Lake-effect snow and windy clipper system take aim on Great Lakes

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Heavy Snow Expected in Great Lakes

By Chris Dolce, weather.com

The return of arctic air to the Lower 48 is setting the stage for feet of snow this week in the snow belts of the Great Lakes. In addition, a windy clipper low pressure system will bring a general light snow to the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and parts of the Northeast, resulting in hazardous travel conditions.

(MORE: Arctic Air Returns to the U.S.)

Below we have a look at the forecast for the two rounds of heavy lake-effect snow and the clipper.

Lake Effect Snow Round One: Through Monday

The first round of lake-effect snow has developed behind the now departed Winter Storm Hera. This has allowed cold winds to flow over the relatively milder waters of the Great Lakes, leading to the development of lake-effect snow. (Note: For more on what lake-effect snow is, see the final section of this article.)

An intense band of lake-effect snow off of Lake Erie had already produced accumulations of up to nine inches in parts of southwest New York as of Monday morning. Up to a foot of snow has been measured east of Lake Ontario so far.

Some of the heaviest snow will continue to take aim on areas southeast of Lake Erie and east of Lake Ontairo through Monday evening. The National Weather Service has issued lake-effect snow warnings for parts of southwest New York, far northwest Pennsylvania and areas east of Lake Ontario into the Tug Hill of northern New York. Snow totals of 1 to 2 feet (locally 3 feet east of Lake Ontario) are possible in locations where snow bands are most persistent, along with strong winds. Snowfall rates of more than an inch per hour are also likely in the heaviest bands.


Great Lakes Radar

Although the lion's share of the snow streaming off of Lake Erie will stay south of Buffalo, New York, it's possible the bands may move north through the metro area Monday evening, potentially affecting the commute.

Elsewhere, lake-effect snow advisories are in place for parts of northeast Ohio, far northwest Pennsylvania, the Buffalo metro area and parts of Upper Michigan.

(MAP: Winter Weather Alerts)

The snow and wind will lead to travel problems on I-81 east of Lake Ontario in northern New York, and along stretches of I-90 in western New York, northwest Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio.

This first round of lake-effect snow will get interrupted by a low pressure system that will bring a more general snowfall to parts of the Great Lakes region, followed by another round of lake effect.

Clipper Snow, Wind Arrives Monday Night-Tuesday

A fast-moving low pressure will pass through the Great Lakes and Northeast Monday night through Tuesday, spreading a general swath of light snow accumulations across those regions. As mentioned before, this will also briefly disrupt the lake-effect snows as winds change direction with its passage.


Monday Night's Forecast: Accumulations will be light in most areas, but dangerous travel conditions are possible.

This low pressure system is what meteorologists call a "clipper". Clipper systems are fairly common in the winter when the weather pattern features a dip, or a developing dip, in the jet stream east of the Rockies. Disturbances in the upper atmosphere and/or low pressure systems near the surface of the earth dive down across the Midwest from Canada and charge eastward rapidly. These fast-moving systems can produce light-to-moderate snowfall across a wide area, gusty winds and falling temperatures.

(VIDEO: What is a Clipper?)

In the case of the clipper to start this week, snow in most areas should only be a few inches at most. However, gusty winds will likely contribute to blowing snow and low visibility as it passes through the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, western/northern Pennsylvania, New York, the central Appalachians and New England. Please use caution while driving in those areas Monday night and Tuesday as this is the type of situation where even a brief burst of intense snow and wind could cause travel problems, including pileups.

A burst of snow or rain mixed with snow may also reach as far south as New York City Tuesday evening.


Tuesday's Forecast: Accumulations will be light in most areas, but dangerous travel conditions are possible.

(MORE: Is Light Snow More Dangerous For Drivers Than Major Storms?)

Tuesday night, some heavier snow amounts are possible in Maine as low pressure develops off the New England coast in response to clipper's upper level energy. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for northern and central Maine Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, where more than 6 inches of snow may fall.

That clipper system will also set the stage for even more lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes midweek onward.

Lake-Effect Snow Round Two: Late Tuesday-Thursday

After the clipper passes through, more lake-effect snow will likely develop from west to east throughout the Great Lakes later Tuesday and Tuesday night, and then lasting through Thursday.

