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Peter G. Veals and W. James Steenburgh


Lake-effect snowstorms east of Lake Ontario are frequently intense and contribute to substantial seasonal accumulations, especially over the Tug Hill Plateau (hereafter Tug Hill), which rises at a gentle 1.25% slope to ~500 m above lake level. Using a variety of datasets including radar imagery from the KTYX (Fort Drum, New York) WSR-88D, this paper examines the characteristics of lake-effect precipitation east of Lake Ontario over 13 cool seasons (16 September 2001–15 May 2014). During this period, days with at least 2 h of lake effect account for 61%–76% of the mean cool-season snowfall and 24%–37% of the mean cool-season liquid precipitation. Mean monthly lake-effect frequency and snowfall peak in December and January. The highest lake-effect frequency and snowfall occur over the western and upper Tug Hill, with an arm of relatively high lake-effect frequency and snowfall extending to the southeast shore of Lake Ontario. To the east (lee), lake-effect frequency and snowfall decrease abruptly over the Black River valley, although relatively high frequency and snowfall extend downstream into the western Adirondack Mountains. Broad coverage and long-lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) bands dominate the lake-effect morphology throughout the region. There is no diurnal modulation of lake-effect frequency during winter, but weak modulation in fall and spring, especially of LLAP bands.

Collectively, these results quantify the role that lake effect plays in the cool-season hydroclimate east of Lake Ontario. The increase in lake-effect frequency and snowfall over Tug Hill suggest an inland/orographic intensification of many lake-effect systems, with evidence for shadowing in the lee.

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