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Boulder researchers try to solve problem of inaccurate snow totals

6:46 PM, Dec 6, 2011   |    comments
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A group of researchers in Boulder are trying to change that, as they search for the best way to measure the powder.

At the Marshall Field site south of Boulder, a huge research project is underway to determine once and for all the best way to measure snow totals.

"Not just in the U.S. but around the world, is that our snowfall measurements are really not that good," Scott Landolt, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, said.

Good is what we settle for when snow totals are measured by rulers stuck in the ground. One issue can be the wind because unlike rain, snow can fall horizontally.

"Snow tends to blow across the top off your gauge, so you don't always get snow falling in your gauge," Landolt said.

That is where shields come into play for measuring. The shields can sometimes look like fences that encircle the gauge, or sensor, which measures snow.

"What we're trying to do is see if we can come up with a smaller-scale model," Landolt said.

The goal is to figure out which model of shields and sensors does the best job.

When the project, which is scheduled to stretch into 2013, is over, the standardized method of gathering will be a huge help for myriad groups.

"Department of Transportation, CDOT, DIA, places like that," Landolt said. "It's remarkable that it hasn't been done yet, but we're definitely on the leading edge right now of getting that to happen."

Scientists say what's even more important than snow depth levels, is how much water is in the snow. Wet and heavy snow, for instance, is much more difficult for snow plows and airplanes than light fluffy snow.

How water in snow is measured is also a huge focus of the project being conducted by NCAR.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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