Salt Lake Lake Effect..

Nope, I didn’t mess up and type in the word “lake” twice above. Usually when we talk about Lake Effect snow, it’s usually somewhere in The Great Lakes Region. But, today, it’s different… Salt Lake City is getting their turn…

However, lake effect snow behaves differently from Utah to The Northeast. Lake Effect snow near The Great Lakes is common during the early winter season when the lake is still relatively warm compared to the surrounding air. Once the lake begins to cool and freeze, the lake effect snow ceases. However, The Great Salt Lake, Lake Effect behaves different. First, the Great Salt Lake never freezes. Remember, it’s full of salt. So, lake effect can occur from September to May. So, how do meteorologists know when to forecast such events? First, it takes a northwesterly winds, moving across the lake, southeast towards Salt Lake City. Notice how Salt Lake City is on the southeastern end of the lake. This means that with the right wind direction, you would get the greatest amount of “fetch” over the lake. ( Basically, the wind would move across the longest portion of the lake, giving the snow bands more moisture to work with.)  Limited shear and a good amount of Pacific moisture upstream, since the Great Salt Lake itself contributes only a small amount of moisture to the snow itself. And while it may only provide a small amount, it’s just the right amount to produce snow that is incredibly low in moisture. It’s not unheard of to see snow to liquid ratios here of 30/40:1. That means, 30-40 inches of snow, to 1 inch of rain/liquid. It’s ratios like that, that give Utah the famous phrase of having “The Greatest Snow on Earth”.

-Damon

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