As is typical, the heaviest snow totals will likely be found in the eastern Great Lakes region to the southeast of Lakes Erie and Ontario. Snowfall rates of several inches per hour along with thunder and lightning may accompany the heaviest snow bands. Totals in excess of a foot are likely in areas where snow bands are most persistent.

The National Weather Service has already issued a lake-effect snow watch for locations southeast and east of Lakes Erie and Ontario.

(FORECAST: Erie, Pennsylvania | Buffalo, New York | Watertown, New York)

Periods of snow will also impact other parts of the Great Lakes region from midweek into late week.

Our forecast snowfall map gives a general idea of where the heaviest totals are expected from both rounds of lake effect and the clipper system through Thursday. Areas shaded in dark purple or pink could see snow amounts in excess of a foot, including parts of Upper Michigan, northwest Lower Michigan, northwest Pennsylvania, and western parts of New York.


Snowfall Forecast Through Thursday

What is Lake-Effect Snow?


Lake-effect snow is a common sight in the snowbelts downwind of the Great Lakes in late fall and winter.

After a cold front passes through, chilly winds mainly from the west or northwest flow over the relatively warmer waters of the lakes and gather moisture, allowing clouds and bands of lake-effect snow to develop. This snow, sometimes heavy, then piles up in locations generally to the east and southeast of the Great Lakes.

The direction and duration of the winds in combination with the difference in temperature between the air mass and the water of the lake typically dictates how much snow will fall in any one location. See the video at the link below for more information.

(VIDEO: Science Behind Lake-Effect Snow)

For two of America's snowiest cities, Boonville, N.Y. (193.5 inches each season) and Hancock, Mich. (211.9 inches each season), lake-effect snow is a big contributor to the monstrous snow totals seen each season.

But it's not just the Great Lakes where this phenomenon occurs. Click this link to see some of the other bodies of water in the United States and around the world, including lakes, bays and oceans, that have produced snow from the same basic ingredients described above.

Related: Look back at early 2015's crazy snowfall:

