After what was a mild and low-snow start of the winter, the past few weeks in upstate New York have been nothing short of blanketing. The town of Redfield has just broken the all-time accumulation record for a lake effect snow event. They beat the old record of 127 inches recorded at Montague in 2001 with a total of 131 inches, or nearly 11 feet of snow. The event in question is perhaps better termed as non-stop lake effect ribbons of snow over the course of days. In the past few days these bands have been scarcely more than 20 miles wide, but they haven’t moved much. Redfield is probably no more than 40 miles from my home in the Mohawk Valley, and during this time we have received a comparably modest 25 or so inches. While we average around 100 inches per year with a record of around 200, Redfield and other places around the Tug Hill Plateau such as Highmarket typically see between 200 and 300 inches per year. Here is a listing of snow totals in the area.
While lake effect snow tends to get a good bit of press attention (and why wouldn’t 11 feet of snow in a matter days interest a few eyeballs?), less well known is the oasis effect. The oasis effect can be thought of as the summer inverse of lake effect snow. During the summer, the cool lake waters tend to moderate the shore temperatures and keep summer cumulus clouds from forming. My in-laws live toward the western end of Lake Ontario in the town of Newfane, NY, some 10 miles from the shore. We have a saying that the weather is always “nice in Newfane”. The town is far enough to the west that there is insufficient distance to develop lake effect snow off of Lake Ontario, and too far north to receive any from Lake Erie. At the same time, they benefit from the lake’s proximity in the summer, yielding sunny skies and moderate temperatures.