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Day: January 3, 2018

Good Info from CoCoRaHS on Reporting Snow and Winter Conditions

Good Info from CoCoRaHS on Reporting Snow and Winter Conditions

I received an email today from CoCoRaHS which clarifies some good information about reporting snow and winter conditions to them. For those who haven’t read the email yet, here’s an excerpt from it from Nolan and the CoCoRaHS team:

A good question about reporting snow.

I received this question this morning from a North Carolina weather watcher, and realized it may be relevant for many of us.

“I viewed the videos and PDF presentation on measuring snow, but I’m still a little confused about the recording requirements. Can you tell me if all of the blocks need to be filled out that are related to snow, or, if not, what is the required information that should always be entered?”

Here is how I answered:
The first priority, of course, is the precipitation amount — rain plus the melted water content from any snow and ice that fell. Beyond that it’s at your discretion.  Personally, I try to fill out all values every day.   For example, even on dry days with no precipitation and no snow remaining on the ground,  I type in and submit 0.0 so that it confirms no snow. That is ideal but not required.  The only required field is “rain and melted snow ” (i.e. the water content of the precip)  All other fields (new snow, core sample water content of new snow, total depth of old/new snow, and water content of total snow on ground (the SWE)) are greatly appreciated.  But they are not required.  Measure and report what you can.  Leave the others NA if you don’t take those measurements.

Snow Depth — the depth of snow (both old and new) remaining on the ground at your observation time.

I’ve noticed that quite a few of us skip this measurement, or report it only when new snow has fallen.  But arguably it my be the single most important reading of any of our snow observations since it relates most closely to the impact snow is having on transportation, recreation and public safety in an area.  You can infer a lot about the character of the snow, too, from day to day changes in snow depth.  Many people tell me it’s a difficult measurement.  I would argue it’s OK to start with an estimate — maybe just by looking out your window. With uneven snow it may be very difficult to determine if you have an average depth of 3.0, 4.0 or 5.5″ — but it’s easy to estimate if it’s closest to 1″, 4″, 8″ or 12″. Once it’s more than 12″ it gets challenging again, and you may do best to have a semi-permanent ‘snow stake” mounted in the ground in a convenient location.  For more info on measuring snow depth (as opposed to new snowfall):

“Condition Reports” —

Are you getting wetter or drier?  Is your winter snowpack greater or less than average?  How about the streams around you?  Are they flowing more or less than “normal” for this time of year?  Add value to your CoCoRaHS precipitation reports by adding weekly “Condition” updates.

Winter precipitation measurement made easy (or at least easier) — use your kitchen scale

If you’ve got a kitchen scales that reads to the nearest gram, you may be in luck:

Freezing rain

Based on historical experience, January and  February are the core months of the freezing rain season.  Do you know how to measure and report freezing rain?  If not, don’t wait until its glazing .

Winter Weather Safety: Part 3-Tracking Cold Temperatures and Winter Precipitation

Winter Weather Safety: Part 3-Tracking Cold Temperatures and Winter Precipitation

In Part 3 of our winter weather safety series, we’ll be discussing tracking cold temperatures and winter precipitation. Cold temperatures and winter precipitation are the two major factors of a winter weather event, and it is important to be informed of the some of the best ways to keep a track concerning winter weather.

When it comes to tracking cold temperatures and winter weather precipitation, one of the tools I personally use here on my WeatherTogether blog as well as on social media to power many of the graphics is Baron Threat Net from Baron Weather (I’m using the Public Safety version of Baron Threat Net). With Baron Threat Net, I am able to track temperatures across the state and across the nation (from official NWS reporting locations), as well as track future temperatures up to 96 hours in advance using the Baron temperature model. Baron Threat Net also includes the higest-resolution radar data for the nation that includes winter precipitation tracking, and I can easily query the map data to differentiate between rain, snow, and freezing precipitation. I also have access to FutureScan which allows me to project the radar and winter radar up to an hour in advance, ideal for knowing if a winter weather event is imminent or how long the winter weather event is going to last. For longer-range winter weather tracking, I can use the forecast precipitation (which is a FutureCast radar model with winter precipitation tracking) and snow accumulation models as part of the Baron model to track winter conditions up to 96 hours in advance. Below are some sample screenshots of Baron Threat Net showing a winter radar map, FutureScan winter radar map, forecast precipitation model map, snow accumulation model map, and current and future temperatures maps.

