Meteorologist: How to properly measure snow

Dec 9, 2013, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:38 am
The best way to measure snow is not with a tape measure on your patio. (MyNorthwest reader submitted photo)
(MyNorthwest reader submitted photo)

Cold weather is here and it feels like it might snow. The best way to measure accumulations is not done by jamming a ruler into the snow on your car.

Here is how to accurately measure snow:

First, use two pieces of plywood or the like (roughly 2′ x 2′) to use as snow boards. One piece can be used to measure total snow and the other for ‘new’ snow since the last measurement. Paint them both white in color so they do not absorb the sun’s heat energy.

Place the two snow boards in an open area away from tall obstructions. You may have trees around your home – do the best you can to find a less obstructed location. Be sure to ‘flag’ both boards so you can find them once they are snow-covered, and have a yardstick handy that can slide down to the snow board, giving you an accurate reading of both new and total snow depth.

It should be measured at least once or twice a day, such as first thing in the morning and in the evening, and shortly after a period of snowfall has ended to determine new snow totals. Wipe your ‘new snow’ board off after each measurement.

You can report your snow depths to the National Weather Service via Facebook or Twitter, TV weather anchors, or other news organizations.

National Weather Service Skywarn Weather Spotters and CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network) volunteers report their snow depths to the National Weather Service each day when applicable.

To learn more about CoCoRaHS and to join, visit You can also watch the snow measuring video. Information about the Skywarn Weather Spotter program is also available at

Our Western Washington weather is terrain driven. When it rains, it is hard to notice the difference in rain amounts from place to place. But when the rain turns to snow, the differences in snow depths is stark. Accurate snow measurements reflect these amazing differences from location to location.

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Meteorologist: How to properly measure snow