Utah (ABC4) — If you live in Utah chances are you’ve heard of lake effect snow. But what does that actually mean?
Lake effect snow occurs when cold air moves across the open waters of the great lakes. According to the ABC4 weather team, lake effect snow is a micro-scale event that occurs when colder air from the north moves across the Great Salt Lake.
The cooler air is moving over the warmer water at the lake surface, and as the prolonged fetch of colder air passes over the lake it transfers moisture and warmth into the lowest levels of the atmosphere.
That area of condensation then passes over the opposing shore of the lake, resulting in a persistent band of snow that can last for up to several hours.
The term lake effect is not to be confused with lake enhancement. The ABC4 weather team says the easiest determination between the two is that lake enhancement works in conjunction with parent events already providing moisture and or is destabilizing the airmass above the lake.
Such as a surface through approaching a warm or cold front.
Utah is known for having the “Greatest Snow on Earth”. People travel far and wide to partake of Utah’s amazing snow.
But many things contribute to the great snow. According to the Utah Geological Survey, great snow – along with great skiing and snowboarding – are ultimately the results of plate tectonics.
Plate tectonics are a massive, irregularly shaped slab of solid rock, generally composed of both continental and oceanic lithosphere.
Plate tectonic activity creates the planet’s mountain ranges, volcanic chains, rift valleys, and ocean basins, ridges, and trenches. Utah Geological Survey says snow conditions are a sum of topography, elevation, latitude, and distance to the ocean.
“It’s no doubt we have the ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’ in the state of Utah. If you have recreated in our powder, you know it’s different from the wet, heavy snow we see in other parts of the country,” Alana Brophy, Chief Meteorologist for ABC4 News shares.