Weather In-Depth: Who gets the worst of the snow?
If you have lived in Western New York for any length of time, you know about white knuckle car rides. It is the whiteout conditions that are common this time of the year because of lake effect snow. But what is the driving force for these snow squalls?
There are a number of ingredients that factor in, but primarily it is the difference in the Great Lakes water temperatures (near 40 degrees) and the very cold air of the atmosphere. This week, the air temperature has been near 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and just a few thousand feet in altitude it is closer to zero. As that arctic air crosses the warmer body of water, parcels of moisture tend to rise like a hot air balloon. The parcel cools and condenses and at that point it is function of the wind direction as it pushes that moisture inland in the form of snow.
So wind direction is all important and this past week the “wind dial” has been from the west-southwest. This will produce a Lake Erie snow squall. There was some snow accumulation in Rochester, but it is the communities near Buffalo or Batavia that took the brunt of the accumulation. As we look forward in time, it appears there is a similar scenario in the coming days. For example, through mid-week the folks in Batavia may see6 to 8 inches of snow simply because they live closer to Lake Erie. However, Rochester is a greater distance from Lake Erie. As a result, here the snow amounts should be far less — maybe in the neighborhood of one to two inches.
So when forecasting lake effect snow it is good to remember the old saying, “location, location, location”.