Ah, Lake Effect

As the Buffalo Southtowns deals with the first Lake Effect snow event of the season, thought I would re-share an overview of the science behind lake effect precipitation we blogged about during one of the more memorable events last year. First, however, are some visuals of the “L.E.S.” storm occurring at the time of this writing.

Here’s some pretty wild photos of the quite visible “wall of snow” that can occur during lake effect storms.


A view of today’s major “L.E.S.” event (2 to 4 inches an hour) – view is from Downtown Buffalo looking south along Lake Erie (photo credit Michael T. Branden).

Another shot looking east-northeast from Downtown Buffalo, this showing the abrupt end to the line of clouds and resulting blue skies north of the City and the mammoth wall of snow in South Buffalo which continues about 20 miles further south.


And why not one more showing the “Wall of Snow” just south of Downtown along Lake Erie near the mouth of the Buffalo River.


Oakmoss Education

Living near the shores of the Great Lakes in the United States and Canada means having weather a bit more different from those who live further inland. These large bodies of water moderate the climate making it cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter. How pleasant!

Well, there is a catch. In late Autumn and early Winter, often the lake waters are warmer than the surrounding air mass. This results in increased precipitation as the cold air picks up moisture when it crosses the warmer lakes then releases it unceremoniously upon reaching land. When the air temperature is above freezing, it rains; below freezing, it snows. This precipitation tends to occur in narrow bands so depending on wind direction, some nearby localities are affected more than others.  One can literally drive or walk through a wall of precipitation with these bands.

Today here in Western New York, there is a…

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