Lowland snow is in the forecast again for western Washington and many people will be out in their backyard measuring just how much snow fell. 

But it's more than just sticking a ruler into the ground. There’s actually an official way to measure snowfall, with the guidelines set by the National Weather Service.

When choosing a place to measure, be sure you are away from trees, structures, fences, and anything else that may affect your reading. There are likely to be wind-blown snow areas as well. Take several readings, average them out, and measure by the nearest tenth of an inch.

If you have to measure on grass, make sure the grass is cut short. Snowflakes tend to accumulate on top of grassy surfaces, and longer grass can inflate snowfall measurements.

Snow on grass
Snow on grassy surface.

What do the professionals use? A snow board! Not the kind you strap on and take down a hill, but an actual square board made of plywood and painted white. It’s painted white so it doesn’t absorb any heat from the sun. The snow board is placed in an area that’s exposed to the most “natural” snowfall.

Snow board
A snow board used for measuring snowfall.
National Weather Service
Measuring snowfall
National Weather Service employee measuring snowfall.
National Weather Service

If you don’t have a snow board, you can use a picnic table or a deck, so long as it’s away from structures. And make sure you send your official snow totals to the National Weather Service.