July 16th, 2018

Praxis: Can you measure snowfall? Yes you can, by using a can

By Medicine Hat News on January 13, 2018.

Finally, we have some real snow. We have been able to take part in some great winter sports the past few weeks — despite the frigid temperatures. Many of us have been able to hit the slopes skiing, get out and do some snowmobiling, snowshoeing and perhaps even a bit of ice fishing. One question I often get is how much snow do we really have. When measuring rain, we often use a rain gauge, but how do they measure snow? Well, I came up with a method to check out the amount of snowfall we received. Let’s get started!

*Remember to ask an adult before doing this experiment.


– snowy day

– a large empty tin can

– 2 rulers

– masking tape

– duct tape

– set of measuring cups


1. Using the masking tape, cover the sharp edges of the empty tin can. I do not want you to get cut.

2. Place one ruler on the inside edge of the tin can pointing straight up and secure it well using duct tape. Make sure it is taped well as we do not want it to fall over.

3. Wait for it to snow.

4. Once it begins to snow, place your “snow gauge” outside in your backyard. Make sure it is in a clear spot away from any obstructions such as trees, decks, or buildings.

5. Once it has quit snowing, bring your snow gauge inside.

6. Using the second ruler, carefully level off the top of the gauge so it is completely flat on the top.

7. Look at the ruler in the gauge and record how much snow you collected.

8. Place the snow gauge on the counter and allow the snow to melt.

9. Carefully pour the melted now into a measuring cup.

10. Record your results.

What is going on?

Your snow gauge collected all of the snow that fell out of the sky. I am sure it was interesting to see that once the snow melted it actually produced very little liquid (or water). Snow is so fluffy, it often looks like a great deal, but once it melts, and there really is very little liquid that can be absorbed into the soil. My sources tell me that it takes about 25 centimetres of fluffy wet snow to make the equivalent of 2.5 centimetres of rain. Wow! What a difference.

Patty Rooks is senior scientific consultant at PRAXIS, “Connecting Science To The Community.” Contact Praxis at praxis@praxismh.ca, http://www.praxismh.ca, Tweet or follow us @PraxisMedHat, or friend us on Facebook.

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