Precipitation measurements by rain gauges are usually affected by a systematic underestimation, which can be larger in case of snowfall. The wind, disturbing the trajectory of the falling water droplets or snowflakes above the rain gauge, is the major source of error, but when tipping-bucket recording gauges are used, the induced evaporation due to the heating device must also be taken into account. Manual measurements of fresh snow water equivalent (SWE) were taken in Alpine areas of Valtellina and Vallecamonica, in Northern Italy, and compared with daily precipitation and melted snow measured by manual precipitation gauges and by mechanical and electronic heated tipping-bucket recording gauges without any wind-shield: all of these gauges underestimated the SWE in a range between 15% and 66%. In some experimental monitoring sites, instead, electronic weighing storage gauges with Alter-type wind-shields are coupled with snow pillows data: daily SWE measurements from these instruments are in good agreement. In order to correct the historical data series of precipitation affected by systematic errors in snowfall measurements, a simple ‘at-site’ and instrument-dependent model was first developed that applies a correction factor as a function of daily air temperature, which is an index of the solid/liquid precipitation type. The threshold air temperatures were estimated through a statistical analysis of snow field observations. The correction model applied to daily observations led to 5–37% total annual precipitation increments, growing with altitude (1740 ÷ 2190 m above sea level, a.s.l.) and wind exposure. A second ‘climatological‘ correction model based on daily air temperature and wind speed was proposed, leading to errors only slightly higher than those obtained for the at-site corrections.
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