Ask Storm Team 11: What causes varying snowfall amounts in our region?

Ask Storm Team 11


Tuesday’s Ask Storm Team 11 question came from Cory Gibson. He asked: “Why do the mountains usually get more snow?”

There are a couple reasons. One is more obvious given the fact that temperatures usually cool off quicker in the higher elevations, which supports a longer period of snowfall. The ground is colder longer and more snow can accumulate.

In a lot of cases, it also has to do with wind direction as was the case for our first snow of the season, which occurred yesterday and earlier today.

We had enough moisture in place as cold air started coming in to produce snow showers across the region. However, a northwest wind flow typically leads to some overachieving snowfall amounts in the mountains because of what we call an upslope flow, or orographic lift, on the northern and western facing peaks.

The wind runs perpendicular to the mountains meaning the air rises over the mountains and as it does so, it cools and condenses leading to more precipitation, and in this case, snowfall there.

In turn, on the other side of the mountains, less precipitation occurs as the air dries out.

You can also get even heftier snows in the mountains when the moisture traveling along the northwest flow originates from the Great Lakes.

Have a question for Storm Team 11? Click here to submit!

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