Lake Effect Snow in Central Minnesota - KMSP-TV

Lake Effect Snow in Central Minnesota

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Areas southeast of Lake Mille Lacs receive a few inches of lake effect snow. Isolated reports of up to 5 inches of snow fell north of Mora Tuesday night which added to their already snowy October tally. Lake effect snow is what I would consider one of the coolest atmospheric phenomenon. It is very typical to get these types of events around the Great Lakes but are far less common in smaller bodies of water. So how does a lake produce snow?? Well, it's actually quite complex…

Very simply though, you need a large warm body of water and a cold air mass. Heat and moisture from the warm lake rises into the much colder air that is flowing on top of it where it then cools and condenses into clouds. IF the winds are just the right speed and you have your clouds at just the right height, then you can form what are called "lake effect snow bands." These bands of snow can produce phenomenal snowfall rates in access of 3 inches an hour with all of the moisture that has been collected from the lake nearby. Common to the Great Lakes because of their sheer size and that they rarely freeze over, but clearly less common for lakes much smaller like Mille Lacs. As for Tuesday night, winds were at the right speed, cloud level was at the right height, and the lake has not even begun to freeze over, so as the unusually cold air mass transitioned into the area, it was able to form clouds that could produce snow.

But remember, lake effect snow is considered a very isolated event. These "bands" can produce very high snowfall rates, but may only be a few miles wide, but can stretch dozens of miles long as you can see in the radar example above. Parts of upstate New York and western Michigan are the prime areas of the world to see these bands form with one town that may receive 20 inches in one day, while another town 10 miles down the road gets nothing.

The areas north of Mora seemed to get the brunt of this lake effect event, but even North Branch awakened to a "light dusting" this morning which is nearly 70 miles away. You can see just how far this thin band of snow reached on the map above.

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