Snow depth is less important than you think it is
Posted by David Brooks | Sunday, December 22, 2013
On Thursday I measured 11 inches of snow in the yard, where I do my official CoCoRaHS measuring; today, after warmth and a little rain (no ice here - hooray!), I measured 6 inches of snow in the yard.
Big difference, right? It certainly looks different.
But on Thursday, the snow melted down to 1.47 inches of rain, and today it melts down to 1.39 inches - virtually the same.
If you're keeping track of possible flooding (as we do here), or the amount of moisture being stored in snowpack for next summer's water supply (as they do out west), then depth of snow is almost irrelevant - it's "snow water equivalent" that matters. But it's a slow, labor-intensive thing to measure; I melted a certain sized snow core in the microwave to get mine.
That's why lots of climatologists seek to develop ways to accurately measure the amount of water in snow of large areas - from satellite data, among other things. Above illustration is from this paper.