Variations in snowfall distribution in Upstate New York during various snowstorm types

Authors: Justin Hartnett*, Syracuse University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Physical Geography
Keywords: Snow, climate, storm track, lake-effect snow, extratropical cyclones
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Muses, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Central New York is well-known for its winter climate, a climate characterized by some of the highest snowfall totals east of the Rocky Mountains. However, the region is particularly relevant since it is regularly subjected to a variety of snowstorms including Nor’easters, Colorado Lows, Alberta Clippers, other extratropical cyclones, and notably, lake-effect snow. Recent research has suggested that snowstorms are some of the most vulnerable storms to a changing climate due to their dependence on below freezing temperatures. However, little research has attempted to characterize snowfall pattern differences between various snowstorm types.

Cooperative Observer Program snowfall measurements were used to reconstruct snowfall records throughout Central New York during various snowstorm types. Snowfall totals were compared and contrasted between various snowstorm types to determine the spatiality of snowfall throughout Central New York. Similarly classified snowstorms were then examined to determine the variance in snowfall totals during similar events. Explanatory variables examined included storm track, upper atmospheric conditions, teleconnection patterns, and atmospheric and topographic surface conditions.

Results suggest extratropical storms, particularly Nor’easters, exhibit the greatest spatial coverage over the entirety of Central New York. In comparison, the greater the influence of lake-effect snowfall, the more localized the snowfall became. In addition, atmospheric conditions and snowstorm track had a prominent influence on snowfall totals and the spatial patterns of that snowfall. For example, east coast storms travelling along or over the Atlantic coast were more likely to produce heavy snowfall, likely a result of increased baroclinicity and enhanced bombogenesis.

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