Weather Wednesday: snowfall vs. snow depth

In this Weather Wednesday we look into the differences between snowfall and snow depth.


FARGO — We've seen some records broken this week due to our snow that just doesn't seem to want to disappear.

This is the latest into March we’ve had a snow depth of 20” but it certainly isn’t the snowiest winter we’ve had. In fact, this winter’s snow in Fargo isn’t even HALF of the record snowiest winter from 1996-1997 when Fargo picked up 117 inches of snow.

It’s the 8th snowiest winter on record in Grand Forks with just over 65 inches of snow, but again, this winter pales in comparison to the snowiest winter, again 96-97, when there was 107” of snow.

The more impressive number this year is the snow depth, or how much snow is still on the ground as snow stacks up, settles and gradually melts. Snow depth is measured in an open area away from trees and houses. It does NOT include plowed snow, drifts or any snow that has been shoveled or moved. This is why it seems like we have even more snow than the actual snow depth.

And our streak of days below 40 degrees is a huge part of the reason the snow is sticking around for so long. We just haven’t had the warmer days and nights to eat away at the snowpack.


We aren’t alone, Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe California is now extending their season thanks to the 186” snow pack. VP of Operations, Rick Newberry, told ABC News in Los Angeles, “We opened November 11th, it's been cold and snowy ever since. We haven’t seen a big melt or a lot of settlement but with snowpack like this we can go well into May.” They have had 545 inches of snow this season.

Jesse Ritka is a StormTracker meteorologist and holds the AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist seal of approval.

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