Photo of Governor Martin O'Malley with group of children - Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature

Outdoor Activities for Children

Make a Snow Gauge Activity Illustration

A lot of times, when a snowstorm is forecast, the weather announcer will tell how much snow is predicted. Very often, though, the amount is a range, like 2-3 inches or 6-10 inches. So how do you know exactly how much snow fell in your backyard? Easy…make a snow gauge.

You will need:

  • A large (39 ounce) empty coffee can
  • A 12 inch ruler
  • Waterproof tape, like duct tape or electrical tape

What to do:

  • Tape the ruler to the inside of the can. If the tape is wide, like duct tape, tear it into narrower strips so you don’t cover up too much of the ruler.
  • When it starts to snow, put the can outside in an open place in your yard. Be sure not to put in under a tree or close to the house.
  • When the snow ends, measure the amount of snow in the can.
  • The coffee can will only hold 6 inches of snow. If greater than 6 inches is predicted, you may have to empty the can several times. Just write down how much snow was in the can each time and add the measurements.

Have you ever thought to yourself after a snowstorm, “Suppose this had been rain instead of snow; I wonder how much rain we would have gotten.”? Here’s how to find out.

  • When the storm is over, measure the amount of snow in the can.
  • Now bring the can full of snow indoors and let the snow melt. Then measure the amount of water in the can. That will tell you haw much rain you would have gotten. The answer may surprise you.
    • If the temperature is very cold and the snow is very light and fluffy, it may take 15 inches of snow to equal an inch of rain.
    • If the temperature is around freezing and the snow is very heavy, it may only take 5 inches of snow to equal an inch of rain.
    • The average that is usually used is 10 inches of snow equals an inch of rain.
  • How does your snow compare? Is the snow heavy or light?

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