Weather Word Wednesday: Lake Effect Snow

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 2:50 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES, Iowa/Ill. (KWQC) - The latest lake effect snow event in New York dropped four to seven feet of snow off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

What exactly is lake effect snow, and why did so much snow fall?

The NOAA Glossary defines lake effect snow as snow showers that are created when cold, dry air passes over a large warmer lake, such as one of the great lakes, and picks up moisture and heat.

Lake effect snow season generally runs from late fall into early winter. Cold winds, generally coming from the west, blow over the relatively warm waters of the open Great Lakes, and onto land. Heat and moisture from the lake rises and forms clouds.

As the clouds grow larger, snow begins to fall and with the constant feed of moisture from the relatively warm waters of the lake and the cold temperatures above, bands of heavy snow develop, oftentimes producing 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour.

Orchard Park, New York, just south of Buffalo, received more than six-and-a-half feet of snow for, a total of 80 inches. 66 inches fell within a 24-hour period, which is now a record for most snow in a day for the state of New York. Lake effect snow isn’t as common when the lakes turn to ice.

On a smaller scale, it’s not uncommon to see bands of river effect snow in the Quad Cities, only if the wind is blowing just right over the Mississippi River.

Previous Weather Word Wednesday segments on Quad Cities Today at 11:







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Storm Surge