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July-August 2012

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The Discovery of Lake Effect Snow

When they think of snow, most New Yorkers think of cities like Buffalo, Oswego, and Syracuse, which regularly register massive snowfall totals, at least for areas east of the Rockies. For example, a late January 1966 storm dumped eight and one-half feet of snow on Oswego and closed 348 miles of the New York Thruway, where 1,500 stranded motorists sought shelter at a single service area. And in February 1972, when the annual Eastern Snow Conference met at Oswego, the 100 attendees were treated to a several feet of snow in a “blizzard burst” that trapped one-third of them in the city for an extra two days. Well before the conference returned to Oswego in 1992, organizers had prudently moved the meeting to late spring. Annual totals are equally impressive. In 2010–2011 Syracuse registered snowfall just 13.1 inches short of the record 192.1 inches measured in 1992–1993.

MARK MONMONIER is Distinguished Professor of Geography in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

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