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National Water and Climate Center

Snow Sampling Equipment

Snow Sampler

A snow sampler (also known as Federal snow sampler) is a device that measures snow water equivalent (SWE). Snow samplers consist of an aluminum snow tube and a spring scale.

Aluminum snow tube and spring scale.

Snow depth is measured by pushing the tube down through the snowpack to the ground surface and then extracting a core. One surveyor measures the snow depth while the other surveyor records data. From 5 to 10 measurements are taken at regular intervals along a snow course.

Extracting a core sample of the snowpack using a snow sampler.

In taking an accurate snow core sample, the surveyor must verify that the tube has reached ground level by examining the base of the tube and finding soil. After clearing the soil from the tube, the surveyor then determines the amount of water in the snowpack by weighing the tube with its snow core and subtracting the weight of the empty tube. An average of all samples taken is calculated and used to represent that snow course.

Using a snow sampling scale to measure snow water equivalent of mountain snowpack.

Snow Survey Sampling Guide