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Don Paul: Multiple snow events on the way for Buffalo-Niagara area

Don Paul: Multiple snow events on the way for Buffalo-Niagara area

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Even well in advance of a weekend system, a narrow band of lake-effect snow set up Friday from east to west close to the Lake Ontario shoreline, tied to a brisk east-northeast breeze.

This band will become more of a factor over land at times as we head into Saturday, for several inches of lake snow in northernmost Niagara and Orleans counties.

Lake Ontario is wide open, as is more common, because it is a deep lake that seldom develops nearly as much ice as does shallow Lake Erie. On Thursday, enough clearing opened up to get a better view from NASA’s MODIS satellite of Lake Erie, where some of Wednesday’s slush ice had been pushed toward the icy shore ice.

Obviously, being a shallow lake, Lake Erie is far in the lead for ice cover. Despite the cold, the Buffalo Lake Erie temperature is holding at 33 degrees. Over the years, its average by now is down to 32.

An extended period of freezing temperatures has caused the ice cover to expand rapidly on Lake Erie. Only a sliver of water remains open, caused by icebreaking activity in the Buffalo Harbor. Here's how it looks in a view from #BNDrone as of Feb. 10, 2020.

Some very modest widespread synoptic snow is headed our way during the weekend, with Lake Ontario enhancement adding to the totals in places like Youngstown, Olcott, Newfane, Wilson and other shoreline communities. While the Buffalo National Weather Service snow totals map doesn’t display this narrow area, some models are picking up on the lake effect.

With the projected path of this weak weekend system, areas closer to the Pennsylvania line should pick up a little less, as seen in the NWS graphic. Much of the Saturday daytime hours will be dry in most places, but some of the high-resolution models do pick up on the Lake Ontario influence by mid or late afternoon, along with a brisk ENE breeze of 12-20 mph providing a noticeable wind chill.

The more widespread snow will fall mainly Saturday night, with just enough accumulation to produce some slick spots, and a bit more near Lake Ontario.

The synoptic snow will wind down Sunday morning. The day will feel a little less harsh with less wind chill than on Saturday, and temperatures edging up from Saturday’s breezy low 20s to the mid 20s. Here are some modeled snow totals. It’s safe to say there are no indications the weekend snow will be anything approaching a major event. I’m glad of this, since I’ll be working the weekend evening shift at WIVB with five months of graphics cobwebs somewhere beneath my skull.

The next synoptic snow event will carry some more weight, from an area of low pressure passing by to our south. Preceding that primary low, a trough of low pressure will likely bring periods of light snow later Sunday night into Monday, which may cause some slick spots for the Monday morning commute. The main storm system heads across southern PA Monday night into Tuesday morning. The American GFS model is several hours faster than the European ECMWF model in bringing more synoptic snow back to our region Monday night into Tuesday morning. At least moderate accumulations are likely in a fast-moving system.

Because of the speed of the low, preliminary modeled snowfall estimates are far from overwhelming. If the storm were to slow down, amounts would be heavier.

This unsettled pattern persists through next week, with still another storm system approaching by Thursday evening into Friday, as seen in the ECMWF. It should be noted the GFS actually brings some milder air into this next low, which would bring us mixed precipitation, rather than the all-snow ECMWF solution seen here.

Next week, high temperatures will generally be in the low 20s Monday and Tuesday, edging up to the upper 20s by Thursday, and are projected to head up to near 30 by the NWS Weather Prediction Center during passage of that late week storm system.

The snow cover will continue to increase during the next seven days, as it will be cold enough to keep what we’ve got. In the meantime, I’m seeing reports of the best snowmobiling conditions we’ve seen around here in some time. Heading into the weekend, ski conditions continue to get better and better. The resorts won’t pick up much natural snow this weekend, but snowmaking conditions will remain excellent. The Monday night-Tuesday system has the potential to bring more significant natural snow in ski country.

During the following week, signs continue to point to some relaxation in the cold. The polar vortex will retreat somewhat farther to the north, with the blocking warm ridge over Greenland which helped force it southward moving off to the east. The upper air pattern over North America at that time favors less of a polar connection.

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