James WX Blog: The lake breeze, back at it again


It’s this time of year when the lake breeze becomes almost an annoyance to those along the shores of Lake Ontario. Grass is turning brown, temperatures are dropping, and the on-shore flow persists. If you live north of Ridge Road, you know what I’m talking about.

That breeze that kicks up off Lake Ontario on most clear and sunny days and can not only drop temperatures more than ten degrees, but create a “shadow” that prevents from any rain developing.

Here’s where the meteorology comes in. It’s simply the difference between warm and cool air and those trying to balance each other out. When the sun comes up on a warm August day, it heats the ground much quicker than it heats the lake because water has a much higher specific heat than land. That difference in temperature creates a thermal low over land. Colder air is a bit more dense so it spreads out toward that thermal low, and hence an “on shore flow.”

This happened Tuesday when we saw showers and storms form in the afternoon well inland of Lake Ontario. Some of those storms were pretty strong. We often see rising motion where the lake breeze moves in and clashes with whatever air mass is already sitting over, for example, the Finger Lakes. It basically acts as a cold front!

Find a deeper explanation here.

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