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Lake Breezes in Southern Ontario and Their Relation to Tornado Climatology

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  • 1 Meteorological Service of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Abstract

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery is used to demonstrate the development of lake-breeze boundaries in southern Ontario under different synoptic conditions. The orientation of the gradient wind with respect to the shorelines is important in determining the location of such lines. When moderate winds (5–10 m s−1) are parallel to straight sections of coastlines, cloud lines can extend well inland. In the region between Lakes Huron and Erie lake-breeze lines merge frequently, sometimes resulting in long-lasting stationary storms and attendant heavy rain and flooding. The influence of the lakes is apparent in the tornado climatology for the region: tornadoes appear to be suppressed in regions visited by lake-modified air and enhanced in regions favored by lake-breeze convergence lines. The cloud patterns in the case of a cold front interacting with merging lake-breeze boundaries are shown to be similar to those on a major tornado outbreak day. Two of the cases discussed are used as conceptual models to explain many of the features in the patterns of tornado touchdown locations. In general, it appears that the lakes suppress tornadoes in southern Ontario, compared with neighboring states and in particular in areas where southwest winds are onshore, but enhance tornado likelihood locally in areas of frequent lake-breeze activity.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Patrick King, Meteorological Service of Canada, 4905 Dufferin St., Toronto, ON M3H 5T4, Canada. Email: patrick.king@ec.gc.ca

Abstract

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery is used to demonstrate the development of lake-breeze boundaries in southern Ontario under different synoptic conditions. The orientation of the gradient wind with respect to the shorelines is important in determining the location of such lines. When moderate winds (5–10 m s−1) are parallel to straight sections of coastlines, cloud lines can extend well inland. In the region between Lakes Huron and Erie lake-breeze lines merge frequently, sometimes resulting in long-lasting stationary storms and attendant heavy rain and flooding. The influence of the lakes is apparent in the tornado climatology for the region: tornadoes appear to be suppressed in regions visited by lake-modified air and enhanced in regions favored by lake-breeze convergence lines. The cloud patterns in the case of a cold front interacting with merging lake-breeze boundaries are shown to be similar to those on a major tornado outbreak day. Two of the cases discussed are used as conceptual models to explain many of the features in the patterns of tornado touchdown locations. In general, it appears that the lakes suppress tornadoes in southern Ontario, compared with neighboring states and in particular in areas where southwest winds are onshore, but enhance tornado likelihood locally in areas of frequent lake-breeze activity.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Patrick King, Meteorological Service of Canada, 4905 Dufferin St., Toronto, ON M3H 5T4, Canada. Email: patrick.king@ec.gc.ca

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