What is Lake-Effect Snow?

Tainar/iStock via Getty Images
Tainar/iStock via Getty Images

As you probably guessed, you need a lake to experience lake-effect snow. The primary factor in creating lake-effect snow is a temperature difference between the lake and the air above it. Because water has a high specific heat, it warms and cools much more slowly than the air around it. All summer, the sun heats the lake, which stays warm deep into autumn. When air temperatures dip, we get the necessary temperature difference for lake-effect snow.

As the cool air passes over the lake, moisture from the water evaporates and the air directly above the surface heats up. This warm, wet air rises and condenses, quickly forming heavy clouds. The rate of change in temperature as you move up through the air is known as the "lapse rate"; the greater the lapse rate, the more unstable a system is—and the more prone it is to create weather events.

Encountering the shore only exacerbates the situation. Increased friction causes the wind to slow down and clouds to "pile up" while hills and variable topography push air up even more dramatically, causing more cooling and more condensation.

The other major factors that determine the particulars of a lake-effect snowstorm are the orientation of the wind and the specific lake. Winds blowing along the length of a lake create greater "fetch," the area of water over which the wind blows, and thus more extreme storms like the one currently pummeling the Buffalo area. The constraints of the lake itself create stark boundaries between heavy snow and just a few flurries and literal walls of snow that advance onto the shore. The southern and eastern shores of the Great Lakes are considered "snow belts" because, with winds prevailing from the northwest, these areas tend to get hit the hardest.

The One-Day Record Snowfalls In Each State

Greenseas/iStock via Getty Images
Greenseas/iStock via Getty Images

Long after you’ve grown out of believing in magic, every thick, whirling snowstorm still seems to have been cast upon your town by a winter warlock (or Frozen’s resident ice queen, Elsa).

It’s also pretty magical when those inches of stacked snowflakes add up to a message from your manager telling you not to come into the office. In southern states like Georgia or Florida, sometimes all it takes is a light dusting.

But even those characteristically balmy places have hosted some serious snowstorms over the years, and David Cusick for House Method crunched the numbers to find out which ones made the record books. Using data from the National Centers for Environmental Information, Cusick created a map showing the one-day record snowfall for each state.

Florida finished in last place with a scant total of 4 inches, which occurred in Santa Rosa County on March 6, 1954. About two years before that, on January 14, 1952, Colorado had a staggering 76 inches—that’s more than 3 inches per hour—a national record that’s remained unchallenged for nearly 70 years.

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But other states have come close. The snowstorm that hit Colorado in 1952 wreaked almost as much havoc in California, whose record from the same day was 75 inches. And Washington saw 70 inches of snow in November 1955, beating its 52-inch record from 1935 by a full 18 inches.

Though Midwestern states have gained a reputation for harsh, snowy winters, their one-day record snowfalls are surprisingly moderate. The Illinois and Indiana records are 24 and 26 inches, respectively, both slightly lower than Ohio’s 30-inch snow day from 1901. In 1993, North Carolina bested Ohio’s record by 6 inches.

Wondering how your individual county’s record compares to the overall state one? Cusick created a map for that, too, which you can explore below.

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[h/t House Method]

Gorgeous Timelapse Shows What a Year in Vermont Looks Like in Two Minutes

Kirkikis/iStock via Getty Images
Kirkikis/iStock via Getty Images

If you live in a state with a middling climate where seasonal changes are mostly just the difference between warm and cool breezes, you might not fully understand the impulse to take a photo of your front yard every single week for an entire year.

If you live in New England, on the other hand, you can probably identify with Jennifer Hannux, a Vermont resident who did just that. Then, she edited the 52 photos into one glorious, two-minute-long timelapse and posted it on Twitter.

Hannux, whose Twitter handle is @VermontJen, took the photos from her front porch, which overlooks a sometimes-grassy, sometimes-snowy clearing that leads into an expansive forest with Mount Ascutney visible beyond it.

The video features lush summer greenery, ethereal snowscapes, vibrant fall foliage, and just about every sunrise color you can imagine. Overall, it’s a breathtaking homage to Vermont’s natural beauty, and a pretty compelling reason to consider relocating to New England’s least-populated state. It’s good timing for that, too, since Vermont’s government just launched a program that could pay you up to $7500 for becoming a full-time resident and employee in the Green Mountain State.

This is far from Hannux’s first foray into landscape photography—according to NECN, she posted a similar (albeit snowier) timelapse of images taken from her front porch in 2018. She also runs a photography business called Northeast Kingdom Photography, which you can check out here.

[h/t NECN]

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