Can our government measure snow?

Any government, nor matter how otherwise incompetent, should be able to measure snow. And our current government, which aspires to control so much and which likes to talk about “settled science,” certainly shouldn’t be flummoxed by whatever nuances coming up with an accurate snow measurement might entail.

Yet, according to the Washington Post, “it has become apparent. . .through multiple conversations with the weather observers at Reagan National Airport, that the snowfall totals submitted to the National Weather Service for that location have not been measured properly.”

As of 8:00 p.m. last night, 17.8 inches of snow had been recorded at Reagan, Washington, D.C.’s official weather monitoring location. Reagan tends to generate low totals due, as I understand it, to its location. But 17.8 inches seemed ridiculously low. In Baltimore, the total was nearly a foot more, and we had more than two feet of snow in our neighborhood which is not that far from Reagan.

The Post’s reporting confirms that the Reagan 8:00 p.m. total was off. It reflected just a 0.3-inch increase in the previous three hours. Yet snow had been falling at light to moderate levels continuously.

The error apparently stemmed from failure to follow proper measurement procedures. The Post explains:

The best way we have [to measure snow], and the way that the National Weather Service suggests, is with a snow board. The board is placed on the ground before the storm starts in a location that will be undisturbed by drifting. When the storm starts, snow is periodically measured, and the board is wiped clean.

If the board is not wiped clean before the next measurement, compaction can occur because of the weight of the snow, and the measurement will be lower than what has actually fallen.

The measurements taken at National were not done with a snow board, so they may have been reduced by compaction.

According to the Post, the Federal Aviation Administration obtains snow measurements at Reagan from “observers.” The FAA then provides the measurements to the National Weather Service.

Whatever. The bottom line is that the government apparently was unable to provide the public with a proper snow measurement for the Washington, D.C. area.

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