Wide-open Lake Ontario waters keep lake-effect machine churning

Just ask the Oswego County community of Redfield, which received 15 inches more snow since Thursday and passed the 300-inch mark for seasonal snowfall.

Lake Ontario’s surface area, 7,340 square miles, is just three-quarters the size of its sister to the southwest, Lake Erie, which is 9,910 square miles, so what gives?

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and it’s the first to freeze in the winter. (Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

Ontario’s depth and geographic location in the southern half of the Great Lakes basin helps keeps its water warmer and open on the lake even during the coldest of winters.

At its deepest point in the “Rochester Basin” on Lake Ontario’s eastern end, the lake bottom at 802 feet, is about four times deeper than the deepest depth of Lake Erie, 210 feet, near Long Point, Ont.

And, Lake Ontario’s average depth of 283 feet, is second in among the Great Lakes to only Lake Superior.

Its water temperature off Rochester Friday was 34 degrees. Lake Erie’s temperature reached 32 degrees at Buffalo Harbor on Jan. 2 and has stayed there.

A band of heavy lake-effect snow arches over Lake Ontario just before 11 a.m. Thursday. It brought several inches of snow to Oswego. (NASA/NOAA)

Thursday’s data from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory also shows Lake Ontario remained the least frozen of all of the Great Lakes.

It was only about 16 percent frozen compared to Lake Erie, 90 percent; Lake Huron, 64 percent; Lake Superior, 56 percent; and Lake Michigan, 39 percent.

It’s a tale of two lakes in upstate New York. Lake Erie is nearly entirely covered in ice, while Lake Ontario remains wide open. (GLERL)

A swath of heavy snow will fall from Montana through Iowa into Ohio over the next few days. Winter Storm Warnings continue from the High Plains to Lake Erie. Some areas may see up to a foot of fresh snowfall.

A front extends along the Rockies Mountains through the Central Plains into the Ohio Valley. A series of low pressure centers riding along the front will produce the heavy snow. Accumulations will likely continue into the weekend.

Snow will continue to fall through tonight into Friday from the Plains to the western Great Lakes. 8″ to 12″ are possible, especially near Lake Michigan.

Snowfall will extend eastward to areas near Lake Erie throughout Friday. Accumulations will push into the Northeast this weekend.


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