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Where is all the snow in the Finger Lakes?

With the calendar turning to January we are now entering the heart of the winter season in the Finger Lakes region. Under normal conditions, we could expect temperatures to remain below the freezing mark for several consecutive weeks and could experience between 3-4 feet of snow by the end of February. As the season moves ahead, however, it would appear that we are in for a much milder, less snowy winter this year.

In this morning’s local weather forecast, our region appears to be mostly precipitation free with temperatures hovering in the upper 20’s to mid-30’s into mid-January.

Winter snowfall typically begins in November and varies greatly throughout the region due to areas that receive lake effect snow. Lake effect snow is moderate in the Ithaca region, averaging 67.3” per year, and heavier closer to Lake Ontario where locations average between 92” and 115”. So far, all areas of the Finger Lakes, especially to the northwest, are way below their average snowfall totals.

Credit: RochesterFirst.com


UPDATE ON 1/4/21 @ 10:30 PM:

The snow that has been falling has been in the Southern Tier and near the south ends of Cayuga and Owasco lakes. Those areas received measurable snow on Monday while places like Seneca Falls, Geneva, Newark, Auburn and Canandaigua had none.


The National Climatic Data Center issued the below report on the month of Decemeber 2020 in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region:

IN WHAT CAN BE AN ACTIVE WINTER MONTH, DECEMBER`S LONG START WAS RELATIVELY QUIET WITH NUISANCE SNOWS AND NO EXTREME TEMPERATURES. THE MAIN WEATHER NOTE THIS MONTH WAS A WET CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY WEEKEND THAT BROUGHT RAIN, WIND AND A LITTLE LAKE EFFECT SNOW.

THE TEMPERATURE AVERAGED ALMOST 3F DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL. THIS WAS THE 9TH MONTH THIS 2020 YEAR TO AVERAGE ABOVE NORMAL. THERE WERE 3 DAYS THAT REACHED AT LEAST 50 DEGREES, WHICH IS NORMAL FOR THE MONTH. THE WARMEST DAY THIS MONTH OCCURRED ON THE 11TH WHEN THE THERMOMETER REACHED 56F. THERE WERE TWO PERIODS OF COOLER THAN NORMAL TEMPERATURES, THIS OCCURRING FROM THE 6TH TO 8TH AND 15TH TO 19TH.

PRECIPITATION FINISHED A HALF INCH BELOW NORMAL FOR THE MONTH. THE GREATEST PRECIPITATION ON A CALENDAR DAY WAS THE 24TH WHEN JUST OVER A HALF INCH OF PRECIPITATION FELL AT THE AIRPORT. DESPITE THE BELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION, THE NUMBER OF DAYS WITH MEASURABLE PRECIPITATION TOTALED 2 DAYS ABOVE THE DECEMBER NORMAL. SNOWFALL TOTALED 10.5 INCHES FOR THE MONTH, WELL BELOW THE NORMAL OF 21.8 INCHES.

