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What is lake effect snow and it's warning signs?

Updated on November 29, 2014


Is it coming your way?

The northern part of American is very familiar with a condition known as lake effect snow. But what does that term actually mean?

How this natural "snow machine" works-

Lake effect snow is created when cold air blows or moves from the north. When this cold, dry air goes across a large or long lake, like one of the Great Lakes (Ontario, Eire, Michigan, and Lake Superior) it acts like a sponge and soaks up tremendous amounts of lake water. NOTE:*This occurs more so when the lake or lakes are not completely frozen.

Now that the snow clouds are saturated with water the air continues to travel until it rises. This often occurs on platues or hilly areas. When the land is higher the air is forced to go higher. As that happens it and the water it holds gets colder until...

You guessed it! The cold, rising air gets ringed out and sheds all of its water. Thus lake effect snow occurs. The air becomes dry again and a northern town or city usually get buried with snow overnight.

How Can you Prepare-

Watch the weather of course. Follow all reports of air coming down from Alaska and Canada. If you live with 90 miles (give or take) of a large or one of the Great Lakes, know that this phenomena is coming to your street! Here in CNY we have Ontario, Skaneatles, and Onieda to contend with.

Please leave a comment or question that you have had. Or comment and tell me about the storms in your area, anticdotes, and what lakes cause them!

Stay warm, and be careful when shoveling snow!

Tip: Avoid shoveling when the snow is heavy. This stresses the heart and causes many deaths every winter!


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    • michiganman567 profile image

      Dave Smith 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      I'm glad that we don't get too much of that here. Actually there has probably been less than a foot of snow in Detroit all winter.

    • MikeSyrSutton profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

      Thank you for the input!

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 

      9 years ago from California

      Interesting hub. I live in an area that has mild weather so I dont have any really interesting storm storm stories for you. Good article.

    • BWD316 profile image

      Brian Dooling 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      nice simple hub, and very clear! I live in CT so the only lake effect we see is the occasional flurry that makes it all the way across the northeast which isn't often. But then again my area of Ct can get massive blizzards so it's not too bad. Although where i live doesn't get it, Cape Cod and the Islands occasionally get Ocean Effect snow which is cool. If i could offer a suggestion on your hub...add a diagram to go along with your text just for a visual. Also i think it would be cool to add any photos you have of a lake effect event! Voted up, useful and interesting


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