Spot on Science: Lake Effect Snow

Why does it seem like some schools in Ohio have all the luck when it comes to getting snow days? Turns out it's all about that lake effect snow. Margaret explains the phenomenon.

Class Discussion Questions: 

1) Draw a diagram explaining how lake effect snow is formed?

2) Look at a map of the Great Lakes. What cities on the Great Lakes can experience lake effect snow?

Read the Script:

[Margaret] Ever wonder why some schools in Ohio seem to get more snow days than others? Turns out Old Man Winter serves a bigger helping of the frosty flakes to areas in the northeast corner of the state. 

We call it lake effect snow, and its recipe was just two ingredients, a warm lake, and cold air. 

The lake needs to be somewhere over 35 degrees, and the air needs to be around 10 degrees, or cooler. 

When the cold air from the north and west moves across the lake, it catches water vapor rising off the lake, and turns it into clouds, piles of snow, and maybe a snow day or two, for some lucky kids. 

Sometimes, the lake effect snow is so powerful and sudden it can look like a wall of clouds moving in. So yeah, the lake makes those of us living nearby keep our shovels close. 

These areas of Ohio that are snowier than others have a unique name, the Snowbelt. Ohio has a primary and secondary Snowbelt centered around the northeastern part of the state. 

What's impressive about lake effect snow is that one part of a county can get pummeled with snow, while a neighboring community only a few miles away gets barely a snowflake. 

Here in Cleveland, we see it all the time. The southeast side of the city is a winter wonderland, while the northwest side gets only a dusting. Lake effect snow is also responsible for some of the most fantastic winter weather nightmares, like this house disguised as a snow mound, or this house turned into an igloo encased by ice on the shores of Lake Ontario. 

So if you get a hefty helping of Old Man Winter's lake effect entree, be sure to add lots of salt, rock salt, that is.

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