Breakdown: How lake effect snow forms & why it’s so common

Breakdown: How lake effect snow forms

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Lake effect snow is most typical in the the Great Lakes region, but technically it is possible in any area with a lake in the Fall and Winter.

When cold air (at or below freezing) moves over warmer lake water, the water will evaporate and warm the surrounding air. The air then rises and cools as it moves away from the lake. This moisture is eventually dropped back on the land as snow.

Depending on the direction of the wind, more moisture from the lake will be absorbed by the surrounding air. This can result in snowfall totals over 20 inches.

Lake effect snow is typically highly localized and occurs only 25 miles from the lake. However, some lake effect snow events have stretched for 100 miles. Due to the wind direction and proximity to the Great Lakes, the areas that most commonly see lake effect snow are Buffalo, NY and Cleveland, OH.

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