Baron Threat Net also offers text messaging and email alerts as a part of their patented SAF-T-NET alerting service for public safety officials, which are extremely beneficial because in addition to NWS alerts, Baron Threat Net also offers exclusive proximity alerts when snow or freezing precipitation is arriving, as well as alerts when freezing temperatures occur (the alerts are currently static, however, so one cannot customize the temperature threshold or the distance of approaching winter precipitation). Baron Threat Net also includes its own mobile app (although alerts are currently email or text message-based only). For those interested in taking a free trial of Baron Threat Net to take a test drive of some the same tools I use for tracking winter weather, please contact Cliff Windham on the public safety team. Consumers can access the same SAF-T-NET alerting features, as well as the high resolution winter radar, 1 hour FutureScan, current temperature map, and Baron forecast model for forecast precipitation using the Baron Critical Weather app for iOS and Android.

Another tool I use for tracking cold temperatures as well as winter precipitation that powers some of the graphics on my WeatherTogether blog and social media posts is Sferic Maps from Earth Networks. I handle IT consulting for Earth Networks, and I am pleased to be part of their team. Where Earth Networks shines is in owning the world’s largest live, local weather network (in fact, Baron Threat Net above uses Earth Networks for its lightning data provider). I can access weather station data from practically anywhere in the world, and across the nation. Earth Networks offers live, local weather stations in neighborhood locations such as schools, government facilities, resorts, etc., which allows me to track weather conditions from a larger variety of professional-grade weather stations that update live versus just looking at NWS stations which are generally located at airports. During winter weather, having the additional data points is extremely beneficial for tracking winter temperatures, as well as the winter precipitation radar layer in Sferic Maps utilizes the Earth Networks weather network’s temperature data to accurately fine-tune where rain and winter precipitation is falling (the drawback is Sferic Maps only utilizes Level III for NEXRAD radar which refreshes more slowly and isn’t the higher-resolution of Baron’s Level II NEXRAD radar; I’d love to see Baron and Earth Networks team up to deliver a nationwide Level II radar mosaic which factors in the Earth Networks temperature data fine-tuning as it would be an ideal winter precipitation tracking solution). Below are a couple of sample maps from Sferic Maps showing a temperatures map as well as winter precipitation radar map.

Earth Networks also includes its own alerting service in its mobile app, Sferic Mobile (the alerts are available in a mobile app unlike Baron Threat Net, plus its proximity alerts can be customized to a particular temperature threshold or lightning distance, however, Baron SAF-T-NET offers a greater range of proximity alerts for severe and winter weather that are not available in Sferic Mobile, so each service has its own advantages and disadvantages). For enterprise customers interested in taking a test drive of Sferic Maps and Sferic Mobile and putting some of the same tools I use for tracking winter weather to the test, please contact the Earth Networks sales team. For consumers interested in weather alerting applications that take advantage of Earth Networks weather data (in addition to Baron Critical Weather above which uses Earth Networks data for lightning alerts), I recommend checking out the Weather Radio app by WDT (which is similar to a pocket version of a NOAA Weather Radio), as well as WeatherBug, which in addition to weather alerts also offers the same winter precipitation radar layer discussed above as well as a temperature maps layer and exclusive live current conditions from the Earth Networks weather network. WeatherBug also includes access to ENCast from Earth Networks which allows consumers to track accurate hourly forecasts for virtually any area around the world (enterprises can also contact Earth Networks sales directly to learn more about ENCast).

