National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Types of Measurements Reported

  • Snowfall (newly fallen snow) is reported in TENTHS of an inch (such as 2.4").  It is taken as soon as snow has stopped falling if possible and no more than 4 times a day.
  • Liquid equivalent of snowfall (last 24-hrs) reported in HUNDREDTHS of an inch (such as 0.22").  This is the water content of the newly fallen snow. 
  • 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

Getting Ready

Take your measurements 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.
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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:

Snow Measuring Guidelines "In-Depth" Snow Measuring
(CoCoRaHS Training Slide Show)
"Measuring Snow" Video
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    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.