Researchers Develop Scales To Measure Snowfall In Real Time

Jan 1, 2018

As forecasters keep an eye on low pressure that could bring snow to Rhode Island and Massachusetts later this week, Researchers at the University of New Hampshire say they have a new way of measuring snow totals this winter that could help them learn more about climate change.

Credit Courtesy photo/NHPR

The new scales function almost like a scale you might have in your bathroom. They lie flat on the ground and constantly measure the amount of water in the snow as it piles up or melts down.

Elizabeth Burakowski is a researcher at UNH. She says the scales share data in real time, which will help scientists understand how potentially warmer winters could impact New Hampshire's ecosystem.

"Snowpack is really good insulator so it keeps to keep the soil thawed throughout the winter," Burakowski explains, "As long as you have a sufficiently thick snow pack with very light snow covering the ground surface."

So, warmer winters with less snowpack could mean more frozen soil, and Burakowski says that could impact nutrient cycling and microbial activity.

The new snow scales are already set up at the Kingman Research Farm in Madbury, where they send data to scientists every 30 minutes.

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative: Eight public media companies, including Rhode Island Public Radio, coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.