Lake Effect Summary - January 30, 2012

Maximum Snowfall (Synoptic and Lake Effect): Lake Erie < 2"; Lake Ontario 33" (Fulton)

Duration: 18 hours +/-

Prime feature: Localized intense, anticyclonic lake snow band.

After a slow start to the lake effect season, a localized area south and east of Lake Ontario received an impressive two-feet plus of lake effect snow in a relatively short period of time.

Following a cold front that brought 4 to 6 inches of synoptic snow to the eastern Lake Ontario region, a broad west to east flow followed over Lake Ontario early on the 30th of January. Though an upstream connection to the central Great Lakes was not established, several factors lead to the rapid intensification of a band of lake effect snow.

Winds on the northern shoreline of Lake Ontario early Monday morning were generally in a northwest direction, while winds along the southern shoreline of Lake Ontario were generally flowing from the southwest. At 4 am winds in both Cobourg and Point Petre, Canada were from the northwest, while Hilton and Rochester, New York at the same hour were from the southwest. These directions helped to form a convergence boundary over Lake Ontario, and provide additional lift for the band of lake snow to develop and sustain.

Winds aloft were also generally light and unidirectional, allowing little wind shear to impact the development of the band of snow. Up through ten thousand feet, winds were less than 30 knots.

Moisture was plentiful in the boundary layer, and temperatures aloft cooled to -15C, allowing for great snow crystal growth within the band of snow.

These ingredients combined allowed for a steady band of heavy lake effect snow to areas just south and east of Lake Ontario. Prior to sunrise on the 30th several inches of snow had fallen across far northwestern Wayne, northern Cayuga and western Oswego county. As the intensity of the snow band increased through the morning hours, the anticyclonically curved snow band focused upon western Oswego county with snowfall rates between 3 and 4 inches per hour over a several hour period.

The focus point for this lake effect snow was on the city of Fulton and vicinity where just over 2 feet of pure lake effect snow fell. Snowplows at one point within the city had to stop plowing as visibilities within the heavy snow became dangerously low for driving snowplows. Winds gradually backed to westerly through the day, and by time the band of snow shifted northward it was rapidly weakening, making this event localized to primarily western Oswego county and vicinity.

Snowfall amounts off Lake Erie were low, not because the lake was frozen, but drier air over Lake Erie and a perpendicular flow across the lake lead to weak bands of snow showers and flurries over Western New York State.

This event will earn three *** stars due to great, and impressive snowfall rates, but localized impact restricted to mainly Oswego County and vicinity. Here are some representative reports. 

Off Lake Erie - Location


Less than two inches

Off Lake Ontario - Location Snowfall
Fulton 33 inches
Minetto 20.7 inches
Palermo 15.6 inches
Central Square 14 inches
Oswego 11.7 inches
Scriba 10.5 inches
Fair Haven 5 inches


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Page last modified: December 18, 2013
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