Lake Effect Snow in Buffalo | Normal Occurrence or Global Warming
Lake Effect Snow in Buffalo- Normal Occurrence or Global Warming
Global warming is blamed for so many things these days that it can be hard to tell what really causes it and what’s really caused by it. Here in Buffalo, we have had quite a bit of snow so far this winter. Since December 1st, Buffalo has recorded a total of 82 inches- that’s almost 7 feet of snow! While that may sound like a lot of snow, the average amount of snow for a Buffalo winter is about 94 inches. And, while you may hear about Buffalo in the news so often for the huge amounts of snow that we get, there are places like Watertown, Syracuse and Old Forge, all in New York state, who actually average more snow than us- 112 inches, 123 inches and 177 inches, respectively. Now that’s a lot of snow!
There are years when we get less snow, or even more snow than normal, but I don’t believe any of it is caused by global warming. Unless you’re a skier, snowmobiler or other winter sports fanatic, which I’m not, then you really don’t question a mild winter with less than average amounts of snow. You appreciate it and celebrate it! Let’s face it, our winters here in Buffalo are cold- really cold. We experience a very damp cold that chills you to the bone with wind-chills well below zero (-17 Celsius).
We also experience what’s called “Lake Effect Snow”. This is what is responsible for the large amounts of snow that get dumped on us all at once. Lake effect snow happens when Lakes Erie and Ontario are not fully frozen over and cold air moves over a warmer body of water. The lower layer of air picks up moisture from the open lake, rises up into the colder air and freezes. It is then deposited as snow in the surrounding areas. Sometimes, depending on the wind direction, the storm may move back and forth over us and actually hit us multiple times, thereby creating huge amounts of snowfall. Global Warming? I don’t think so. This has been happening for many years, long before global warming was a thing.
This post is not meant to get political about Global Warming. I believe that humans are responsible in part for the greenhouse effect with all of the added pollutants we create. With populations constantly increasing, there are more and more automobiles on the roads. While the auto industry is constantly working toward reducing pollution, it just can’t come soon enough. There are so many ways that we can all work together to reduce greenhouse gases, but until everyone is on board and working together, we are going to have issues.
Humans are not the only ones creating greenhouse gases. Livestock is also responsible in part for the release of methane into the environment in their poo. From what I’ve read, farmers are working on better diets for their animals to reduce fermentation and the release of methane. We’re always going to have cows and other livestock so unless we figure out a way for them to not poo, they will continue to add to the problem.
So this post has already taken a turn from what I originally wanted to talk about, which is Buffalo winters and our snowfall, so let me get back on track. Buffalo is known for huge amounts of snow- read on…
A look at some of the storms we’ve had over the years:
Blizzard of 1936: Although this one happened almost 70 years ago, the famous St. Patrick’s Day storm of 1936 was a doozy and apparently is still talked about by Buffalos older generation. This late season storm dropped over 20 inches (50 cm) during one afternoon, crippling the city. We still, to this day, get a St. Patrick’s Day snowstorm every year like clockwork.
Blizzard of 1977: This storm pounded Western New York as well as Southern Ontario from January 28 to February 1. The National Weather Service in Buffalo had recorded daily peak wind gusts that ranged from 46 to 69 mph (74 to 111 km/h). We experienced snowfall as high as 100 inches (254 cm) in some areas and the high winds caused drifts of up to 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 m). Twenty-three storm-related deaths were reported in western New York alone.
Blizzard of 1985: On January 18, 1985, Buffalo was hit by what was dubbed the “Six Pack Blizzard.” The storm dropped 33 inches (84 cm) of snow with winds gusting to 53 mph (85 km/h). It was during this storm that then-Mayor Jimmy Griffin told Buffalonians to “Stay inside, grab a six-pack and watch a good football game.” He obviously wasn’t talking about watching the Buffalo Bills, as they were having a terrible season, finishing 2 and 14 for the second consecutive year.
Storm of 2000: While this storm was not technically a blizzard, November 20, 2000, was at the time recorded as the single greatest 24-hour snowfall in the city’s history. Snow fell at the rate of 4 inches (10 cm) an hour. Over 35 inches (89 cm) buried the city during the afternoon rush hour forcing thousands of Western New Yorkers to take shelter.
Blizzard of 2001: Buffalo’s next big storm began with a welcomed “White Christmas” on December 24, 2001. The week prior to Christmas had Buffalonians enjoying 60-degree temperatures. Once the snow eventually started, over seven feet of snow fell on Buffalo and some surrounding areas. The heaviest snow landed in South Buffalo and West Seneca with 70 to 85 inches (178-216 cm)- that’s a lot of snow! My Zachary was just a baby during this storm.
The October 2006 Surprise: On October 12-13, we experienced an unusually early lake effect snowstorm, surprising Buffalo and many surrounding towns. October 12th started out mild, turning rainy and getting colder as the day went on. By evening, heavy, wet snow began falling. We still had a lot of leaves on the trees, and all of these leaves acted like a net, catching the heavy snow. The trees could not take the weight of all the snow and branches began to break. I personally lost a giant branch on a beautiful tree in my backyard. Whole trees were uprooted and destroyed, collapsing under the weight of the snow, pulling power lines down all over. Up to two feet of snow fell and many roads were completely impassable due to the fallen trees and branches. An estimated 400,000 people lost power during the storm- power was out for days in some areas. Thousands of trees were lost- an estimated 90 percent of the city’s trees were destroyed. Then-President George Bush declared four counties in western New York “major disaster areas”.
Fast forward to… “Snowvember 2014”!: A “wall of snow” could be seen from office buildings in downtown Buffalo, ascending upon the city and surrounding area. A lake effect snow band affected several towns in and around Buffalo, with some of the southern suburbs receiving absurd amounts of snow, between 5–7 feet (1.5–2 m). My sister-in-law received seven feet of snow in just 24 hours! People were buried inside their homes and stranded in their cars on the Thruway for days before they were rescued. At least fourteen people died during this storm, mainly from heart attacks due to overexertion from shoveling snow. Many roofs collapsed under the weight of the snow. The storm brought out the best in humanity though, as people from neighboring towns, including myself and my son, went out to help those who were stranded and buried in snow. We and many other people spent the days going from house to house shoveling driveways and helping those who needed assistance. It was a very rewarding experience, one that my back still remembers- shoveling snow is back-breaking work! There were many areas that didn’t have an ounce of snow, including my town, as this storm only affected certain areas in the “snow band”.
This hardly covers all of the snowstorms we’ve experienced in Buffalo and the surrounding towns, but I think it proves my point. This winter is no different than anything we’ve experienced in Buffalo in the past. Call it Global Warming if you want, but it’s just another normal winter in Buffalo. It gets cold here and it snows a lot. It’s not going to stop anytime soon- that’s what it does here. Global Warming is a real issue, but it’s hardly what’s causing the snow in Buffalo.
I’d love to hear about the weather where you live- tell me about it in the comments. Does it snow? How much snow do you get? Or are you one of the lucky ones that have sunshine and warm weather all winter long? Please like my post and subscribe to my blog, share it with your friends, family and co-workers as well. I’d be most grateful!
During these cold, blustery winter days, please keep your bird feeders filled-the birds will thank you. Stay warm, and Happy Birding! ~Karen