Is it true that our “wettest” snowfalls come out of the south, and our “fluffiest” originate north of Chicago?

Dear Tom,

As a veteran of shoveling, it seems that our “wettest” snowfalls come out of the south whereas our”fluffiest” seem to originate north of Chicago.

Is that valid?

Bob Ory

Dear Bob,

Absolutely. The flake size and water content of snow depend upon temperature and storm track. Most of Chicago’s major snows are fueled by Gulf moisture, occurring with temperatures near freezing, and thus produce a heavy, wet snow-to-water ratio of 5 to 10 inches of snow for every inch of water equivalent. Snow from Canadian-origin storms usually develops in a colder environment and produces a much drier snow, with a ratio of about 20-1. The driest and fluffiest snows are lake-effect, producing 20-50 inches of snow for every inch of water. Accumulation forecasts are often made by multiplying the amount of expected liquid precipitation by the most likely snow-to-water ratio.

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