How Lake-Effect Snow Happens (And Why Buffalo Looks Like Hoth Right Now)

The Great Lakes region is the United States' snowiest non-mountainous region. The reason for freak snowstorms like the one currently setting records in Buffalo, New York is a weather phenomenon called lake-effect snow.

So much for autumn, huh?

If you haven't heard, they're riding tauntauns in Buffalo this week as a major snowstorm has blanketed parts of the region with as much as six feet of snow.

RT @fe1ix78: The front of my house in South Cheektowaga! #lakeeffect

— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) November 19, 2014

RT @ffloresm: "@PzFeed: Motorists stuck 30 hours on Thruway and counting. Pic: Steve Ratcliff

— Webcams de México (@webcamsdemexico) November 19, 2014

Anybody else think Buffalo looks like Bedrock in this photo? The Flintstones would feel at home.

— Kevin Miller (@kvnmiller) November 20, 2014

Want to help clear the Ralph? We're looking for snow shovelers. Pay is $10/hour + game tickets. Call 716-636-4840 for details.

— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 19, 2014

The photos and personal accounts are quite the things to behold but we're also interested in why and how this happened. Dennis Mersereau, who writes for The Vine over at Gawker, provides an in-depth explanation. Mersereau discusses not only how the Great Lakes retain warmth through the winter months, but also why specific wind patterns tend to result in massive snowfall for the southern and eastern shores of the region.

A very basic explanation of lake-effect snow is that the water in a lake (in this case, Lake Erie) retains heat from the summer while the outside air cools during winter and late autumn. When a cold snap appears and frigid southeasterly winds roll across the lake's surface, the melding of warm air immediately above the water with chilly air higher up leads to the formation of clouds. This leads to concentrated precipitation. Then you get this:

Here's what all that snow in Buffalo looks like when you open your front door.

— Louise Schiavone (@LouiseSchiavone) November 20, 2014

This current blast, unaffectionately called "Snowvember," will likely be a record-setter once the last of the white stuff is on the ground. While Buffalo's citizenry can rejoice in the fact that they've just been provided natural cover in case of a sudden invasion by Imperial troops, such an advantage is probably washed out by the fact that much of the region is under a strict travel ban as the city attempts to clear roads for the commute (and football).

For a much more scientific description of how lake-effect snow is formed (and why Buffalo residents should keep an eye out for this guy), take a look at Mersereau's article, linked again below.

Read more at Gawker/The Vane

Photo credit: Andrew Koturanov / Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Wealth inequality is literally killing us. The economy should work for everyone.

This economy has us in survival mode, stressing out our bodies and minds.

  • Economic hardship is linked to physical and psychological illness, resulting in added healthcare expenses people can't afford.
  • The gig economy – think Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Handy – is marketed as a 'be your own boss' revolution, but it can be dehumanizing and dangerous; every worker is disposable.
  • The cooperative business model can help reverse wealth inequality.
Keep reading Show less

The most culturally chauvinist people in Europe? Greeks, new research suggests

Meanwhile, Spaniards are the least likely to say their culture is superior to others.

Image: Pew Research Center
Strange Maps
  • Survey by Pew Research Center shows great variation in chauvinism across Europe.
  • Eight most chauvinist countries are in the east, and include Russia.
  • British much more likely than French (and slightly more likely than Germans) to say their culture is "superior" to others.
Keep reading Show less

People who engage in fat-shaming tend to score high in this personality trait

A new study explores how certain personality traits affect individuals' attitudes on obesity in others.

Mind & Brain
  • The study compared personality traits and obesity views among more than 3,000 mothers.
  • The results showed that the personality traits neuroticism and extraversion are linked to more negative views and behaviors related to obesity.
  • People who scored high in conscientiousness are more likely to experience "fat phobia.
Keep reading Show less