Lake Effect Snow as Summer Project – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Lake Effect Snow as Summer Project

Caused by cold air moving over the warmer waters of a lake, lake-effect snow affects many areas in Northern New York and across the Great Lakes region. This past summer, Neil Laird, an associate professor in the Department of Geoscience, worked with four students on three projects related to understanding and forecasting lake-effect snow events. The students included Hobart junior Chad Hecht ’14, a geoscience major, Christine Bloecker, an atmospheric science major from SUNY Albany, Carlee Loeser, a geography major from Salisbury University, and Brian Crow, an atmospheric science major from the University of Missouri.

Hecht worked on a climatological study, using archived radar, weather, and ice cover data sets from the past 13 winters to examine the effects of Lake Erie ice cover on lake-effect snow events.

“I am looking at all the different parts of winter, from late November/December when it is warmer, to January/February when it is colder and there is more ice, ” explains Hecht. “This way, I can see any differences that the amount of ice cover makes on lake-effect snow events.”

Bloecker and Loeser worked together on a project, in conjunction with the National Weather Service Office in Binghamton, which involved studying the climatology of lake-effect snow clouds and snowfall amounts during a 15-winter period. Bloecker and Loeser determined the frequency of different types of lake-effect cloud systems and the variation of snowfall across New York State related to different types of events. Their project will help forecasters better predict the likely snowfall from future lake-effect snow events.

“We were both interested in lake effect snow because we don’t get any where we live and this project allowed us to gain experience with GIS,” said Bloecker and Loeser.

Crow’s project involved looking at two case studies of intense lake-effect snow events and is a collaboration with the National Weather Service Office in Buffalo. While examining these cases, Crow reviewed the warnings and forecasts, as well as the weather prediction computer models that were used to forecast the events. “I am looking at old warnings and forecasts, radar data and weather models to place myself in the shoes of the forecaster during these past events” says Crow. “Ultimately, I want to see how satellite data can be used to better monitor and predict future lake-effect snow events.”

Laird has been interested in lake-effect snow events since he did undergraduate research at SUNY Oswego. He continued his research on lake-effect snow in graduate school at the University of Illinois, before coming to Hobart and William Smith. Since then, Laird has spent his summers working with students on a multitude of projects, including many on lake-effect snow.

“I enjoy working with students and sharing the research experience with them as they are introduced to completely new ideas,” says Laird. “For them to be working on full time research, on a topic that they are interested in is a wonderful experience and one that I am proud to share with them.”