Yesterday, northwest New York State was pummeled with a lake effect snowstorm that blew in over Lake Erie, piling Buffalo and surrounding towns with over five feet of snow. The storm also caused some serious damage, leaving four people dead and stranding drivers on the road for up to 30 hours.
Popular Science’s Rafi Letzter looked into what causes lake effect storms:
National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Krein tells Popular Science that lake effect storms result when cold winds slide over warmer bodies of water. The water heats the air close to the ground in discrete parcels, destabilizing the entire mass. Those parcels of warmer, less dense air rise into the atmosphere… that rising air carries moisure. And the longer the wind moves over the lake, the more moisture rises…
Unlike most storms, which have to lug their water hundreds or thousands of miles from the nearest sea, lake effects occur over very short distances and have functionally unlimited moisture sources.
“Let’s go up there,” said my boyfriend, the thrill seeker.
“No, let's not,” said I, the rational career woman.
Now, we can all experience the drama and relentless gloom of the storm, thanks to a Buffalo resident named Alfonzo Cutalia who posted a time lapse depicting the snow’s onslaught.