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An Updated Synoptic Climatology of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario Heavy Lake-Effect Snow Events

Wiley, J., & Mercer, A. (2020). An Updated Synoptic Climatology of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario Heavy Lake-Effect Snow Events. Atmosphere. 11(8), 872. DOI:10.3390/atmos11080872.


Lake-effect snow (LES) storms pose numerous hazards, including extreme snowfall and blizzard conditions, and insight into the large-scale precursor conditions associated with LES can aid local forecasters and potentially allow risks to be mitigated. In this study, a synoptic climatology of severe LES events over Lakes Erie and Ontario was created using an updated methodology based on previous studies with similar research objectives. Principal component analysis (PCA) coupled with cluster analysis (CA) was performed on a case set of LES events from a study domain encompassing both lakes, grouping LES events with similar spatial characteristics into the primary composite structures for LES. Synoptic scale composites were constructed for each cluster using the North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR). Additionally, one case from each cluster was simulated using the Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model to analyze mesoscale conditions associated with each of the clusters. Three synoptic setups were identified that consisted of discrepancies, mostly in the surface fields, from a common pattern previously identified as being conducive to LES, which features a dipole and upper-level low pressure anomaly located near the Hudson Bay. Mesoscale conditions associated with each composite support differing LES impacts constrained to individual lakes or a combination of both.

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