On Christmas day the city of Erie, PA shattered it’s single day snowfall total when more that 34 inches of snow fell in just 24 hours. The city, which is under a snow emergency, has receive 60.5 inches of snow since 7 p.m. EST Christmas Eve – more than five feet of snow – in 48 hours. If Erie picks up just four more inches, it will officially set the record for the snowiest December ever recorded in Pennsylvania.
This historic event is largely due to Lake effect snow. Cold air moving over warm waters allows lake effect snowstorms to produce such huge amounts of snow. Lake effect snow is most common in November and December when there’s a lot of open water on the Great Lakes. As winter wears on and the lakes freeze over, moisture for these storms disappear. Ice only covers 3 percent of the Great Lakes as of Saturday but a coming Arctic blast could cause them to rapidly freeze up in the coming weeks, shutting down the lake effect snow season.