I woke up this morning to a beautiful view. From my living room window it appeared that I was looking out into a snow-globe. An inside-out snow-globe.
We were experiencing one of my favorite local weather phenomena called “lake effect snow”. We live within a few miles of Lake Michigan. Because of our location, we are privy to the Lake’s amazing array of diverse weather magic.
Merriam Webster’s definition of lake effect snow : a meteorological phenomenon in which warm moist air rising from a body of water mixes with cold dry air overhead resulting in precipitation especially downwind. Basically, when the wind is off the lake, we get a lot of snow. Buffalo, NY is famous for their heavy lake effect snows. We don’t get it as often a they do since we usually have winds from the west and the
Lake is to our east. Lake effect snow for Milwaukee requires winds from the east/north-east; off and across the Lake.
Lake Michigan is such a large mass of water that it is very moderating with our temperatures. We often experience temperatures that are cooler near the lake in summer and warmer in the winter. I have been caught in May in shorts and a sleeveless shirt, leaving a western area of the county that was 75 degrees, to head to the lake shore and find that I’m freezing in 55 degrees. The lake holds the cold in the spring like it holds the warmth in the fall and into winter.
There is a band of geography within a few miles of the lake that enjoys a warmer USDA hardiness zone. Most of Milwaukee county is in zone 5b, whereas the surrounding counties are in 5a.
This enables some locations to support less hardy fruits like peaches, or ornamental plants like rhododendrons and azaleas. I think that the lake also takes the oomph out of the big thunderstorms in the summer. They often weaken by the time they get to us.
Meteorology lesson aside, this morning the snow was perfect.
The flakes were huge. Remember cutting snowflakes out of paper as a kid? You could see the individual structure of each flake. The amount of wind was just enough to keep them swirling in a storybook fashion. I stood by the window, coffee in hand, mesmerized by the dancing, floating crystal structures. A touch of sun would occasionally break through the clouds and they would glint and make me squint. I was sure that any minute, as they settled on the ground, pudgy fat kid fingers would grab my windows and my world would suddenly be turned upside-down and shook to send the flakes all floating again. I watched and waited. Enjoying the moments that I was inside the inside-out snow-globe.