The science behind lake effect snow

Around New York State

Snowflakes have been flying all day thanks to some lake effect snow, but have you ever wondered what exactly that means when we call it “lake effect” snow?

Lake effect snow impacts us during the late fall and winter time as cold air that usually originates from Canada moves across the relatively warm open waters of the Great Lakes. Warmth and moisture are then transferred into the atmosphere from the waters. The air then rises downwind of the lakes forming clouds, eventually forming narrow bands of snow.

“Once you get further north into the Finger Lakes – that’s where that lake effect really begins to impact. With that you can have narrow bands of heavy snow with very short drastic reductions in visibility with those going from once place to another. So you may have a few inches of snow and then your neighbor a few blocks or miles down the road may have no snow,” says Meteorologist Mitchell Gaines.

For us in the Twin Tiers we are usually spared from the intense bands that form downwind of the lakes dumping feet of snow but light snow like we saw this morning is a common occurrence.

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