Additional model maps I have access to for tracking cold temperatures and winter weather are the WSI RPM model which I will check in tandem with the Baron forecast models to get an overall picture of each winter weather event, as well as for access to other model maps such as the GFS and NAM models, I use our own in-house model maps page here at WeatherTogether. The WSI RPM model isn’t publicly accessible (since it is proprietary), but the public can access our in-house model maps page here at WeatherTogether for free, and we have additional model datasets coming in the works, so stay tuned for more. Below are a few sample maps from the WSI RPM model (4K) showing future winter precipitation, snow accumulation, and temperatures, plus a sample temperature model map from our in-house model maps page here at WeatherTogether. Two drawbacks I have with the WSI RPM model maps is they only cap off at regional level, whereas with the Baron model maps I can zoom into state level, plus the Baron model maps are overall more accurate than the WSI RPM model maps in my testing (the Baron model maps currently are at 5K resolution, and I would like to see them eventually upgrade the resolution to either 4K or even better 3K).


I also recommend consumers check with their local government officials to see if they offer a government alerts service. For residents of the city of Hot Springs (as well as most residents in Garland County), the service is CodeRED (free for residents). CodeRED offers phone call and email alerts to city residents, and while they do not specifically cover winter weather alerts (only severe weather alerts), if there are specific messages from city officials that residents should be aware of during a winter weather events, CodeRED is likely the alerting medium city officials would use. I recommend all Hot Springs residents signup for the service.

Cold temperatures can also cause a strain on the energy grid as well as elevated energy bills during the winter months as customers use more energy to power their heating systems. Consumers should check with their local energy providers to see if their local energy providers have enrolled in an energy-saving service such as Connected Savings by Whisker Labs (Whisker Labs uses Earth Networks weather data to power its intelligence and was formerly a subsidiary of Earth Networks). Connected Savings works with smart thermostats and smart-home systems such as SmartThings to create a thermodynamic model of a customer’s home, as well as creates an energy ScoreCard to show consumers how the weather is affecting their energy usage (weather is the number one driver of home energy use and responsible for up to 50% of a home’s total energy usage). Connected Savings also offers demand response to ensure homes stay warm, energy bills remain lowered, and the power grid isn’t overtaxed during extreme weather conditions such as winter weather events (at the moment, Entergy Arkansas who powers many Arkansas homes, is not a member of the Connected Savings by Whisker Labs program at the moment, but I have suggested it to Entergy Arkansas, and I hope they will join the program sometime).

Cold temperatures can also cause issues with pipes freezing and bursting during winter weather events. I highly recommend watching this video segment from our local station KARK4 News in Little Rock, Arkansas, to learn more about protecting your pipes during winter weather events. You’ll be thankful for not having to endure frozen, bursting pipes, your plumber will thank you for not having a mess on his hands, and your home insurance provider will be thankful that you don’t need to make a home insurance claim.

Last of all, here are a few additional tips from the National Weather Service concerning how to prepare one’s home Before the Storm and what to do During the Storm during a winter weather event.

Before the Storm

Your primary concerns at home or work during a winter storm are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day. In either place, you should have available:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information
  • Extra food and water such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and other food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.
  • Extra prescription medicine
  • Baby items such as diapers and formula
  • First-aid supplies
  • Heating fuel: refuel before you are empty; fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm
  • Emergency heat source: fireplace, wood stove or space heater, properly ventilated to prevent a fire
  • Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm; test smoke alarms once a month to ensure they work properly
  • Extra pet food and warm shelter for pets
  • Review generator safety. You should never run a generator in an enclosed space
  • Make sure your carbon dioxide detector is working detector and that the outside vent is clear of leaves and debris. During or after the storm, make sure it is cleared of snow.
  • Home fires are common each winter when trying to stay warm. Review ways to keep your home and loved ones safe.

During the Storm

Stay Inside: When using heat from a fire place, wood stove, space heater, etc., use fire safeguards and properly ventilate. If you have a gas furnace, make sure it is not not blocked by a snowdrift as soon as it’s safe to go out. If you have an upstairs gas furnace which vents out the roof, you may need to turn off the upstairs unit until the snow melts off your roof.

If Your Heat Goes Out

  • Close off unneeded rooms to avoid wasting heat.
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
  • Close blinds or curtains to keep in some heat.
  • Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Drinks lots of water and other non-caffeinated, non-alcholohic drinks to prevent dehydration. Cold air is very dry.
  • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration and subsequent chill.

That wraps it up here! Nathan Parker signing off.