National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Tips for Measuring Snow


Two Types of Measurements are Reported:

  • Snowfall (newly fallen snow) is reported in INCHES
    and TENTHS (such as 2.4").  It is reported about
    every 6 hours unless melting is expected.
  • Snow Depth (total depth of snow on the ground)
    is reported to the nearest WHOLE INCH (such as 11"). 
    It is typically reported at 7am.

Tools Needed:

  • A snow board (a 24"x16" piece of 1/2" or 3/4" plywood
    painted white)
  • A yardstick/snow stick
Measuring Snow

Getting Ready

Take your measurments at a location where drifting does not usually occur.  If you have snow drifts, then simply take measurements in several spots away from large drifts.  Calculate the average of these measurements.  Spots sheltered from the weather, such as those close to buildings or under trees, should be avoided.

Placing a snow board at a designated spot is the easiest way to measure snow.  A snow board can be any light color board (roughly 2 feet by 2 feet) that is flat and placed on the ground or on top of newly fallen snow.  Mark the location of the board with a flag or stake.

If you aren't using a snow board, then a flat surface such as a picnic table or deck will also work.  You can also measure snow directly on the ground, but this should be limited to areas of short grass so you obtain accurate measurements.

Snow Board

Measuring snow on a snow board

Clearing the snow board

How to Measure:

  • Push the yardstick straight into the snow, perpendicular to the ground, until the yardstick reaches the snow board.
  • Record the measurement to the nearest tenth of an inch; e.g. 3.3 inches.  Keep track
    of all your measurements for the duration of the storm so you can report the storm total amount.
  • After you record the measurement, clear off the snow board (then place it on top of the snow), or whatever surface you have used, so it is ready for more snow!
For more information on snow measurements see the links below:
  • A list of instructions developed from previous National
    Weather Service procedures and input from a broad array
    of expertise from climatologists, snow specialists, weather observers, and data users for use by our Cooperative
    Weather Observers for measuring snow.


(NWS Cooperative Observer Program)
  • The "Measuring Snow" video is provided under
    the following restricted use license: no modification of the content of the original video or redistribution of the video is authorized. Copyright 1998-2005, Colorado Climate Center, All rights reserved.