© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What is "lake effect" snow?

The National Weather Service says the season's first lake effect snow is likely this weekend. That could be a harsh beginning to winter.

In the Great Lakes region, the effect kicks in when dry arctic air speeds over large expanses of warm water.

The air picks up evaporating moisture, freezes it and dumps it -- in great bands of snow -- over the land.

That means that cities that lie east of a lake -- like Buffalo, N.Y., Erie, Penn., and South Bend, Ind. -- can get hammered.

So how are conditions now?

Cold air -- check. A big blast is sweeping across the western plains, creating blizzard conditions in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

Meanwhile, the Great Lakes are much, much warmer than usual. Here are some recent harbor water temperatures:

Buffalo: 60, normal 54

Cleveland: 62, normal 56

Chicago: 60, normal 53

Duluth: 52, normal 44

That means ice isn't even likely to form on Lake Erie -- the shallowest of the Great Lakes -- for some time.

All that open water increases the chance for lake effect snow. So it could be a looooong winter.

Copyright 2016 Great Lakes Today

Dave Rosenthal
Dave Rosenthal is Managing Editor of Great Lakes Today, a collaboration of public media stations that is led by WBFO, ideastream in Cleveland in WXXI in Rochester, and includes other stations in the region.
Related Content