Snow Research Takes Meteorology by Storm – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Snow Research Takes Meteorology by Storm

One of the Colleges’ many faculty-student collaborations recently resulted in a study that took those in the meteorological sciences by storm. After conducting a seminal study on Lake Champlain lake-effect snow, Associate Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird and student-researchers Jared Desrochers ’07 and Melissa Payer, an undergraduate student at Plymouth State University, published their findings in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

Their study, titled “Climatology of Lake-Effect Precipitation Events over Lake Champlain,” was done in part during the 2006 and 2007 summer undergraduate research program at HWS. The study was the first long-term climatological analysis of lake-effect precipitation events that developed in relation to a small lake. Collected over the span of nine winters from October 1997 through March 2006, the data allowed Desrochers, Payer and Laird to examine the frequency of and environmental conditions favorable for Lake Champlain lake-effect precipitation.

Explaining the significance of their research, Laird said that, “This type of study and its findings provide several unique results that are useful for comparison with known lake-effect environments for larger lakes. For example, we found among other things that January was the most active month with an average of nearly four lake-effect events per winter.”

He added that, “The results of the current investigation show that Lake Champlain lake-effect events occur within a limited range of wind and temperature conditions. These restrictive environmental parameters suggest that small-lake lake-effect events may be more sensitive to small changes in environmental conditions than large-lake lake-effect events and can offer a more responsive system for subsequent investigation of connections between mesoscale processes and climate variability.”

Desrochers graduated summa cum laude from Hobart College in 2007 with a B.S. in geoscience, minoring in environmental studies. A regular member of the Dean’s List, Desrochers was also a Rev. John Visger VanIngen Scholar and a member of the Hobart rowing team. Currently, he is completing his graduate studies in climatology at Indiana University.

Payer graduated from Plymouth State University in 2008 with a B.S. in meteorology. She is a recipient of undergraduate and graduate scholarships from the American Meteorological Society and the prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings undergraduate scholarship. Currently, she is a graduate student in atmospheric sciences at the University at Albany – State University of New York.

Laird, who joined the faculty in 2004, holds a Ph.D. and M.S. degree in atmospheric sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. degree in meteorology from State University of New York at Oswego.

The abstract and full journal article are available from the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology published by the American Meteorological Society.


Above is a photo looking west over Burlington, Vt. of a Lake Champlain lake-effect snowstorm during the morning of January 18, 2003.