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Will we withstand the freeze for Lake effect snow?

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Stephen Marsh Stephen Marsh | 18:05 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

d ~ 36'019'200 km: day 14

Today and tomorrow the 23 Degrees team will be filming in the towns of Syracuse and Oswego in Upper New York State to discover what triggers the intense snow storms called "Lake Effect Snow".

Lake effect snow in Buffalo

Every year this part of the world experiences fierce snow storms that can dump up to 150 centimetres in a day.

The origin of these storms is a mass of cold air that forms over the freezing tundra of Canada. This freezing air mass races southwards and barrels into the Great lakes on the border with the USA. At this time of year the water in the lakes is slightly warmer than the lower level of air above it. When the freezing air mass passes over the lake it absorbs the moisture evaporating from the lake. This causes two things to happen. First the air becomes wet and second the air warms up. What this means in weather terms is that the cold air mass has become warm, wet and unstable.

It starts rising and forms clouds over Upper New York State. They are the beginning of a special kind of snow storm that can lead to some of the fastest dumps of snow in the world, "Lake Effect Snow".

Physicist and Presenter Helen Czerski is travelling into the heart of the storm with meteorologist Scott Steiger to discover what triggers these incredible snow storms. Steiger is trying to discover exactly what conditions develop inside the cloud that triggers the formation of snowflakes and the intense dump of snow. He hopes by understanding what's going on in the clouds he can develop prediction models to help the local communities prepare for the devastating snow storms that are prevalent in this area.


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