Author Topic: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake  (Read 1013 times)

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Offline wxnerd

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Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« on: February 03, 2022, 07:05:19 AM »
I've noticed many folks on this forum have created "snow cams" where you basically have a camera pointed toward a measuring stick mounted into the ground. My area only occasionally gets snow (and usually light when it does), but I would still like to have one for the times it does.

I've noticed when looking at others online, a common issue seems to be snow drifting/piling up against the stake or "ruler"...Sometimes so severe that it practically runs up the whole gauge obscuring most of the numbers. For example, I grabbed this screen shot from one random one where there's obviously only some 2 or 3 inches, but the gauge is almost unreadable below 12 inches:

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Obviously, in a case like mine where there's never more than a few inches, having to guesstimate to the nearest 2 inches or so would not provide much value. I'm curious if anyone has found any ways to prevent or minimize this? I'm assuming this issue is mostly wind related, so maybe placing the gauge where the back of the ruler is facing the wind to encourage it to pile up behind the gauge instead of the front side where the numbers are? Or maybe parallel to the wind so that the wind is blowing against the thin side of the ruler instead of the wider face/back?

Seems like there's got to be some way to help, but it would take me years to find out through experimenting given how infrequent snow is in my area  #-o

Also, has anyone using a more-precise ruler for this kind of setup been able to measure the depth of a freezing rain glaze on the snow board to the nearest 10th of an inch? I've got a pan/tilt/zoom camera with 30X optical zoom, so I could blow it up to read every 10th inch tick mark from across the yard :lol: so that part wouldn't be a problem...But since a glaze would also be building all over the ruler, I imagine it would be too "messy" to tell the glaze thickness on the board from the icicles on the ruler itself?

Thanks in advance for any help or advice!
« Last Edit: February 03, 2022, 07:07:39 AM by wxnerd »

Offline ironton

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2022, 06:38:03 AM »
Move the snow-stick to the front edge of the snow-board.

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Offline Cutty Sark Sailor

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2022, 08:41:06 AM »
Move the assembly into an open area, away from foilage, structures etc.  Typically, then you'll see a 'dip' at the flat gauge...and indication will be more accurate looking at the two edges across the face. My experiments with ICE and webcams have not been the most productive... measurements are a lot more complex than a simple picture, and visualization on webcams is difficult...Wet heavy snow will stick to the vertical surface more than dry, also.
Here's mine this morning, with actual ice measurements of
Flat 1, 0.25" Black 0.42t ice 0.17"
Flat 2, 0.49" Green 0.67t ice 0.18"
Dowel, 0.75" Green Stained  V 0.85 H 0.80
Dowel, 0.75" Natural V 0.84 H 0.78

Mixed bag: Liquid changed to freezing rain, to sleet & snow. ~~ 1.47" as liquid. 0.44" as snow, sleet, freezing rain. SNOWPACK total includes 0.15" ice under sleet/snow layer.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2022, 08:50:54 AM by Cutty Sark Sailor »
 


Offline wxnerd

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2022, 10:49:53 AM »
Thanks for the responses, guys!

Move the snow-stick to the front edge of the snow-board.

Interesting thought. Guess that would at least allow the face of the ruler to stay cleaner and easier to read, even if a drift does pile up behind it...Though I wonder if that drifting behind it would still be significant enough to make it impossible to determine the total? I was actually debating the idea of putting a couple different rulers on the board (maybe one on the front edge, one in the middle and one at the back, horizontally separated such that they do not block the view of each other) so that I could take multiple measurements. Not sure if this would make things better by giving more measurements or worse by causing more drift piles on the board against each ruler...But like I say, it's hard for me to experiment considering it only snows here maybe once a year (and sometimes multiple years without snow). The trial and error method would take me many years to complete. It's so rare that it's almost not worth messing with, yet when it does happen, it's a major event where even an inch or two will cause big problems on the roads. So it's extra important to monitor accumulation rates here when it does happen, since every little bit makes a bad situation worse.

Wet heavy snow will stick to the vertical surface more than dry, also.


That's what worries me. I'm farther south than you (deep south U.S.), so "wet heavy" snow is basically the only kind we ever get  #-o and almost always from a strong surface cyclone moving through the Gulf of Mexico rather than just an upper air disturbance, meaning it's usually breezy at the surface/wind-blown snow that accumulates all up the side of the house.


My experiments with ICE and webcams have not been the most productive... measurements are a lot more complex than a simple picture, and visualization on webcams is difficult...

I can only imagine! And part of the reason that I was hoping to measure just a flat glaze depth on the snow board. I've tried measuring vertical and horizontal depth on leaves and such before, but that method is a pain! Plus, my understanding is ASOS sensors measure flat surface glaze depth, so I want to keep the method similar for comparison.

