Watch for lake effect snowfalls the rest of this month

As the cold artic air takes a grip on the region its interaction with Lake Superior will be interesting to watch. Lake surface waters range from 33 to 36 degrees F, so they will give up plenty of water vapor to the dry, overlying polar air. This will lead to some lake effect snows on the surrounding landscape, including some of the Minnesota north shore locations. Historically some of these snowfalls have been enormous. The historic cold of February 1936 brought a 22 inch lake effect snowfall to Grand Marais. Likewise the historic cold of January 1967 brought lake effect snowfall ranging from 11 to 20 inches along the north shore over January 5th and 7th. More recently bitter cold during January of 1996 brought 15 to 21 inch lake effect snowfalls to north shore areas over the 16th to the 20th, and in 2005 anywhere from 13 to 30 inches of lake effect snowfall occurred over the 4th week of January. The all-time lake enhanced snowfall was recorded at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning center near Finland in Lake County when they measured 45 inches over January 6th and 7th 1994.

We’ll see if such amounts are in store for northeastern Minnesota over the next week or so.

  • Dave Bartels


    Thanks for your contributions.

    Am I right in concluding that lake effect snows don’t do much of anything for the lake levels (in Superior for example)? The water involved in the storm is simply making a rather short round trip from the lake to the very near atmosphere, and than back down within the the watershed of its contributing body of water.

    We’d really rather see a storm with moisture sweeping up from the gulf, right?