Observations of the cross-lake cloud and snow evolution in a lake-effect snow event

Faye E. Barthold, David A.R. Kristovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the total snowfall produced in lake-effect storms can be considerable, little is known about how clouds and snow evolve within lake-effect boundary layers. Data collected over Lake Michigan on 10 January 1998 during the Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (Lake-ICE) are analyzed to better understand and quantify the evolution of clouds and snow. On this date, relatively cold air flowed from west to east across Lake Michigan, creating a quasi-steady-state boundary layer that increased from ≈675 to ≈910 m in depth over a distance of 80 km. Once a cloud deck formed 14-18 km from the upwind shoreline, maximum cloud particle concentrations and liquid water content increased from west to east across the lake. Correspondingly, maximum ice water contents, snowfall rates, and maximum snow particle diameters also increased across the lake. Maximum particle concentrations were found below the mean top of the boundary layer and above the cloud base for both cloud and snow particles. Surprisingly, snow particles were observed 3-7 km upwind of the upwind edge of the lake-effect cloud deck. These snow particles were observed to be rather spatially uniform throughout the boundary layer. Based on available observations, it is hypothesized that of the mechanisms that could produce this snow, the majority of it originated from transient clouds located near the upwind shore. In addition, maximum snow particle concentrations peaked near the middle of the lake before decreasing toward the downwind shore, indicating the location after which aggregation became an important snow growth mechanism. These results show that the evolution of clouds and snow within lake-effect boundary layers may not occur in the uniform manner often depicted in conceptual models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2386-2398
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Boundary layer
  • Cloud microphysics
  • Lake effects
  • Marine boundary layer
  • Snow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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