Looks like you've got a transparent image overlay with virtual measurements over the camera's image. Interesting idea. I may be able to work some magic with Photoshop to create an image overlay for both ice and snow and not even need a physical ruler on the snow board. That would take care of the drift issue. Seems the snow board would need to be directly "eye-level" centered with the middle of the camera lens to make it work? If the snow board is on the ground and I'm looking down at an angle with the camera, it would skew the vision perspective making the readings inaccurate (or would have to break out some trigonometry and/or hardcore calibrating to make a virtual ruler that's accurate at the camera's angle of view.) May also take a dedicated camera with fixed-focus for that task. My pan/tilt/zoom camera has an electronic varifocal lens that changes with different lighting, aperture and shutter speeds which makes items appear slightly more magnified at times, even at the same physical zoom level; Enough to throw off a fine-scale measurement.

I've also contemplated rigging up one of those homemade electric snow meters using a Raspberry PI and distance-measuring sensor. May be a better option for my needs, but at first glance, the project seemed overwhelming for my electronically-ignorant brain. Especially if it were to require soldering any electrical components to a circuit board. That's the reason I've put off making one of those cheap data-loggers for my Davis Vantage Pro.

Offline Cutty Sark Sailor

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2022, 01:48:47 PM »
Really, I'd suggest for complete info, and the 'standards' used and defined for us 'citizen scientists', would be the CoCoRaHS website, where precipitiation, evapotranspiration, (and other weather/climate goodies) are reported and monitored by numerous scientific and government agencies, including NOAA, etc Including the first nationwide attempt at Ice Accretion standardization and reporting. Including videos, webinars, etc... etc...

Unfortunately, the absolute best way of reporting any of this stuff with any accuracy values, with consistency across the board, is still direct human observations... one extremely accurate electronic station does NOT mean that ALL are accurate, so the manual methods are requested...  The questions, issues and thoughts you've expressed are well known, and thoroughly exploring the CCR site, materials, podcasts, videos, should just about cover anything you'd need, I think, from the point of view and abilities of us 'non-professionals'..

My 'snowcam' is NOT for 'official' measurements...all my measurements follow the CoCoRaHS protocols... that's about the only way to achieve standardization from a 'layman's perspective which can interface with the 'official' 'scientific' institutions, and the CCR observers are pretty much widely trusted and relied upon.   My web pages are  only 'quick looks', and 'reference'... CoCoRaHS "severe weather reports', and direct spotter reports direct to local WFO are best ways "Quick Info" to local WFO.. in fact, however,  the NWS LMK WFO often calls the cam into their situation displays,

especially during event onset, and end, and for quick 'ground confirmation' of what they're observing, and inferring...

Hence my experiments for some time with 'visual' indication of Icing onset, rather than specific measurements... especially in night-time hours.... one of the meteorologists there and I've been 'playing' with this for several years.  It's almost impossible to present reliably on camera, in a simple, inexpensive manner, in all situations and conditions,  for many reasons. The intereseting thing about the WFO's... they LOVE the 'snowcams', and other weather dedicated cams... and more and more are used, when they are aware of them, and some of the specifics of location and site.  A LOT of PWS cams are monitored in some fashion. Many of us are probably not aware of their usage... heh...
...and it doesn't matter to a great degree how fancy  they are... mine only has all those overlays for the specific 'ice accretion' pilot currently ongoing... as long as they're of good quality, and have a snow stick and board in the image... they're aware of how 'approximate' that representation is.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2022, 01:52:45 PM by Cutty Sark Sailor »
 


Offline ValentineWeather

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2022, 04:15:51 PM »
Not much you can do about wet snows like this. This type of gauge with the cutout wrought-iron numbers does work better than the solid type, I've had both.
https://wroughtironhaven.com/products/wrought-iron-3-ft-snowflake-snow-gauge they also have a 2' foot version.
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Randy

Offline wxnerd

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2022, 05:59:41 PM »
Really, I'd suggest for complete info, and the 'standards' used and defined for us 'citizen scientists', would be the CoCoRaHS website, where precipitiation, evapotranspiration, (and other weather/climate goodies) are reported and monitored by numerous scientific and government agencies, including NOAA, etc Including the first nationwide attempt at Ice Accretion standardization and reporting. Including videos, webinars, etc... etc...

Unfortunately, the absolute best way of reporting any of this stuff with any accuracy values, with consistency across the board, is still direct human observations... one extremely accurate electronic station does NOT mean that ALL are accurate, so the manual methods are requested...  The questions, issues and thoughts you've expressed are well known, and thoroughly exploring the CCR site, materials, podcasts, videos, should just about cover anything you'd need, I think, from the point of view and abilities of us 'non-professionals'..

My 'snowcam' is NOT for 'official' measurements...all my measurements follow the CoCoRaHS protocols... that's about the only way to achieve standardization from a 'layman's perspective which can interface with the 'official' 'scientific' institutions, and the CCR observers are pretty much widely trusted and relied upon.   My web pages are  only 'quick looks', and 'reference'... CoCoRaHS "severe weather reports', and direct spotter reports direct to local WFO are best ways "Quick Info" to local WFO.. in fact, however,  the NWS LMK WFO often calls the cam into their situation displays,

especially during event onset, and end, and for quick 'ground confirmation' of what they're observing, and inferring...

