Cliff Harris: True art of measuring snow - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Cliff Harris: True art of measuring snow

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 2:26 pm

I’ve had many Press subscribers ask me recently to explain just how I measure the snowfall at my location on Player Drive in the northwestern corner of Coeur d’Alene. They also ask me why I seem to gauge more snow during a particular period or season than in their parts of town.

First, we are at an elevation on Player Drive that’s nearly 100 feet higher than down near Lake Coeur d’Alene at the resort. The lake likewise tends to keep surrounding areas a bit warmer during the winter months, hence less snow.

The second reason that we frequently see more of the white stuff in my part of town is that are are in a ‘snowbelt corridor’ that runs from just north of I-90 northward through Rathdrum and Twin Lakes. In the past few winter seasons, we’ve often gauged more snow from a juicy North Pacific weather system than stations to the north near U.S. Highway 2 in the normally snowier Newport, Washington to Sandpoint, Idaho regions.

The main reason that I usually gauge more snow each season than other nearby stations, is that I measure six times a day, every four hours around-the-clock, even overnight. I collect the snow and melt it in the microwave to get the exact moisture content in liquid precipitation form.

I measure precise snow depths at three different cleared-off locations in my backyard away from any obstructions like the house, the fence or trees.

I’ve been measuring daily snowfall amounts now for more than 60 years, ever since I took over my disabled grandfather’s weather station on February 22, 1952, George Washington’s birthday, in Hamburg, New York south of snowy Buffalo. I’ve been reporting my daily and monthly observations to the National Weather Service from several different stations across the country in the past six decades, plus making frequent reports to various media sources including, for the past 22 years, the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Remember, if it falls as snow, it should be measured as snow...before it melts.


I wrote this North Idaho weather update on a very snowy morning, Thursday, March 1. March, as we predicted, did come in as a “roaring lion,” but we still believe that since ‘La Nina’ has died in the waters of the Pacific, the month will go out on March 31 as a “gentle lamb.”

February was certainly a month of wide weather ‘extremes.’ The first half was dry and mild with only 0.9 inches of snow. The second half, however, much like November and January, was cold and snowy with nearly TWO FEET of the white stuff measured on Player Drive that pushed our seasonal snowfall total to an above normal ‘beastly’ 66.6 inches. Our normal snowfall for an entire winter season since 1895 ending June 30 is 69.8 inches. We should top 70 inches later this weekend, if we see overnight snows as expected.

Our total February snowfall was more than twice our 11.9-inch norm at a whopping 24.3 inches, just under last February’s 26.2 inches in 2011. This means that the past two Februarys combined measured more than 50 inches of snow compared to a two-year normal of 23.8 inches.

We also experienced both our wettest and snowiest ‘leap year day’ on record on February 29 with .45 inches of liquid precipitation (melted snow) and 6.8 inches of snow, which easily topped the 3.0 inches that Coeur d’Alene gauged on February 29, 1952, exactly 60 years ago. The previous precipitation record was just .14 inches on February 29, 1956, four years later.

Our warmest temperature last month on Player Drive in the northwestern corner of Coeur d’Alene was 49 degrees on February 22, George Washington’s birthday, the very day that I started my weather career 60 years ago in Hamburg, New York. Our coldest reading during February was 15 degrees on the 27th. Our monthly mean (average) temperature during February was 32 degrees, one degree above normal overall.

Most of our March snowfall should be measured during the first 10 days of the month and the last 10 days during the ‘new moon’ cycle into the first week of April shortly before Easter. Then, things weatherwise should improve. I see no more snows and much warmer temperatures than last spring, thanks to the final demise of ‘La Nina’ in the Pacific Ocean waters. The April 1 through June 10 sixty-day span should feature a weather pattern of ‘sun and showers,’ great for our lawns, trees and flowers.

As I mentioned last week, the July through September three-month summer period should be both warmer and drier than usual with many ‘Sholeh Days’ near or above 90 degrees and a couple of afternoons that will ‘flirt with the century mark.’

I’ll have more details next week on our spring and summer weather prospects, plus a new sea-surface temperature map from Randy Mann, our ocean temperature expert.

Have a GREAT WEEK, weather or not.

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