Meteorologists reference lake effect snow often during the wintertime here in New York and Pennsylvania, but have you ever wondered what exactly that means when we call it “lake effect” snow?
Lake effect snow impacts us during the late fall and winter time as cold air that usually originates from Canada moves across the relatively warm open waters of the Great Lakes. Warmth and moisture are then transferred into the atmosphere from the waters. The air then rises downwind of the lakes forming clouds, eventually forming narrow bands of snow. These bands of snow can become intense and relatively stationary leading to feet of snow in a given location. They are narrow as well which means just miles away the sun could very well be shining.
Where the snow falls is conditional upon the wind direction over the waters of the Great Lakes and how long the winds persist. If winds are strong enough, lake effect snow showers can overspread the Twin Tiers but we are usually spared from the intense bands that form downwind of the lakes dumping feet of snow.