Hence my experiments for some time with 'visual' indication of Icing onset, rather than specific measurements... especially in night-time hours.... one of the meteorologists there and I've been 'playing' with this for several years.  It's almost impossible to present reliably on camera, in a simple, inexpensive manner, in all situations and conditions,  for many reasons. The intereseting thing about the WFO's... they LOVE the 'snowcams', and other weather dedicated cams... and more and more are used, when they are aware of them, and some of the specifics of location and site.  A LOT of PWS cams are monitored in some fashion. Many of us are probably not aware of their usage... heh...
...and it doesn't matter to a great degree how fancy  they are... mine only has all those overlays for the specific 'ice accretion' pilot currently ongoing... as long as they're of good quality, and have a snow stick and board in the image... they're aware of how 'approximate' that representation is.

Guess I should probably elaborate some on my situation and the ultimate goals. I'm actually a private sector meteorologist and as part of my job, I often do forecasting and real-time consultations/advice during active weather events. It requires good mesoscale awareness. There's definitely no true replacement for the human observations (and I always do that for wherever I'm currently located at the time), but that limits me to one place at a time. For example, If I'm at the office, I can take physical measurements there but I can't tell what's going on at my home other than what I can see through my webcam over the internet. My home is in a rural area that's usually "upstream" weather-wise from the bigger city and surrounding urban areas. Many times, what's happening at my home is a good idea of what will happen in the populated areas some 30 minutes to an hour later. While I realize, I'll never be able to match the CoCoRaHS standards of accuracy remotely through a webcam, it would be extremely helpful if I could remotely get info from my home as accurately as possible (remote limitations considered)...

Offline wxnerd

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2022, 06:49:57 PM »
Not much you can do about wet snows like this. This type of gauge with the cutout wrought-iron numbers does work better than the solid type, I've had both.
https://wroughtironhaven.com/products/wrought-iron-3-ft-snowflake-snow-gauge they also have a 2' foot version.
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Curious if you know what the actual snow depth was at the time that picture was taken? From what I can make out, it looks like the actual snow line is maybe an inch or two below the 1ft mark. Also, do you know how it was mounted in relation to the wind direction? Seems the thickest snow build up on the gauge is on the back side of the numbers and perhaps a bit more on the right side than the left.

I love the look of the wrought iron, though it's probably overkill and the 1 inch increments too broad for my area. I'm a middle aged guy and the highest we've had here in my lifetime was 8 inches. And that was a one time thing. All other events were 4 inches or less...So even a 1ft gauge would probably be more than I'll ever need here! I would prefer the standard 10th inch increments (at most quarter inch increments), especially since we only deal with small amounts. As powerful as the zoom is on my camera, just mounting a standard 12 inch plastic ruler to a snow board would probably be readable from across the yard. For the record, my current method for soil temperature is one of those probe thermometers with the round penny-size face plate (like you use for an air conditioner vent or meat thermometer) stuck in the ground about 30 ft away from the camera. At full zoom, I can clearly read where the arrow is pointing to the nearest degree  \:D/ ...Was thinking the skinniest ruler I could read at full zoom, the better in terms of hopefully minimizing drifting.

Offline ValentineWeather

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2022, 09:33:54 PM »
At the time was about 10.5", I'm also a spotter for the NWS and do snowboard measurements for Cocorahs. The snow stake is for website visitors primarily including North Platte FCO uses the stake for reference. The sluff in front was from snow dropping off the stake itself. Direction is the left side skinny faces the NW our predominant wind direction during the winter.  The camera angle at the time wasn't level.
Our main problem is many storms are accompanied by 40-50 sometimes even 60 mph wind gusts so you can forget about using the snow stake with 4-5 foot drifts and almost nothing in open areas. You pretty much have to rely on the NOAA melt tables and the 8" diameter snow catch. I actually keep 3 different boards down and have had 2 of the 3 blown completely clear. I'm getting better at measuring over time, started in 2014 and wasn't used to the frequent blizzards moving from Arizona where the few snows we got almost always fell straight down.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2022, 09:39:31 PM by ValentineWeather »
Randy

Offline wxnerd

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Re: Drifting Snow Along Snow Cam Measuring Stake
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2022, 11:25:39 PM »
At the time was about 10.5", I'm also a spotter for the NWS and do snowboard measurements for Cocorahs. The snow stake is for website visitors primarily including North Platte FCO uses the stake for reference. The sluff in front was from snow dropping off the stake itself. Direction is the left side skinny faces the NW our predominant wind direction during the winter.  The camera angle at the time wasn't level.
Our main problem is many storms are accompanied by 40-50 sometimes even 60 mph wind gusts so you can forget about using the snow stake with 4-5 foot drifts and almost nothing in open areas. You pretty much have to rely on the NOAA melt tables and the 8" diameter snow catch. I actually keep 3 different boards down and have had 2 of the 3 blown completely clear. I'm getting better at measuring over time, started in 2014 and wasn't used to the frequent blizzards moving from Arizona where the few snows we got almost always fell straight down.

Wow, fascinating! Being a life-long southerner, I can't even begin to imagine 5ft drifts. But I guess natives of your current area would have a hard time imagining our frequent 70s and sometimes 80 degree weather in January! Or our hurricanes and nearly 80 degree dewpoints during the summer. It's always amazed me how just a couple hundred miles north or south can make such a dramatic difference in climate.