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Lake Effect Snow

Learning Target: I am able to describe

how winds and bodies of water influence
the weather and climate we experience in
Lake Effect Snow Overview
Lake effect snow is
snow falling on the
side of a lake away
from the wind,
generated by cold
air passing over
warmer water,
especially in the
Great Lakes region.

Steps to Lake
Effect Snow
1. Cold air streams across
the warm lakes

2. Air warms and becomes


3. As the air warms, it

becomes less dense and rises

4. As air rises, it cools

5. Cooler, moist air condenses to form clouds
6. When the clouds cant contain all of this water, it falls back to the
surface as snow
Conditions Necessary for
Lake Effect Snowstorms
Each of the below must be present for a storm to occur:

Large temperature difference between the lake and air. The greater the
difference, the larger the potential for lake effect.

High pressure cell (rising barometer) following a low pressure cell

(falling barometer). This situation provides favorable conditions for lifting
the warm, moisture-filled air up for cooling and ice crystal formation.

A long fetch. Fetch is the distance the wind travels over the open
water surface. The longer the fetch, the greater the amount of heat and
moisture, the greater potential for lake effect snow.

Snowbelts are
regions near the
Great Lakes where
heavy snowfall in
the form of lake
effect snow is
Time of Year for Lake Effect
Mid-August to March: The average temperature of the land is colder than
the average temperature of water.

Mid-November to mid-January: This time of year sees the largest

temperature differences between land and water.

Those temperature differences may average:

Northern Lakes: 30 degrees F Southern Lakes: More than 15

degrees F

Arctic air, brought down across the lakes by northerly winds, can drive
temperature differences as much as 50 degrees F in the north and 40
Additional Factors
Cities: Even small cities are warmer than their surrounding areas. Air is
warmed as it passes over urban areas. This warmth may add to the heat
acquired from the lakes and may occasionally provided a stimulus for
development of lake effect snowstorms.

Industries: Industries like steel mills emit particles that act as ice-forming
nuclei into the atmosphere. These may encourage snowstorms. The
southern Great Lakes region is one of the worlds leading centers for
manufacturing iron and steel.

Automobile exhaust: Lead from automobile exhaust combines with the

natural iodine in the air to form lead-iodine compounds. These may also