Circulation and thermodynamic patterns associated with intense lake effect snowfall over the Tug Hill Plateau of New York State: a case study

Authors: Arthur Samel*, Bowling Green State University, Adam Burnett, Colgate University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Cryosphere, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: snow, lake effect, synoptic climatology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Intense “lake effect” snowfall occurs to the lee of the of the Great Lakes when cold air travels over the much warmer lake waters. A case study is performed to identify circulation and thermodynamic patterns that lead to heavy lake effect snowfall at a single location in the Tug Hill Plateau of New York State, which is located downwind of Lake Ontario and experiences particularly intense lake effect snowfall. Daily snowfall data for the period 1995-2016 are analyzed to identify 162 days when snowfall exceeded the NWS winter storm warning criterion of nine inches during a 24 hour period. North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) data for circulation and thermodynamic variables related to wind speed and direction as well as lower tropospheric stability and water content are then analyzed using a principal components analysis (PCA) with a varimax rotation to determine the fields that are most closely associated with the occurrence of these heavy snowfall events. Patterns with the strongest lake effect signals and explain the greatest percentage of total variance are identified. PCA scores are then used to isolate specific sets of days when these patterns occurred. Composites of atmospheric fields are then produced to provide a set of cohesive patterns that explain the occurrence of heavy lake effect snowfall at the study site. The results of this study will be used to develop a lake effect snowfall severity index for the study site.

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