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Scholars Day: April 11, 2012

Ice Cover Over Lake Erie and Its Relationship to Lake Effect Snowfall

The Great Lakes region of the United States is subjected to a wintertime convective phenomenon known as Lake Effect Snow (LES). These events are capable of producing significant quantities of snow over localized areas by developing elongated bands that tap into heat and moisture exchanges between the warm lake surface and the overlying continental polar air. Several factors are believed to affect the snowfall intensity associated with LES storm events including the ice coverage and thickness over the lake where the snow bands originate. The shallow depth of Lake Erie allows it to develop substantial amounts of ice by the end of January, which has been suggested as the cause for the reduction in Lake Effect snowfall over western New York in late winter. Improvements in the quality of snowfall forecasts associated with these LES events requires an approach that uses a larger number of cases than has been previously done. The intensity of 110 Lake Effect Snowstorm events was assessed using the snow depth and coverage attributed to each case as reported by the National Weather Service Office in Buffalo, New York between 1998 and 2011. The degree of lake glaciation is measured using a new method that accounts for surface coverage and ice depth. It was found that the rate of snowfall volume production by LES events reached a minimum in February, at the same time when ice coverage and thickness over Lake Erie are greatest. Additionally, in 2001-2002 and 2005-2006, the two winter seasons with the mildest temperatures in our dataset, were shown to develop little ice over Lake Erie and be the only two seasons to produce late-season (March/April) LES storms. The findings reaffirm the role of ice coverage on the intensity of LES events in Western New York.

Please note that presentation times are approximate. If you are interested in attending sessions with multiple presentations, please be in the room at the start of the session.
Presenter: Matthew Muscato (Undergraduate Student)
Topic: Earth Science
Location: Seymour Union Main Lounge
Time: 1:15 pm Session III