Lake Effect 

Snow and Rain

Lake effect Snow is something that is common almost every winter. It receives a lot of attention in the press but what about Lake effect Rain? Is there anything like that? Well, the argument sometimes is that Lake effect Rain isn’t exciting and therefore it receives very little attention. Yet, it’s good to know what Lake effect Rain is all about.

What is Lake effect Rain?

a diagram of how lake effect rain is made

Lake Effect Rain Source: Fox 17

Lake effect Rain is a weather phenomenon that usually happens a few times each year in the fall. It refers to that unfriendly, cold rain that pours down in gusty quick sheets especially during periods not quite cold enough to snow.

Lake effect rain usually develops cold air, lower than the temperature of the water that flows across the lake. It is rare to have a different temperature except in the fall when strong early season cold air breaks out and invades the Midwest. During this period, the precipitation falls as rain, not snow. Mainly, the temperature in the layer between the clouds and the surface is too warm to sustain the storm.

As the cold air over the warm lake creates a highly unstable atmosphere, the Lake effect rain creates lightning and thunder.

Lake Effect Snow

Lake effect Snow and Lake effect Rainfalls occurs similarly, with a minor difference in temperature rise and impact. Lake effect

A diagram of how Lake Effect snow is made

Lake Effect Snow Source: Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons

Snow occurs when dry, cold air acquires moisture and heat by going across a lake that appears warmer, like one of the Great Salt Lake or Great Lakes.

Lake effect snowfall phenomenon usually occurs from late fall into early winter. This is when the temperature of lakes are at a very warm level, having the colder air spilling over them.  Usually, lake effect snow will have a hard time to develop when the lakes freeze over. Frozen lakes take the heat source for the moisture.

You can also experience lake effect snow during October and March. This is very rare for March because most of the lakes are already cold, if not frozen during that time. While masses of air are a bit warmer than early in the winter.

Sources needed for Lake Effect Snow

Although lakes and other large bodies of water provide moisture to support the formation of lake effect snow. Additional moisture occurs sometimes when the wind speed is strong. The reason is, they usually lack the required time to pick up the moisture from the create snow bands.

Here is a video of a Lake effect snow squall off of the Great Salt Lake.

One great source that aids lake effect snow is upwind of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are located in the northeast Canada Hudson Bay. It sometimes influences the incoming arctic air mass with enough moisture. This results in the creation of stronger lake-effect snowstorms. Winds blowing in almost the same direction can aid the formation of lake effect snow.

How did Lake Effect Snow forms?

When cold, dry air passes through a relatively warmer surface, it provides warmth and moisture to the air. The lake gets warmer as the air gets colder, which equally makes the lake effect snow bands more intense.

Features of Lake Effect Snow

  • Lake effect snow bands are much more in length than they are in width. On average, a group of lake effect snow measures 10 miles while the length ranges from 30 to 250 miles long. Depending on the strength of the wind that will carry it inland.
  • The most substantial snowfalls inland when winds are strong. But if the winds are weak, the heaviest snowfalls, close to the lakeshore.

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