Snowfall Reporting

 

Winter is Around the Corner!
Although winter doesn’t officially start until December 21st, most locations across eastern Utah and western Colorado have already seen their first snowfall of the season! It’s time to start thinking about snow, which means it’s the perfect time to review some guidelines on how to report snowfall amounts. Throughout the winter season, the National Weather Service relies on snowfall reports from cooperative observers, spotters, and the general public, in order to provide our users with the most up to date and accurate forecasts. We really appreciate your frequent reports and the information you provide us with is crucial to our operations. It is important that this information be timely and accurate, so here are some tips to keep in mind this season when measuring snowfall.…
 

Be Prepared:

  • Find an open location with good exposure to take your snowfall measurements. It should be away from any trees, buildings, or obstructions that may cause blowing and drifting snow to interfere with your measurements.
  • Find a flat and level surface for you to take your snowfall measurements on. This location should be easily accessible to whoever will be taking the measurements.

  • A snowboard (clean, white board (about 2 x 3 ft.)) is the preferable method for  measuring snowfall, but any flat and level location with good exposure will do.

  • Have a ruler and/or yard stick handy to measure your snowfall amounts.
 
What to Report:
  
New Snowfall Accumulation 
The new snowfall accumulation is the amount of snow that has fallen since your last observation. If using a snowboard, the board should be cleared after each observation. Use a ruler or yardstick to measure the new snowfall to the nearest tenth of an inch. For example, 4.25” of new snow would be reported as 4.3”. When measuring, be sure to look at eye level because looking at an angle will result in inaccurate measurements. After the snow has fallen and temperatures begin to rise, the affects of melting and settling can significantly change your observations. To get the most accurate measurements, try to measure as close to the end of the storm as possible. Along with heavy snow, winter storms often bring very strong and gusty winds, which can also have major impacts on your snowfall amounts. In the event that you find very high snow drifts along with areas of significantly lesser amounts, it may be necessary to take an average of several snowfall measurements in order to come up with the most accurate amount.
 
Total Snow Depth
The total snow depth is the total amount of old and new snow on the ground. Use a yardstick to measure the total snow depth, and round the amount to the nearest whole inch. For example, 2.5 inches of snow depth would be reported as 3 inches. In the case of blowing and drifting snow, it may also be necessary to take an average of several measurements to get the most accurate depth. For example, if more than half of the ground is covered with 4 inches of snow and other areas are completely bare, you would report an average of 2 inches. If more than half of the ground is bare, you would report a trace of snow on the ground.
 
 
When to Report:
  • Whenever possible! We REALLY appreciate frequent updates on snowfall amounts.
  • When there is a change in precipitation type (example…rain changing over to snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc…).
  • if current snowfall amounts differ significantly from your local forecast.
  • HOWEVER, if current snowfall amounts are on track with your local forecast, this is also very valuable information for us to know!
Of course, it is not always possible to measure snowfall under ideal conditions. In fact, this is very rare. Many times it will be necessary to make estimations. We welcome all reports and any information you can provide is helpful! Do your best to make accurate observations, and report any uncertainty that you have.
Where to Report:
Send your snowfall reports to our office in Grand Junction at:
1-800-868-7964 or wxgjt@noaa.gov
If you’re interested in becoming a National Weather Service spotter, please contact our office with the information listed above.
See the link below if you’re interested in becoming a CoCoRaHS spotter!
 http://www.cocorahs.org/
Additional information on snowfall observations:
http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/snowbooklet.php
 


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