Has the frequency of large single day Great Lake-effect snowfall events changed in recent years?

Authors: Adam Burnett*, Colgate University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Cryosphere, Environmental Science
Keywords: Snow, Lake-Effect, Great Lakes
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The question of how snowfall has varied throughout the Great Lakes region of North America has received considerable attention in recent years. Central among these questions is how snowfall amounts have changed in response to global warming. Results have been inconsistent, with some studies showing increases in seasonal snow totals and other showing decreases or no change. Those showing increases focus specifically on locations that receive snowfall from lake-effect processes in which warmer lakes and decreased ice cover enhance thermodynamic instability. This paper explores a somewhat different aspect of lake snow and asks whether the probability of large single day snow events has increased in recent years. With warmer lakes and reduced ice cover, conditions for larger individual snowfalls should exist. Although factors such as wind direction also play a role in lake snowfall, warmer lake surfaces should provide the opportunity for enhanced snowfall when conditions are favorable. As such, this research asks the question of whether we see increased occurrences of large daily snow events over time. Snowfall records from 18 sites across the Great Lakes regions were obtained for 1951-2018. These sites were identified in earlier research as being homogeneous and suitable for climate change work, and all are known to receive lake-effect snowfall. Frequency distributions for each site were examined at different time intervals to explore whether the values associated with the upper end of the distributions have changed and if this change is consistent with enhanced lake-effect processes and more extreme events.

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