Measuring snow thickness

Tools required: logbook, ruler, pencil, metal rod, measuring tape, camera, gloves, snowshoes/skis.

Instructions: Please read the instructions thoroughly before proceeding and share your questions or concerns.

  1. Once in the field, identify a starting point for the snow thickness measurement transect that is easily locatable for repeated measurements. The point could be marked with a vertical marker or associated with a tripod, light post, road turn, or any other distinctive landmark. If possible, take the GPS coordinates of the starting point. Document them in the logbook together with the transect name and maybe with a sketch of the transect location.
  2. Establish an endpoint for the transect, ensuring it is easily found for subsequent measurements as well. The distance between the starting and finishing points may vary based on site conditions and specific requirements. If not discussed, please try to distance the start and endpoint by 100 meters or 300 ft. For the site-specific measurements, the start and end points may coincide. If possible, take the GPS coordinates of the endpoint. Document them in the logbook.
  3. Walk the transect and count the number of steps between the start and endpoints. Walking uphill or downhill may affect the number of steps. Note the total number of steps in a logbook to facilitate future repeat measurements.
  4. It is advisable to take 10-20 measurements along the transect. Determine the right distance between the measurement locations by dividing the total number of steps by the planned number of measurements.
  5. At the starting point, capture a photo of the ground/snow conditions and record the time/date and individuals involved in the activity in the logbook.
  6. Walk the computed number of steps toward the endpoint and conduct the snow thickness measurement:
  7. Insert a provided ruler into the snow until encountering firm resistance. If a rigid layer is present, possibly due to a rain-on-snow precipitation and snow melt event, use a metal rod to break through the ice.
  8. Once you feel that the ruler contacts the ground surface, measure the snowpack thickness and record it in the logbook.
  9. Walk a predetermined number of steps toward the endpoint and repeat the procedure. If measuring snow thickness on the spot, randomly select locations and take measurements at your discretion.
  10. Upon completing the survey, photograph the logbook for record-keeping.
  11. Digitize measurements, including any comments, and share them along with all captured photos.

If questions, please send e-mail to Dmitry Nicolsky,