Totally Insane! Buffalo Suburbs May Have Set a Record for 24-Hour Snowfall in a Populated Area

By Tom Yulsman | November 19, 2014 2:03 am
insane

NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this view of clouds streaming across Lake Erie toward Buffalo and Erie County, New York on Tuesday— where they dumped gargantuan amounts of snow. (Source: NASA)

The national record for snowfall in a 24-hour period is 76 inches, up in the mountains of Colorado. Some suburbs of Buffalo approached that amount on Tuesday — “possibly the highest 24hr snow in a populated area,” the National Weather Service Tweeted late Tuesday night.

Unfortunately, four people have lost their lives as a result of the snow.

And it’s not over yet! As I’m writing this early Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service is forecasting more snow well into the day — and then even more through Thursday night:

ACCUMULATIONS...5 TO 10 INCHES OVERNIGHT...UP TO 2 INCHES WEDNESDAY. HIGHEST TOTALS 5 TO 6 FEET FROM LACKAWANNA TO LANCASTER AND ELMA FROM THE FIRST STORM ENDING ON WEDNESDAY.

ADDITIONAL ACCUMULATIONS OF UP TO 2 FEET IN THE SECOND STORM LATE WEDNESDAY NIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY NIGHT IN PERSISTENT BANDS.THE HEAVIEST AMOUNTS MAY AGAIN FOCUS ON THE BUFFALO SOUTHTOWNS.

It has been a classic lake effect snowfall — but on steroids this time.

Two ingredients have come together to create this insane amount of snowfall, according to the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS): cold arctic air, with surface temperatures in the upper teens and lower 20’s, flowing across the waters of Lake Erie, which were still as warm as the middle 40’s.

Cold air cannot hold much of the water vapor it picks up from warm waters, so it condenses, forming clouds. The prevailing westerly winds blow the clouds toward western New York, where the moisture falls as snow in the cold temperatures.

You can see that effect quite clearly in the image at the top of this post, captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Tuesday. Note the thick but relatively narrow band of clouds streaming across Lake Erie.

Here’s a timelapse video showing what it looked like on the ground as snow squalls moved off the lake and into the southern part of the city:

And here’s what the stream of moisture flowing across Lake Erie looked like from space:

insane

An animation of images from the GOES-13 weather satellite shows large lake effect cloud bands over both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. (Source: CIMSS)

This animation of weather satellite images shows large bands of lake effect snow over both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. “The band over Lake Erie was nearly stationary for several hours, producing snowfall rates as high as 4 inches per hour at some locations,” according to the CIMSS.

Straight up ridiculous indeed!

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  • razster

    We here in Cali could use some of that…

    • Carol Manglos

      Come and get it!!!

      • Tom Yulsman

        Carol: Do you live in the Buffalo area and if so, have you been affected by the snow? I’m going to follow up on this story today or tomorrow and I’m looking to publish photos, so let me know if you have any. You can reach me at tom.yulsman@colorado.edu. (And btw, my wife is from Grand Island!)

        • Carol Manglos

          I live in Syracuse, and until tonight (just a dusting) we have had NO snow! It’s all localized to the Buffalo area lake-effect snow, so it really doesn’t extend too much beyond that. I do have a pic of what we’ve gotten, but it’s nothing, really. Hope that helps.

          • Tom Yulsman

            Thank you Carol! I think I’ve got what I need now. And I hope the snow holds off in Syracuse, at least for awhile. But we both know it’s coming at some point. (I went to SUNY-Binghamton, and I have vivid memories of what happened just a tad farther north…)

  • CrowdAlbum

    You can see 1000+ dramatic photos from Buffalo residents trapped in the snow! http://www.crowdalbum.com/album/546c12a81f68ef5ba0000d81/Buffalo-Snowvember2014_20141118

  • Buddy199
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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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