The Frequency and Characteristics of Lake-Effect Precipitation Events Associated with the New York State Finger Lakes

Neil Laird Department of Geoscience, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York

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Ryan Sobash School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Natasha Hodas Department of Environmental Science, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey

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Abstract

This study presents a climatological analysis of the frequency and characteristics of lake-effect precipitation events that were initiated or enhanced by lakes within the New York State (NYS) Finger Lakes region for the 11 winters (October–March) from 1995/96 through 2005/06. Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) data from Binghamton, New York, were used to identify 125 lake-effect events. Events occurred as 1) a well-defined, isolated precipitation band over and downwind of a lake, 2) an enhancement of mesoscale lake-effect precipitation originating from Lake Ontario and extending southward over an individual Finger Lake, 3) a quasi-stationary mesoscale precipitation band positioned over a lake embedded within extensive regional precipitation from a synoptic weather system, or 4) a transition from one type to another. Results show that lake-effect precipitation routinely develops over lakes that are considerably smaller than lakes previously discussed as being associated with lake-effect precipitation, such as the Great Lakes. Lake-effect events occurred during each month (October–March) across the 11 winters studied and were identified in association with each of the six easternmost Finger Lakes examined in this study. The frequency of NYS Finger Lakes lake-effect events determined in the current investigation paired with subsequent analyses of the environmental conditions leading to these events will allow for 1) comparative analyses of necessary conditions for lake-effect development across a range of lake sizes (e.g., NYS Finger Lakes, Lake Champlain, Great Salt Lake, and Great Lakes) and 2) an informative examination of the connection between mesoscale processes and climate variability.

Corresponding author address: Neil F. Laird, Dept. of Geoscience, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 300 Pulteney St., Geneva, NY 14456. Email: laird@hws.edu

Abstract

This study presents a climatological analysis of the frequency and characteristics of lake-effect precipitation events that were initiated or enhanced by lakes within the New York State (NYS) Finger Lakes region for the 11 winters (October–March) from 1995/96 through 2005/06. Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) data from Binghamton, New York, were used to identify 125 lake-effect events. Events occurred as 1) a well-defined, isolated precipitation band over and downwind of a lake, 2) an enhancement of mesoscale lake-effect precipitation originating from Lake Ontario and extending southward over an individual Finger Lake, 3) a quasi-stationary mesoscale precipitation band positioned over a lake embedded within extensive regional precipitation from a synoptic weather system, or 4) a transition from one type to another. Results show that lake-effect precipitation routinely develops over lakes that are considerably smaller than lakes previously discussed as being associated with lake-effect precipitation, such as the Great Lakes. Lake-effect events occurred during each month (October–March) across the 11 winters studied and were identified in association with each of the six easternmost Finger Lakes examined in this study. The frequency of NYS Finger Lakes lake-effect events determined in the current investigation paired with subsequent analyses of the environmental conditions leading to these events will allow for 1) comparative analyses of necessary conditions for lake-effect development across a range of lake sizes (e.g., NYS Finger Lakes, Lake Champlain, Great Salt Lake, and Great Lakes) and 2) an informative examination of the connection between mesoscale processes and climate variability.

Corresponding author address: Neil F. Laird, Dept. of Geoscience, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 300 Pulteney St., Geneva, NY 14456. Email: laird@hws.edu

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