An ultrasonic snow depth sensor
See also: Disdrometer
The liquid equivalent of snowfall may be evaluated using a snow gauge or with a standard rain gauge having a diameter of 100 mm (4 in; plastic) or 200 mm (8 in; metal). Rain gauges are adjusted to winter by removing the funnel and inner cylinder and allowing the snow/freezing rain to collect inside the outer cylinder. Antifreeze liquid may be added to melt the snow or ice that falls into the gauge. In both types of gauges once the snowfall/ice is finished accumulating, or as its height in the gauge approaches 300 mm (12 in), the snow is melted and the water amount recorded.
Another type of gauge used to measure the liquid equivalent of snowfall is the weighing precipitation gauge. The wedge and tipping bucket gauges will have problems with snow measurement. Attempts to compensate for snow/ice by warming the tipping bucket meet with limited success, since snow may sublimate if the gauge is kept much above the freezing temperature. Weighing gauges with antifreeze should do fine with snow, but again, the funnel needs to be removed before the event begins. At some automatic weather stations an ultrasonic snow depth sensor may be used to augment the precipitation gauge.
Spring snow melt is a major source of water supply to areas in temperate zones near mountains that catch and hold winter snow, especially those with a prolonged dry summer. In such places, water equivalent is of great interest to water managers wishing to predict spring runoff and the water supply of cities downstream. Measurements are made manually at marked locations known as snow courses, and remotely using special scales called snow pillows. Snow stakes and simple rulers can be used to determine the depth of the snow pack, though they will not evaluate either its density or liquid equivalent.
When a snow measurement is made, various networks exist across the United States and elsewhere where rainfall measurements can be submitted through the Internet, such as CoCoRAHS or GLOBE. If a network is not available in the area where one lives, the nearest local weather office will likely be interested in the measurement.
The world record for the highest seasonal total snowfall was measured in the United States at Mount Baker Ski Area, outside of the town Bellingham, Washington during the 1998–1999 season. Mount Baker received 2,896 cm (1,140 in) of snow, thus surpassing the previous record holder, Mount Rainier, Washington, which during the 1971–1972 season received 2,850 cm (1,120 in) of snow.
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