Influence of Lake Erie on a Lake Ontario lake-effect snowstorm

David A.R. Kristovich, Luke Bard, Leslie Stoecker, Bart Geerts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Annual lake-effect snowstorms, which develop through surface buoyant instability and upward moisture transport from the Laurentian Great Lakes, lead to important local increases in snowfall to the south and east. Surface wind patterns during cold-air outbreaks often result in areas where the air is modified by more than one Great Lake. While it is known that boundary layer air that has crossed multiple lakes can produce particularly intense snow, few observations are available on the process by which this occurs. This study examines unique observations taken during the Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) field project to document the process by which Lake Erie influenced snowfall that was produced over Lake Ontario on 28 January 2014. During the event, lake-effect clouds and snow that developed over Lake Erie extended northeastward toward Lake Ontario. OWLeS and operational observations showed that the clouds from Lake Erie disappeared (and snow greatly decreased) as they approached the Lake Ontario shoreline. This clear-air zone was due to mesoscale subsidence, apparently due to the divergence of winds moving from land to the smoother lake surface. However, the influence of Lake Erie in producing a deeper lake-effect boundary layer, thicker clouds, increased turbulence magnitudes, and heavier snow was identified farther downwind over Lake Ontario. It is hypothesized that the combination of a low-stability, high-moisture boundary layer as well as convective eddies and limited snow particles crossing the mesoscale subsidence region locally enhanced the lake-effect system over Lake Ontario within the plume of air originating over Lake Erie.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2019-2033
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Boundary layer
  • Inland seas/lakes
  • Lake effects
  • Mesoscale systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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