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Lakes and Oceans That Make Snow

By Chris Dolce
Published: November 28, 2013

A Common Sight in the Great Lakes

Lake-effect snow is a common sight in the snowbelts downwind of the Great Lakes in late fall and winter.

NASA

Satellite image showing bands of clouds containing lake-effect snow moving off of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan on Dec. 5, 2000.

After a cold front passes through, chilly winds mainly from the west or northwest flow over the relatively warmer waters of the lakes and gather moisture, allowing clouds and bands of lake-effect snow to develop. This snow, sometimes heavy, then piles up in locations generally to the east and southeast of the Great Lakes.

The direction and duration of the winds in combination with the difference in temperature between the air mass and the water of the lake typically dictates how much snow will fall in any one location (see video above for more details).

For two of America's snowiest cities, Boonville, N.Y. (193.5 inches each season) and Hancock, Mich. (211.9 inches each season), lake-effect snow is a big contributor to the monstrous snow totals seen each season.

But it's not just the Great Lakes where this phenomenon occurs. On the following pages, we look at some of the other bodies of water in the United States and around the world, including lakes, bays and oceans, that have produced snow from the same basic ingredients described above.

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