For Central New York Residents, lake effect snow is just a part of life but to scientists it's a fascinating phenomenon meant to be studied. That's what brought a group of University of Utah Students to Oswego County this winter. Our Candace Hopkins has details on their six week stay, and how they hope to improve the way lake effect forecasts are developed.
REDFIELD, N.Y. -- "When it was snowing like four inches an hour for a little while the other day we were all screaming and high five-ing and having the time of our lives, it's what we live for as meteorologists," said Jim Steenburgh, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah.
They're self-admitted snow lovers. That's why they've come to one of the only places in the world where you can experience the intense rate of snow fall that comes with lake effect systems. And they want to learn more about better predicting what these storms will do.
"Meteorologists are pretty good at predicting when lake effect is going to happen now under most circumstances, but figuring out how strong it's going to be and exactly where it is, that's really the challenge, that kind of pinpoint forecasting," said Steenburgh.
The research is part of the OWLeS Project. That stands for "Ontario Winter Lake Effect Systems". Meteorology students take measurements every six hours during storms. They have a sophisticated snow monitoring system behind a home in Redfield, and other stations throughout the area.
They're using doppler on wheels machines, that allow them to peer up into the storms, instruments that measure how fast it's snowing and the water content of the snow, and weather balloons measure the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere.
"Hopefully we can find out some really new things about lake effect snow and how it works and what's going on in the clouds where the snow is produced, it kinda of gets under your skin, if you're someone who loves the snow this is a pretty cool place," said University of Utah Grad Student Peter Veals.
And the students are walking away with hands on experience, that simply can't be duplicated in a classroom.
Those students have plenty of snow to study. The latest numbers from the National Weather Service show 58 inches of snow falling in Redfield since Tuesday. Students from SUNY Oswego, the University of Albany and several other colleges are also participating in the project.