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Utah's Weather Authority: How to measure snow the right way

Snow measuring
Posted at 2:45 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 17:12:58-05

SALT LAKE CITY — You don't have to be a professional to measure how much snow piles up during a Utah winter storm. As a matter of fact, the National Weather Service relies on volunteers and the public, so folks like you and me, to provide snowfall measurements during winter weather events.

That means you could help provide important information from your home during our next storm.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it's not as easy as just plunging a ruler into the snow. Being precise is incredibly important. In today's blog post, we're going to discuss how to accurately measure snowfall from your very own home.

There are things you should and shouldn't do, so let's break it all down!

First things first, it's all about the prep work. Before the storm rolls in, you want to make sure you have a flat surface to measure the snow on. The National Weather Service says it's best to use something like a snowboard or a sturdy piece of wood or cardboard. Preferably, you're looking for something at least 2 feet by 2 feet.

No snowboard? Other options include a picnic table or even deck.

Once you have that part handled, try to pick an open space for measuring. We're talking about an area away from your house, trees or anything else that could impact accumulation.

Now that you're set up, it's time for the fun part. Let's talk about measuring during the event!

When we're evaluating how much snow has collected, we're looking for the fresh stuff! The National Weather Service defines "new snowfall" as "the amount of snow that has fallen since your last measurement, or since the first flakes began to fall." So let's get to it!

You typically want to take a measurement as soon as the snow has stopped and no more than four times a day. That's just a good rule of thumb.

When you're ready to measure, grab your straight wooden ruler or yardstick. These are the best devices to use. We're all about being precise, so try to avoid a tape measure. Those can so easily bend! Take the ruler and just stick it directly into the snow, making sure it's perpendicular to the ground. Gently push it all the way down. Your measurement should be recorded to the nearest tenth of an inch. For example, 4.4 inches or 8.2 inches.

Time to record your findings! You'll want to write down your measurement and also take a picture. Then you can brush off the powder, so you're ready for more snow.

We love it when you send your measurements our way! It is a valuable tool for our weather community.

You can post your findings to our Utah Weather Authority Facebook page. Please make sure to provide your location. Also, send your results to the National Weather Service. You can post your report to their Facebook or Twitter pages. In addition to this information, the National Weather Service also provides step-by-step instruction on how to get the job done.