More of the white stuff: load cells and snow measurement

Published On: November 30 2021

We may have only had a dusting down here at our Berkshire HQ, but elsewhere in the UK, a recent snowfall was heavy enough to trap people in Britain’s highest pub pub for three nights.

We’ve covered lots of innovations in snow measurement using load cells in previous blogs like this one but we couldn’t resist finding new stories to celebrate the return of the white stuff.

Measuring the physical properties of snowpacks

Measuring a snow pack requires forward planning, as a paper in Geophysics pointed out. A team from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, a location with up to 73 days of snowfall a year investigated the issues around measuring a snowpack that already exists. The problem is that is you need to disrupt the snowpack to put your measuring device in place:

“Thereby precluding the possibility for multiple measurements to be made at the same sampling location.”

The team noted the need for:

“Improved automation of snowpack measurement instrumentation with an emphasis on field-based feedback of measurement validity in lieu of post processing of samples or data at a lab or office location.”

Sounds like a job for a wireless load cell based system installed at the start of the snow season and left in situ over the winter! As the team noted:

“The scientific future of snow measurement instrumentation thereby requires a synthesis between science and engineering principles that takes into consideration geophysics and the physics of device operation.”

Removing snow on your roof

Fed up with brushing snow off your roof? No, we’re not either, but it is a serious problem in many countries. It’s the weight of the snow that is the issue.

As Hunker website explains:

“A cubic foot of dry snow weighs about 6 to 8 pounds, while 1 cubic foot of packed snow can weight 20 pounds … If the snow weighs 10 pounds per cubic foot and there are 1.5 feet on the roof, each square foot of the roof is getting 15 pounds of pressure. If your roof is 1,000 square feet, the total snow load is 15,000 pounds of snow.”

That’s a lot of potential wight on your roof, although is also depends on the pitch of your roof (flat or sloping). That’s why in snowy countries, home owners take to their roofs to clear accumulated snow that might otherwise overload their roof and cause it to collapse. Sadly, this activity results in many accidents. Nearly 60% of falls from domestic home roofs result in moderate or serious injury, with 50% involving fractures.

Tesla creator Elon Musk might have a solution, sharing via Twitter how a heating grid added to the Tesla Solarglass solar panel roof tiles might automatically remove ice and snow off of the roof. As Musk tweeted “We have that already on car windows!”

You can calculate the weight of snow on a roof using this calculator. Or build the DIY snow scale below!

Want to know the weight of snow before you start shovelling?

Make your own Snow Monitoring Scales to add to a DIY weather station, or to calculate the weight of snow on your roof. OK, this might be more appropriate for the American inventor in the video, or people trying to remove heavy snow from their roof, but it’s a fun project for UK kids. Just make sure you ask the cook in the family first before you take apart their digital kitchen scales….

Need waterproof load cells for your next project?

No problem. We stock robust, reliable and weatherproof models for a variety of climate conditions, plus waterproof load cells for wet or underwater applications. Contact us – we’re here to help.