LIGHT SNOW STARTED THE MONTH ON THE 1ST AND THE 2ND, WITH THE LIGHT SNOW ON THE 2ND SLOWING THE MORNING COMMUTE. THE SNOW COVER WAS SHORT LIVED AS HIGH PRESSURE BROUGHT THE RETURN OF SUNSHINE AND TEMPERATURES BACK INTO THE 40S FOR THE 3RD THROUGH THE 4TH. LOW PRESSURE BROUGHT A BIT OF LIGHT RAIN SHOWERS TO THE REGION ON THE 5TH, AND BEHIND A COLD FRONT A PERIOD OF BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES RETURNED TO WESTERN NEW YORK. ANOTHER WAVE OF LOW PRESSURE BROUGHT THE RETURN TO WET SNOW TO WESTERN NEW YORK ON THE 9TH, AND THOUGH SNOW TOTALS ONLY REACHED A FEW INCHES…THE TIMING AGAIN DURING THE MORNING RUSH HOUR BROUGHT A SLOW COMMUTE. LIKE EARLIER IN THE MONTH THE SNOW COVER WAS SHORT-LIVED AS TEMPERATURES QUICKLY SOARED INTO THE LOWER 50S BY THE LATE MORNING HOURS OF THE 11TH. THIS ERASED WHAT SNOW COVER REMAINED. THE WARM, MOIST AIRMASS OVER THE COOLER GROUND DEVELOPED WIDESPREAD FOG FROM NIAGARA FALLS TO ROCHESTER THROUGH THE MORNING HOURS OF THE 12TH. LATER ON THE 12TH, A STORM SYSTEM PASSED BY TO THE WEST AND NORTH OF WESTERN NEW YORK, BRINGING A STIFF BREEZE LATE ON THE 12TH AND INTO THE 13TH…AND ALSO FALLING TEMPERATURES STARTING ON THE 13TH BEHIND THE COLD FRONT. IT WAS NOT UNTIL THE 15TH THAT BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES OCCURRED IN WESTERN NEW YORK AND THESE BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES REMAINED UNTIL THE 19TH, WITH DAILY NUISANCE SNOWS. TEMPERATURES BEGAN TO INCREASE AGAIN IN THE WEEK LEADING UP TO CHRISTMAS, WITH WHAT LITTLE REMAINING SNOWPACK ERASED BY THE ABOVE FREEZING AIRMASS. A STRONG STORM SYSTEM SLOWLY PASSED THROUGH THE GREAT LAKES ON CHRISTMAS EVE,  SENDING A SWATH OF RAIN ACROSS WESTERN NEW YORK. COLD AIR CHANGED THE RAIN TO SNOW ACROSS FAR WESTERN NEW YORK, BUT COULD NOT PENETRATE INTO THE GENESEE VALLEY FOR A CHANGE OVER TO SNOW. THEREFORE IT WAS GREEN FOR CHRISTMAS MORNING.

AFTER A BRIEF BREAK IN THE PRECIPITATION A COLD SOUTHWEST FLOW OVER LAKE ERIE BROUGHT A PROLONGED PERIOD OF LAKE EFFECT SNOW DOWNWIND FROM LAKE ERIE. SNOW INITIALLY STARTED ACROSS THE SOUTHERN TIER MIDDAY CHRISTMAS DAY, WITH THE SNOWBAND INCREASING IN STRENGTH AS IT REACHED THE CITY OF BUFFALO AND OUT TOWARDS BATAVIA AND FAR WESTERN PORTIONS OF MONROE COUNTY BY EARLY DECEMBER 26TH. THIS SNOWBAND BROUGHT SEVERAL INCHES OF SNOW TO ROCHESTER AND POINTS WESTWARD. OCCURRING ON THE SATURDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, THERE WAS LITTLE DISRUPTION TO TRAFFIC. THE SNOWPACK BEGAN TO ERODE QUICKLY AS A WARMER AND MORE MOIST AIRMASS CREPT INTO WESTERN NY ON MONDAY THE 28TH. A LITTLE LIGHT RAIN ON THE 28TH WITH MORNING WINDS GUSTING OVER 50 MPH RANGE, AND THEN A HEAVIER RAIN AGAIN ON THE 30TH AND EARLY 31ST ERODED THE SNOWPACK ACROSS METRO ROCHESTER.

LAKE ONTARIO`S WATER TEMPERATURE FELL FROM 47F DEGREES AT THE START OF THE MONTH DOWN TO 39F AT THE MONTH`S CLOSURE. THE AVERAGE WIND SPEED FOR THE MONTH WAS A FEW TENTHS OF A MILE PER HOUR ABOVE THE MONTHLY AVERAGE OF 9.9 MPH. THE STRONGEST WIND GUST WAS 58 MPH OCCURRING ON THE 28TH.

A QUIET START TO DECEMBER, WITH AN ACTIVE FINISH.

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