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Simulation of Heavy Lake-Effect Snowstorms across the Great Lakes Basin by RegCM4: Synoptic Climatology and Variability

TitleSimulation of Heavy Lake-Effect Snowstorms across the Great Lakes Basin by RegCM4: Synoptic Climatology and Variability
Publication TypeManual Entry
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsNotaro, Michael, Azar Zarrin, Steve Vavrus, and Val Bennington
Date PublishedJUN
Place Published45 BEACON ST, BOSTON, MA 02108-3693 USA
Type of ArticleArticle

A historical simulation (1976-2002) of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics Regional Climate Model, version 4 (ICTP RegCM4), coupled to a one-dimensional lake model, is validated against observed lake ice cover and snowfall across the Great Lakes Basin. The model reproduces the broad temporal and spatial features of both variables in terms of spatial distribution, seasonal cycle, and interannual variability, including climatological characteristics of lake-effect snowfall, although the simulated ice cover is overly extensive largely due to the absence of lake circulations. A definition is introduced for identifying heavy lake-effect snowstorms in regional climate model output for all grid cells in the Great Lakes Basin, using criteria based on location, wind direction, lake ice cover, and snowfall. Simulated heavy lake-effect snowstorms occur most frequently downwind of the Great Lakes, particularly to the east of Lake Ontario and to the east and south of Lake Superior, and are most frequent in December-January. The mechanism for these events is attributed to an anticyclone over the central United States and related cold-air outbreak for areas downwind of Lakes Ontario and Erie, in contrast to a nearby cyclone over the Great Lakes Basin and associated cold front for areas downwind of Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan.

Citation Key1594
Community Notes

from the text:

"In the current study, a 25-km RCM with an interactive lake module is applied to examine heavy lake-effect snowstorms in the GLB. Spatial and temporal patterns of simulated snowfall and lake ice are evaluated against observations, including characteristics of their seasonal cycle and interannual variability. A definition for identifying simulated heavy lake-effect snowstorms is developed, based on fundamental concepts of lake-effect snowfall from former studies, and applied to produce a climatology of these cold season extreme events. The mechanisms behind these heavy lake-effect snowstorms are explored in the RCM and observations. "