BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – On November 30, Lake Erie’s water temperature at Buffalo was measured at 40 degrees. That was the coldest reading on that date since 1976, when the lake was 38 degrees.
The lake was cooled dramatically by the polar airmass that led to this past November’s historic lake effect snow. This means that the lake is primed, ready to freeze once a cold enough air mass returns. There can be pros and cons to an iced-over Lake Erie. Once the lake begins freezing over, lake effect snow events become noticeably less intense, and are eventually shut off.
On the other side, the last time the lake was colder than this on November 30, the lake froze over very early, and this led to the Blizzard of 1977.
However, that winter there were many other factors that led to the blizzard, and the odds of seeing a similar scenerio this winter are very unlikely.
In fact, long range models indicate that there is no sign of winter getting worse any time soon. As mild Pacific air will be flowing across the nation much of this month, the climate prediction center is forecasting seasonable to above average temperatures through mid-December. While brief shots of cold are still possible, no prolonged period of arctic air is expected at least through the middle of the month.
Although substantial freezing is not expected to begin until late in the month, the fact that the lake water is so cold will still play a part in making any future lake effect storms this year less potent. The smaller the difference between the water temperature and the air temperature, the less intense lake effect events will be.
Lake Erie being this cold this early should not be a red flag. Aside from last month’s storm, it’s also a combination of a brutally cold winter last year, a late Spring, and a relatively cool Summer.