What is Lake Effect?

Nov 12, 2019


A blue sky peeks out from behind gray clouds over a tumultuous Lake Michigan at Weko Beach in Bridgman on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.
Credit Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

If you’re new to Michiana, or if you just never learned, lake effect snow is what happens when cold air meets a warmer Lake Michigan.

“Generally we get some really cold air that flows over the open waters that are a lot warmer," said Megan Dodson with the National Weather Service. "It can cause some instability and that can generate some snow bands in the form of lake effect.”

Dodson said since we got some system snow first, if you look on the ground you might be able to tell which is which. System snow tends to be heavier and wetter. Lake effect is light. 

“Sometimes you can even sort of sweep it off your porch with a broom ‘cause it’s that light, but it just depends on each event, it doesn’t always work out that way.”

Usually lake effect stays near the lake, but Dodson said this band is making it all the way to Huntington, Indiana--near Fort Wayne.

Lake effect snow is expected to hang around overnight tonight, until the wind changes direction. Dodson said there will be less accumulation but temperatures could drop into the single digits.