51 PHOTOS
2015 Generic Winter Snow Ice
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Lake-effect snow and windy clipper system take aim on Great Lakes
Ice forms along the shore on Lake Michigan, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Chicago. Temperatures have dipped to as low as -13 in parts of Illinois with wind chills forecast to fall to between 20 and 30 degrees below zero. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
The sun rises above Lake Michigan as ice forms along the shore, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Chicago. Temperatures have dipped to as low as -13 in parts of Illinois with wind chills forecast to fall to between 20 and 30 degrees below zero. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Ice forms along the shore of Lake Michigan, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Chicago. Temperatures have dipped to as low as -13 in parts of Illinois with wind chills forecast to fall to between 20 and 30 degrees below zero. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Will Scott uses a blower to remove snow from a parking lot Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Nolensville, Tenn. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says the state remains in a state of emergency as it deals with more snow, subfreezing temperatures and slick roads. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Ice forms along the shore on Lake Michigan, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Chicago. Temperatures have dipped to as low as -13 in parts of Illinois with wind chills forecast to fall to between 20 and 30 degrees below zero. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Children sled together on the slope on the southwest grounds of the US Capitol after a winter storm, on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 in Washington. US Capitol Police officers later told parents and kids that sledding was prohibited on the US Capitol grounds. Rules implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks made sledding on the Capitol grounds off limits to residents who try to take advantage of snowy weather. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Bennett Foster shovels ice out of a driveway Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - JANUARY 27: Snow covers a car on January 27, 2015 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Boston, and much of the Northeast, is being hit with heavy snow from Winter Storm Juno. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: A plaw moves down a snow covered street on February 2, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Airplanes stand in the snow at O'Hare International Airport on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Chicago. A slow-moving winter storm blanketed a large swath of the Plains and Midwest in snow Sunday, forcing the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights, making roads treacherous and forcing some people to rethink their plans to attend Super Bowl parties. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A woman shields her face from the wind-driven snow while making her through a winter storm in downtown Portland, Maine, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
A driver cleans snow off school buses in Derry, N.H., Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Southern New Hampshire, which was hit with over two feet of snow last week, is expected to receive as much as another foot and a half in a winter storm that stretches from Michigan to Maine. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
NEW YORK NY - FEBRUARY 02: Michael Musto rides his bike through the snow in Soho on February 02, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: Cars drive at slow speed during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: Cars drive at slow speed during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Toby Hirshman holds onto Macy as Wally runs in the fresh snow, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. A winter snow storm has dumped at least a foot of snow in parts of northern Ohio and prompted driving bans and hundreds of school and business closings. Seven counties in northwest Ohio were under Level 3 snow emergencies Monday, closing roadways to non-emergency vehicles. Another six counties in north central and northeast Ohio were also under less severe snow emergencies. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: A man rides a bicycle on a snowy and icy Manhattan street on February 2, 2015 in New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: Pedestrians navigate the snow, ice and puddles along a Manhattan street on February 2, 2015 in New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: A teen looks out of a Brooklyn subway window during a storm bringing a wintery mix of snow and ice to New York City on February 2, 2015 in New York City. Another winter storm has brought inclement weather to much of the Northeast, canceling schools and hundreds of flights throughout the New York metro area. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: People walk during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: People walk during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York City on February 02, 2014. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Airplanes stand in the snow at O'Hare International Airport on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Chicago. A slow-moving winter storm blanketed a large swath of the Plains and Midwest in snow Sunday, forcing the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights, making roads treacherous and forcing some people to rethink their plans to attend Super Bowl parties. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A plow clears snow on I-295 during a winter storm Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Yarmouth, Maine. Heavy snow is pummeling much of Maine as a new round of winter weather immobilizes parts of the state for another day. Monday's storm is expected to drop more than 14 additional inches on the Downeast part of the state. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Drivers on I-295 contend with near-whiteout conditions while driving in a snow storm Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Yarmouth, Maine. Heavy snow is pummeling much of Maine as a new round of winter weather immobilizes parts of the state for another day. Monday's storm is expected to drop more than 14 additional inches on the Downeast part of the state. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Traffic is backed up from a vehicle off Interstate 94 in Harper Woods, Mich., Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. A winter storm has buried Michigan's Lower Peninsula in snow, giving the Detroit area its biggest snowfall in four decades. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Richard King snowshoes down Adams Pond Road in East Derry, N.H., Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Southern New Hampshire, which was hit with over two feet of snow last week, is expected to receive as much as another foot and a half in a winter storm that stretches from Michigan to Maine. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Krystal Koban removes snow from around her car during a winter storm, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Henniker, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Marcus Neris digs his car out of the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Marcus Neris digs his car out of the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A man walks through Humboldt Park on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A residents clears snow from a car on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Brittany OBerien (L) and Jessica Moser (R) dig their car out from the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city yesterday morning and did not stop until this morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents dig their cars out from the the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents try to free a stranded car after it became stuck in the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Brittany OBerien (L) and Jessica Moser (R) dig their car out of snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city yesterday morning and did not stop until this morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents try to free a stranded car after it became stuck in snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Cars are burined in snow along a residential street on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A man clears snow from the sidewalk in front of an aprtment building on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: Residents dig their cars out from the snow on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 02: A dog plays in the snow in Humboldt Park on February 2, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Snow began falling in the city Sunday morning and did not stop until early Monday morning, leaving behind 18 inches. It was the fifth largest snowfall in the city's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Aryn Sothbarr clears snow from the sidewalk outside her home on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: A man digs out his car along a snow-covered street on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: A man walks down a snow-covered street on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: A cyclist takes cover from the snow on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Pedestrian and motorists navigate a snow-covered street on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Passengers walk through snow to catch an L train on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 01: Drew Maurer clears snow from the sidewalk outside his home on February 1, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Fifteen inches or more of snow is expected to fall on the city before Monday morning. The snow has caused power outages and forced about 2,000 flight cancelations at the city's airports. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Snow covers trees at O'Hare International Airport, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Chicago. The first major winter storm of the year is bearing down on the Chicago region, bringing with it blizzard conditions of heavy snow and strong winds. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
O'Hare International Airport crews work on a runway at the airport, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Chicago. The first major winter storm of the year is bearing down on the Chicago region, bringing with it blizzard conditions of heavy snow and strong winds. More than 1,100 flights have been canceled at Chicago's airports and snow-covered roads are making travel treacherous. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Cars are covered by snow in general parking lot at O'Hare International Airport on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Chicago. A slow-moving winter storm blanketed a large swath of the Plains and Midwest in snow Sunday, forcing the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights, making roads treacherous and forcing some people to rethink their plans to attend Super Bowl parties. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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