The science behind the snowstorm explained

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 5:10 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - As roads become clearer, so does the picture of the magnitude of this past weekend’s snowstorm. We looked into the science behind it.

7 News weathercaster Kris Hudson says you can compare this lake effect snow storm to baking a cake.

“We baked our cake, we baked it properly, and we got our massive snow event that we saw,” he said.

Like any recipe, you’ll need ingredients. But instead of flour and sugar, you need a warm Lake Ontario, wind, and cold air high up in the atmosphere.

“In order for our lake effect storm to occur and be a good storm, we need a difference of temperature between the lake, and upper levels of the atmosphere of at least 23 degrees. At this storm, we were approaching a 40, 50-degree difference. That’s double what we need for a decent lake-effect snowstorm,” said Hudson.

Then you add in a lot of moisture.

“We have a multi-lake connection with Lake Erie, that gave us more moisture to work with. When we talk about snow growth for lake-effect, we only need 10,000 feet in the atmosphere to get a decent lake-effect snow growth layer. This storm, we had 20,000 feet of moisture and snow growth to work with,” said Hudson. “We were having the southwest winds, so that gave us the lake effect here in the Watertown, Natural Bridge, Harrisville areas where we saw the heaviest of the snow.”

Mix them all together and you get around 61 inches of heavy, wet lake effect snow for Watertown and more than 70 inches for Natural Bridge.

“The amount of snow that fell with this storm in such a short amount of time, if our measurements are accurate and the National Weather Service approves them, then this storm will be one of the snowiest storms on record in such a short amount of time,” said Hudson.