Why is Snow So Difficult to Measure?

February 13, 2023

why is snow challenging to measure

Despite all of the high-tech equipment, snow remains one of the most challenging and difficult precipitation types to measure. It is hard to catch, redistributes easily on the ground, melts differently and restricts access to measurement points.

How to Measure Snow

To properly measure snow you should select a flat, grassy area of your yard away from trees or other structures. This is because measuring too close to your home or deck could provide erroneous totals due to blowing and drifting. Measuring on asphalt could also yield low readings.

How to Measure Snow Depth

To measure the depth of snow you should lay a square white board across two bricks so that about 2 inches of air space separate the board from the ground. Using this method eliminates measurement difficulties caused by ground warmth and ground cover height, and provides accurate measurements of snow depth regardless of the surface.

What is the Snow-to-Water Equivalent?

Measuring the snow-to-water equivalent is important for a variety of hydrologic applications. For example, it is used to estimate the volume of water that would result from melting the snow pack and to assess the layer density in mountain snow packs for avalanche control and water supply estimates.

During winter storms, snowfall and snow depth vary widely depending on the weather situation. For example, one community might get a light dusting while a neighboring area may receive several inches of snow. This is especially true during winter storms where the temperature hovers near freezing.


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