Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Mountains and Lake-Effect Snow
By Jim S
Did you ever wonder what all the mountains around the Great Salt Lake do to lake effect? Trevor Alcott and I have a paper on this subject that was accepted and was released today in early online format by the American Meteorological Society journal Monthly Weather Review. You can find a summary of the article on the University of Utah web site or, for those of you on campus or with a subscription to the American Meteorological Society journals, the full article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-12-00328.1. The National Science Foundation and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sponsored the research.
A key finding for skiers is that we need to mow down the mountains northwest of the Great Salt Lake. Drying and warming of northwesterly flow in the lee of those mountains makes for weaker lake-effect storms. We'd be much better off if cold air over the Snake River Plain could penetrate directly into the Great Salt Lake Basin. On the other hand, the funneling of flow into the Salt Lake Valley can strengthen some lake-effect storms, not only over the mountains but also over the southern Great Salt Lake and Salt Lake valley. This topographic effect doesn't always play a role, but it can have a strong influence on some events.