Lake Effect Clouds In October?

Posted at 4:47 PM, Oct 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-13 16:47:20-04

WEST MICHIGAN – When Meteorologists talk about lake effect, most people probably automatically think snow. But that’s not always the case. Lake effect clouds and lake effect rain are also possible in addition to the usual snow everyone hears so much about.

The attached visible satellite image shows a band of lake effect clouds coming off Lake Michigan on Sunday with some slightly cooler air aloft. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, if there is at least a 13 degree temperature difference between the water and air aloft, some form of lake effect can take place. The 13 degrees is not made up. Years of scientific study shows that 13 is the magic number (and the least difference) to start the lake effect machine in motion.

Perhaps you can compare it to the temperature at which water freezes. It occurs at 32…period. The colder the better, but it takes at least 32 degrees for water to make the phase change from liquid to solid. The reason I point this out is because we are anticipating more lake effect and lake enhancement later this week. As our upper level fast-moving jet stream winds dip south over the Great Lakes and form a trough, cooler air will pour in to the region. The air is easily cold enough (below freezing actually) about 5,000 feet above the surface later this week. With Lake Michigan water temperatures still holding in the upper 50s and low 60s, you can see the temperature difference between the two will be far greater than 13 degrees. That means lake effect clouds and lake effect precipitation in the form of rain showers. It will probably still be too warm for snow, although some of our forecast models are trying to hint at a few wet snow flakes mixing in the higher elevations up north. Not to worry…we’re not looking for accumulations!

Forget the sunshine and 70s this week. After Monday, a more unsettled fall pattern arrives with it cold enough for Lake Michigan to be a player in our forecast. Highs may not make it out of the 40s later this week. Get the complete forecast