Many people believe that snowstorms go around lakes. But they do not know how much truth there is to that. After all, preparing in case you live around a lake would be beneficial. So, do storms go around lakes?

Storms do indeed go around lakes. It is a well-known phenomenon called “Lake Effect Snow.” Lake effect snowstorms can cause lots of snow to accumulate over roadways, which can cause other issues, such as power outages.

Keep reading below for more information.

History of Lake Effect Snow

Notwithstanding the lack of trend outside of the Great Lakes snow belts, lake effect snowfalls have been gradually increasing since the 1930s inside the Great Lakes region of the United States, where they have been most researched in the context of climate change. This shift is probably caused by higher air and water temperatures.

With more water exposed for longer periods, frigid Arctic air can be warmed and moistened before it descends and dumps more snow on the Great Lakes than ever before. This trend can be traced back to 1850.

As long as the air temperature in the winter remains low enough, lake-effect snowfall is expected to continue to increase. However, by the year 2100, lake-effect snowfall is expected to drop significantly, while lake-effect rainfall is expected to increase, according to climate projections for the region.

How Does Lake-Effect Snow Form?

The “lake-effect snow” phenomenon occurs when cold, dry air collects moisture and warmth while moving over warmer lake water. As a result, a portion of the water in the lake evaporates into the air, making it warmer and wetter overall. 

When the air around the lake cools and flows away, it leaves all that moisture behind on the ground. Very heavy snowfall occurs when temperatures drop low enough.

Late autumn and early winter are prime times for lake-effect storms since the temperature differential between the lake water and the air above it is greatest. The greater the disparity in temperature, the more intense the storm.

Thunderstorms are more likely to form when the air is at least 25 degrees cooler at an altitude of 5,000 feet above a body of water. Thundersnow can form when the air temperature drops below 25 degrees and the humidity is high enough. The intensity of a thunder snowstorm can be high enough to cause snowfall rates of two to three inches per hour.

It’s also crucial to consider the wind’s direction. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the air acts like a huge sponge, soaking up the lake’s waters and squeezing them out onto the land if the winds are blowing in a way that encompasses a greater portion of the lake.

The location of lake-effect snowfall also depends on the wind’s direction. According to the National Weather Service, there are places on Earth where heavy snow is falling while the sun is beaming only a mile or two away in another direction.

A minimum of 60 miles per hour of wind speed is required for this cold air to pass over the warmer ocean and produce considerable snowfall.

For more information on how lake-effect snowstorms develop, watch this video below:

What is lake effect snow?

Other Considerations 

Here are some other factors that contribute to the development of the lake snow effect:

Large Urban Areas

Lake effect snowstorms can be caused or exacerbated by the increased heat and ice-forming particles supplied by large urban centers near the Great Lakes shoreline.


Even relatively tiny cities tend to be warmer than their rural surroundings. When wind flows across populated regions, the temperature rises. Lake-effect snowstorms can form when this heat combines with that from the lakes, which can happen on rare occasions.


Industries such as steel mills release atmospheric pollutants that can crystallize into ice because they act as ice nuclei. They could increase snowfall. One of the world’s foremost producers of metals, such as steel, is located in the southern Great Lakes.

Automobile Exhaust

Lead from automotive exhaust mixes with iodine found in the air to generate lead-iodine compounds, which can harm human health. They could facilitate the development of ice crystals.

Where Can You Find Lake-Effect Snowstorms?

Typically, the rain falls within 25 miles of the lake, but it might go as far as 100 miles if the wind is right.

Bands of clouds measuring over 10 miles in width and possibly 300 miles in length are responsible for this snowfall. The amount of snow that falls in a location varies from place to place, with the highest accumulations found on hills away from lakes.

Why the Role of Climate Change Is Important

Is global warming influencing the lake-effect snow phenomenon? Yes, sort of.

The upper Midwest is basking in an unusually mild autumn. Lakes are losing water to evaporation later than they used to because of the delayed onset of ice formation. The lake’s temperature has remained elevated past its typical autumn low due to the warmer air from the summer.

Warming is expected to increase lake-effect snowfall, according to models. Lake-effect rain, which only occurs in mid-October, will become the dominant kind of precipitation due to global warming.

How to Prepare for Lake Effect Snowstorm

When a lake-effect snowstorm hits, people need to take cover immediately. Nonetheless, becoming stranded in such weather is not unheard of for drivers. These are some guidelines to follow to stay safe while driving in the winter:

  • Don’t rush! The roads may be slick even if it doesn’t appear to rain.
  • Before setting off, check that your car is free of snow or ice.
  • Inform someone of your whereabouts and intended route.
  • Have a fully charged cell phone, car charger, and emergency pack with you whenever you leave the house.
  • Don’t panic if your automobile starts to skid; gently let off the gas and steer the front wheels in the desired direction.
  • Stop your vehicle on the shoulder of the road if you need to wait for weather conditions to clear so that you can see well again. Stopping at an intersection? Put on the parking brake and switch off your lights to ensure that no other driver is misled by your tail or brake lights.
  • Be visible to rescuers and stay in your vehicle if it becomes trapped during a storm.


Lake effect snowstorms are a well-documented phenomenon. Understanding it is crucial to protect yourself from the accumulated snow, especially if you live in an area that is prone to such snowstorms.