground, then a flag or some other marker can help you locate it during snowy weather. Other potential measuring surfaces are discussed below.
  • An outdoor table or an exposed deck will also work well.
  • Pavement is OK if it is cold (below 32 F), but should not be used under milder conditions due to melting.
  • Grass is too uneven, especially in the fall and after greenup in the spring. Grass may be used in the middle of winter when it is dormant.
  • Bare ground is OK. Do not mistake an ice layer or crusted snow as the "ground."
  • Picnic tables and autos are fine if winds are light.

This white piece of wood is an example of a snowboard.

Measuring Device:

A yard stick or ruler is an excellent device for measuring snowfall.

Wind and Drifting:

If drifting is a problem, take several measurements and average them.

Frequency:

In general, measuring once every few hours (2 to 3) is adequate (unless the snow is melting). Hourly measurements will be extremely helpful when snowfall rates are excessive (1" or more per hour).

Storm Total Snowfall:

Report storm total snow amounts to the nearest tenth of an inch.


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Wilmington Ohio Weather Forecast Office
1901 South State Route 134
Wilmington, OH 45177
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Page last modified: October 12, 2011.
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