All Weather News

Great Salt Lake-Effect Snow

17 Nov 2016, 7:08 am

When you hear the term “lake effect” you immediately think of the Great Lakes. Winter storms often bring enhanced snowfall totals for lakeside cities like Erie, Buffalo, and Watertown. However, all you need is a large, warm body of water to make it happen. Last November, Lake Tahoe greatly enhanced snow totals for Reno. Thursday morning, parts of the Salt Lake City metro saw lake enhanced rain and snow showers during the early morning hours.

Here’s how lake effect works: Cold, dry air passes over a warmer lake and picks up moisture and heat. As the air picks up the moisture, it becomes less dense and starts to rise. A gentle increase in elevation going from water to land also aids in vertical motion.  As air rises, it cools and the water vapor condenses. That creates precipitation; rain or snow depending on the temperatures over land.

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In these events, snowfall rates are usually higher than the surrounding areas due to the increased moisture. NWS Salt Lake City was expecting at least three to five inches through mid-morning.

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This was the first measureable snowfall Salt Lake City has seen since March 28, 2016. The prolonged period of warmth set two records Wednesday. Their first freeze will likely officially be on the 17th. That is the latest freeze in the sites recorded history, breaking the previous record from 1921. It also will make it the longest freeze free period they have ever seen. the 242 day stretch breaks the old record set back in 1915.

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