Lake Effect Snow Event during GCPEx Field Campaign

What happened and why it happened
A lake effect snow event occurred during the GPM Cold-season Precipitation Experiment (GCPEx) field campaign in Ontario, Canada during the 2011-2012 winter season. Cold, northwest winds moved across the Georgian Bay in eastern Lake Huron and picked up moisture from the lake that fed the development of clouds and snow that varied considerably across a small region south of the bay. The snow clouds developed into persistent narrow bands that resulted in 2 inches of snowfall accumulation at one of the ground sites whereas only 12 miles away they produced 16 inches of snow.
Science Question

Lake effect snow is generated when cold air moves over warm lake waters such that narrow bands of snow clouds develop. The warmer lake waters heat the lower portions of air causing it to become less dense and begin to rise.  As this moisture-laden, warmer air rises it begins to cool leading to condensation and the formation of clouds that can become rather tall enabling the growth of very large snowflakes.  Lake effect snow bands can produce snowfall rates exceeding 5 inches an hour, especially if the wind is directed along the largest width of the lake so that a great deal of moisture is continually supplied to the clouds.

Spatial Coverage
[N: 47, W: -80.2, E: -67.7, S: 43.5] degrees
Time Range

February 10-12, 2012

Event Type
Lake Effect Snow
Get Data

The GPM Cold Season Precipitation Experiment (GCPEx) was a field campaign that occurred in Ontario, Canada during the 2012 winter season. The objective of the GCPEx campaign was to study snowfall’s physical and radiative properties from the ground through the atmosphere. These measurements are used to help scientists understand the minimum snow rate that can be detected from space and also how well space sensors can discriminate between snow, rain and clear air. Measurements were taken from five ground sites and three research aircraft to provide as complete a sampling as possible.

GPM Ground Validation Composite Satellite Overpasses GCPEx Guide document ASCII, netCDF browse, PNG
GPM Ground Validation Dual Polarized C-Band Doppler Radar King City GCPEx Guide document IRIS
GPM Ground Validation Conical Scanning Millimeter-wave Imaging Radiometer (CoSMIR) GCPEx Guide document ASCII


Relevant Publication(s)

Gail Skofronick-Jackson, David Hudak, Walter Petersen, Stephen W. Nesbitt, V. Chandrasekar, Stephen Durden, Kirstin J. Gleicher, Gwo-Jong Huang, Paul Joe, Pavlos Kollias, Kimberly A. Reed, Mathew R. Schwaller, Ronald Stewart, Simone Tanelli, Ali Tokay, James R. Wang, and Mengistu Wolde, 2015: Global Precipitation Measurement Cold Season Precipitation Experiment (GCPEX): For Measurement’s Sake, Let It Snow. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 96, 1719–1741.

Oct 19th, 2018
Kaylin Bugbee

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