How do warm fall temperatures affect winter lake-effect snows?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,
Is the city’s warm lead-in to the winter affecting the lake temperature? How will this impact lake-effect snow this winter?

Robert Witte Northbrook

Dear Robert,
Despite our warm fall, the Lake Michigan water temperature is currently near-normal, with the temperature just shy of 50 degrees. When the lake is warmer than normal, lake-effect snows tend to be heavier as arctic air passes over it, but if the lake is too warm, above-freezing warmth in the layer of air above the lake would cause the snow to melt and fall as rain or a mixture. The boost from above-normal warmth gradually diminishes as the cold season progresses and the water temperature drops toward freezing. A warmer-than-normal Lake Michigan might also impact an early-season snowstorm in the city and lakeside areas, causing the precipitation there to fall as rain, while snow occurs in colder inland areas.

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