WeatherTalk: Measuring snow is not easy

It takes a great many separate measurements which are then averaged.

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Snow in our region often falls kind of sideways, making the job of accurately measuring snow much more complicated. A ruler (or yardstick) is still used, but it takes a great many separate measurements which are then averaged. Authentic snow measurers use a cleanly swept white board to emulate the radiative properties of the surrounding snow while allowing the measurer to start clean. Care must be taken to place the board in a spot where snow will not blow in from a nearby roof.

The snow is also measured in a metal, eight-inch diameter, straight-sided rain gauge. This snow is melted and the measurer estimates a snow-to-liquid ratio based on the temperatures and humidity conditions in the air along with the amount of flake damage caused by the wind. These two methods often yield different results, and this is where experience and common sense help. In the final analysis, wind-blown snow measurement is basically an educated guess.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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