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Mesoscale Meteorology


Lake-Effect Snow Storms Field Research

Radar observations of vortices forming along a lake-effect snow band. From Grim et al. 2004, Monthly Weather Review

Lake-effect snow storms are extreme examples of the atmospheric response to varying surfaces. As cold air flows over the relatively hot lakes in the fall and winter months, strong low-level convection develops and transports heat and moisture vertically into the atmospheric boundary layer. Snow that develops in these boundary layers can be intense, sometimes leaving behind a blanket several feet deep.

"The Mesoscale / Boundary Layer Meteorology Group has a long history of examining processes involved in the development and evolution of lake-effect snow storms. Graduate students and staff in the group have recently examined such processes as the evolution of snowbands (e.g., Grim, Laird, and Kristovich 2004, Monthly Weather Review; Rodriguez, Kristovich, and Hjelmfelt 2007, Monthly Weather Review), snow growth processes (Barthold 2008), and even the influences of natural cloud seeding from above on lake-effect snow (Schroeder, Kristovich, and Hjelmfelt 2006).

Schematic of cloud and snow growth processes as cold air flows from west (left) to east (right) across Lake Michigan on 10 January 2008. Modified from Barthold and Kristovich (2011, Monthly Weather Review).
NCAR ELDORA Observations of snow from a higher-level cloud deck seeding a lower layer of lake-effect snow. Brighter colors denote heavier snow. The bright horizontal lines are radar returns from the surface of Lake Michigan. From Schroeder, Kristovich, and Hjelmfelt (2006, Monthly Weather Review).

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