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WEATHER: How does lake effect snow work? Why so localized?

Why does lake effect snow happen? Odds are if you live away from Western or Central New York the entire concept of ‘lake effect’ snow is very odd. There aren’t many places across the U.S. that experience the phenomenon that makes many locations along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie the leaders in annual snowfall.

How does lake effect snow work?

It’s pretty simple. Throughout the summer lake water temperatures rise. But he time fall and early winter comes around cool air crosses them from the north, causing moisture to rise and clouds to form.

Eventually, that results in precipitation that falls in form of snow.

It takes months for lake temperatures to cool enough that lake effect snow slows down. Communities directly along the lakes see the heaviest snowfall throughout the year.


Why is it so localized?

This ultimately comes down to how it forms. It’s not uncommon to go from sunny skies to a whiteout in a matter of minutes or miles.

Because of the winds that are causing the lake effect snows in the first place – they tend to be moving pretty quickly. They often form in narrow bands, which run parallel to the winds.

It’s pretty common for there to be multiple bands of lake effect snow happening at once off lakes like Ontario and Erie.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)



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