National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce







Where Should I Measure Snow Depth?


Where you choose to measure snowfall is very important.  The best place to measure snowfall is in an open area that is flat.  Why? 

Trees and buildings can serve as a wind breaks that can lead to artificially high or low snow depth in the nearby area.  Measuring snowfall near these tall objects may give you a result that is not representative of the true amount of snow that fell.

Measuring snow depth on a slope will usually result in an erroneous measurement for a couple reasons.  One reason is that, as you insert your measuring stick straight down into the snow, you will get an artificially high measurement because the measuring stick has to sink further into the snow before contacting the ground.  Another reason is wind.  Higher snowfall amounts may occur on slopes that are facing into the wind whereas lower snowfall amounts may occur on slopes facing away from the wind.

Snow boards are an excellent tool to help you measure snow.  A snow board is simply a sturdy wooden board that you can lay on the ground in an open area to collect snowfall.  A piece of plywood would serve well.  In any case just make sure your board is level.  A major benefit to using a snowboard is that it can be cleared off after you take your measurement, so you can see how much additional snow accumulated during your next measurement.  It is also recommended to leave a marker next to your snowboard so that it can be easily found during or after heavy snowfall events.




How do I Measure Snow and/or Sleet?


Sleet and snow depth are measured the same way. You will need a ruler, and possibly a piece of paper and a pen.

1. Locate a surface that is solid, level and in the open.  Avoid measuring snow and sleet depth under trees or directly next to buildings.
2. Slide the ruler directly downward into the sleet until it reaches the ground.
3. Read the value on the ruler to the nearest tenth of an inch, if possible.
4. Record this value on your piece of paper.
5. Repeat steps 2 through 4 in several locations around the immediate area.
6. Calculate the average snow and/or sleet depth for your area by first adding all of the measurement values together, and then dividing the resulting sum by the number of measurements taken. The average is what you will report to the National Weather Service.

Click on image below for larger view

How to Measure Snow and Sleet


How Do I Report Snow and Sleet Depth to the National Weather Service (NWS)?


Complete our storm report form

When making your report, please remember to include the following information, if known:

  • The time you measured the sleet or ice (and the time since you last measured & reported, if applicable).
  • Your location, as specifically as possible.  A street address or highway mile marker is best.  If unknown, give your location relative to easily-identifiable landmarks that are nearby (i.e. "I'm about a mile west of the New River Bridge on Highway 460.").
  • The time the snowfall or sleet began.
  • Condition of nearby roadways (i.e. Are they snow-covered, slick, clear?).
  • Any damage caused by snow or sleet, including downed tree branches or powerlines.