“How much snow?”

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It's official. Last week's storm did indeed bring whopping snowfalls to parts of the Southern Alps.

NIWA has just released the most recent recordings from its new Snow and Ice Network (fully operational for its first winter).

Last week, Mt Cook station recorded just over 60cm from the storm which swept up the country on Thursday and Friday last week. Albert Burn near Wanaka, which already had about 50cm got an additional 50 or so cm. Murchison Mountains (near Te Anau) also got about 50cm.

NIWA Snow and Ice Scientist Dr Jordy Hendrikx flew into Arthurs Pass by helicopter on Friday, and recorded just over 1 metre of new snow in the village. This monitoring trip was conducted for the Department of Building and Housing which contracts NIWA to record snowfalls over a 60cm-threshold to help monitor snow loadings on buildings.

Snow is poorly quantified in New Zealand. The Snow & Ice Network stations (operating at Mt Cook village, Arthur’s Pass, Murchison Mountains, Albert Burn and the Chateau at Ruapehu) measure air temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity, air pressure, solar radiation, and precipitation) and have an extra sensor to measure snow depth. The monitoring will allow NIWA to understand more accurately seasonal snow in New Zealand and assist with calculating glacier mass balance throughout the Southern Alps.

Dr Hendrikx is an avalanche specialist. He urges all would-be back-country adventurers to check the Mountain Safety Council avalanche danger advisory site (www.avalanche.net.nz) before heading into the hills.

Snow depths recorded at NIWA's Snow and Ice Network monitoring stations - 8 -18 August 2008.