snow depth in the forest

How to contribute

  1. If you do not have one, you will need to register for a Twitter account at It is free and easy to do.

  2. Measure the snow depth where you live, work or play. Ideally, you can easily do this with a simple ruler by poking it into the snow straight down (vertically) to the ground at a place you think is representative of the snow in your area (maybe in the middle of your back yard or at an undisturbed/undrafted place on the way to work, or in your school yard). There is a section opposite that explains in more detail some of the best ways to measure snow depth.

  3. Then using your Twitter account, tweet this information along with your postcode/zip code/lat-lon location using the #snowtweets protocol:

    #snowtweets <snow depth in cm., in. or ft.> at <postal code, ZIP code or latitude, longitude>

    If you want to use your postcode or address, it should look something like this:

    #snowtweets 50.0 cm. at K1A 0A2
    #snowtweets 10.0 in. at 20500
    #snowtweets 4 cm at Palmerston North 4414

    Outside North America, it might help to specify your country with your postal code:

    #snowtweets 2 cm at 102-8166 Japan

    If you want to use absolute latitude/longitude coordinates, you may use latitude (dd.ddd) and longitude (ddd.ddd) in decimal degrees or coordinates in degree-minute-second style (D° M' S"). Note, latitude should be -90.000 to +90.000 and longitude -180.000 to +180.000. For example 8.3 cm at N 41° 30' 22'': W 120° 45' 35'' can be:

    #snowtweets 8.3 cm at 41.500, -120.750
    #snowtweets 8.3 cm at N 41° 30' 22", W 120° 45' 35"

    Not sure what to include for your location? Try your location in Yahoo Maps. If it works with Yahoo, it works with Snowbird.

  4. Give our system a few minutes to process the data and you should see your Tweet show up in Snowbird or KML. It may take a bit longer if the automated parser has some trouble, but we'll review your data either way. Your input will assist snow-related research here at the University of Waterloo.

  5. You can tweet your snow depth from wherever you are and as many times as you want to each day:

    - at home. Choose the same place each time – makes it a more reliable record. (we suggest a maximum of 5 times a day in a heavy snow storm)


    - on the road with your wireless Blackberry, iPhone, HTC, Samsung smartphone. If you know your postcode/zip/lat-lon just enter it. We will do the rest. If you are continually travelling, enter the snow depth for as many new locations as you like.

Measuring snow depth: many ways but consistency and representativity are best 

Measuring snow depth, on the face of it, seems easy. And indeed it can be. However, for really reliable measurements, there are a few things to consider:

  • try and locate an undisturbed patch of snow. If the snow has been disturbed (kids playing in the backyard etc) then it might not be the best place. Some observers like to set aside a small patch of ground to make their measurements where they are confident that the snow has not been disturbed;
  • snow depth can vary significantly over short distances as the snow gets blown around. Try not to choose the 'deepest' snow you can find but aim to measure the most representative snow you can find. You may need to take 10-20 measurements to get a sense of how it varies;
  • ideally, you should measure snow depth away from trees and buildings which can create windowflow patterns that artificially scour and drift snow in patterns that do not always reflect the 'general' snow patterns;
  • if your snow depth measurement is less than 5 cm, it was probably not easy to measure. Record it as best you can but it will probably show up as a trace on our server.

There are some excellent sources on how to measure snow. These sources range from the World Meteorological Organization protocols to community-based projects designed to get teachers and kids interested in measuring weather variables. For further information please follow the links below:

The Snowtweets project aims to get as many people involved as possible and if you are not able to make a detailed measurement that is fine. We would still like you to Tweet your snow.