First Alert Weather In-Depth: Lake Effect is year round

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This time of the year, Lake Ontario is usually very placid. However, it is important to remember that this is a huge body of water and it has a direct impact on our weather throughout the year.

During the winter season it is the dreaded snow squall that has the most impact, but during the spring and early summer season it is the temperature that changes more significantly over a short distance. This is most evident when we have very light wind speeds across Western New York and temperature readings that can be in the 50s along the lakeshore, but then warms by 25 to 30 degrees just a few miles south of Rochester. So why the big difference?

This type of weather event is a challenge for the News 10NBC First Alert meteorologists because we have competing air masses that effect a very small geographic area. There is the northerly lake breeze that is competing against a southerly wind. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine which of these wind directions will prevail and if this happens how far inland.

Today the water temperature for Lake Ontario is only at 41 degrees. Consequently the air over the lake is rather cold and as a result the air is heavy and more dense. The sheer weight of the air will displace the warmer air that surrounds it. This warmer air is much lighter and less dense and can be moved – depending on the wind direction. If the overall wind flow on a given day is light, the colder, air will win the battle and the temperature will fall for communities along the lakeshore. 

So if you have a hot day where you live and you have no air-conditioning, just head up to Lake Ontario!