By Rochel Leah Itzkowitz
Buffalo, New York, accumulated over six feet of snow in a recent storm. The historic storm had an unprecedented buildup of snowfall, with an average of six inches an hour of accumulation for twenty-four hours. Estimates for the total snowfall reached seventy inches, forcing Governor Kathy Hochul to declare a state emergency for many parts of Western New York. When winds began shifting on the Sunday morning after the storm, the heavy snow moved away from Buffalo, affecting the nearby Cleveland and Dunkirk, New York areas. Buffalo is still under a strict weather advisory.
The reason behind the intense storm in Western New York is lake-effect snow. According to Kenmore Development, this weather phenomenon “happens when the transfer of heat and moisture from the warm waters of the Great Lakes to the cold winter air creates a shallow layer of atmospheric instability, causing air to rise quickly.” The heat and moisture from the lake create a disproportionate amount of clouds. When the moisture finishes condensing, it turns into snow and produces a heavy accumulation.
Multiple conditions hint at an upcoming lake-effect snowstorm. First, there must be a significant temperature disparity between the lake and the air. For the warm air to elevate enough for ice crystal development, the rising barometer must be followed by a falling barometer. Also, fetch, the term for the span the wind moves over a body of water, is a crucial factor in predicting a lake-effect storm. If the fetch is a long distance, more heat and moisture can be obtained from the water.
Lake-effect snow peaks during early winter. According to the direction of the wind, certain areas surrounding the Great Lakes will be adversely affected. Additional snowfall is generated when Canada’s cold air travels to the warm Great Lakes. The instability creates more bands of snow disbanded onto locations surrounding the lakes. As we move further into the winter, there is a smaller chance of lake-effect snow occurring. The lakes tend to freeze completely, preventing heat and moisture from mixing.
Weather forecasters predict that the majority of the United States will be cooler than usual this coming winter. Specifically, New York City’s winter seasonal forecast begins with two months of cold and wintry weather patterns. The other half of the winter will have more unpredictable patterns and may even have a warmer finish. NYC Metro Weather records that snowfall is predicted to be above the annual average of 28.9 inches.
We can expect much less snowfall for the Yeshiva University community, whose distance from the Great Lakes is far greater than Buffalo’s. It will nevertheless be a cold start to this winter, warranting proper outerwear and preparations.