A Simple Way of Measuring Snow Water Equivalent

Winter is not far away. Soon we’ll be asked to measure the depth of new snow as well as the total depth of snow on the ground. But it is equally important to measure the water equivalent of both the new snow and that of the total snow on the ground. One of our former members, Rob Lyons (AB1NJ now SK), led me down the path to a very simple way of measuring water content of snow. Simply use your 4” diameter cylinder to take a core sample of the snow, new or total, and weigh it in ounces and divide the weight by 0.72 to get the water content in inches of the snow.

This sounds like a lot of bother but it is really very easy, much easier than trying to melt the snow and measuring the water content directly. The best way to do it is to set up a “snow table”, a piece of plywood on top of a bucket and push the 4” cylinder down through the snow and then slip a spatula under it, turn the cylinder over, and you have a core sample of the snow.

To weigh the core sample you need a scale. Before you take the core sample of snow weigh the 4” cylinder to get the fare weight that you will subtract from the core sample. There is a very accurate and inexpensive scale available on Amazon or at Walmart (under $20):

American Weigh Scales Blade Series Digital Precision Pocket Weight Scale, Black, 1000 x 0.1G (BL-1KG-BLK)

Buy one that has a 1 KG capacity (see below). The table below shows the weight -> volume of water of snow. Be sure to subtract the tare weight of the 4” cylinder.