Lake Michigan Lake Effect Snows

March 11, 2010

20100311 – Thursday - Lake Michigan Lake Effect Snows ADJUSTED

Photographer: Ragen Cooper
Summary Author: Matthew L. Schuchardt

The winter wonderland scene shown above was captured in Norton Shores, Michigan on February 26, 2010. Norton Shores lies within the lake effect snow belt of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Heavy and sometimes sudden snowfalls can occur on the lee, or downwind, side of large water bodies if strong winds blow across relatively warm water. For example: Norton Shores, which borders the city of Muskegon on the eastern (lee) shore of Lake Michigan, averages about 96 in (244 cm) of snowfall a year. Milwaukee, Wisconsin is almost directly across Lake Michigan from Muskegon, on Lake Michigan's western (windward) shore, and averages only about 47 in (119 cm) of snowfall per year. However, if the lake surface freezes and the source of moisture is essentially cut off, the frequency and severity of the lake effect is markedly diminished. When this picture was snapped, approximately 8 in (20 cm) of fresh snow had fallen, adding to the approximately 24 in (61 cm) of snow already covering the ground.