How far can a lake breeze boundary really go?

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Living in Western New York means we’re no stranger to the influences Lake Ontario can have on our local weather and climate. From lake effect snow to lake breezes, the lake can provide vastly different weather just miles down the road. This time we’re focusing on a phenomenon that happens during the spring and summer seasons; the lake breeze.

A lake breeze can be defined as a local change in wind that blows from water to land (typically from a lake or ocean) caused by the temperature differences between them. This happens because of their differences in specific heat.

Lake breezes play a large role in our weather here in Rochester as they can have a dramatic effect on temperatures during the day depending on your distance away from the lake. On a calm, sunny day, temperatures can easily warm into the 70s in Rochester and areas south, while lakeside is stuck in the 50s all day long.

We know how the lake breeze can keep certain areas cooler, but have you ever wondered how far the lake breeze can go? There isn’t an exact science to it, but it helps to look at elevation. It also depends on how strong the synoptic, or large scale wind flow is blowing in the opposite direction. You need calm winds for this micro-scale circulation to occur in the first place, but if there’s enough wind coming from the south it can limit the extent of the breeze that the lake can generate.

You can typically find the lake breeze extending about 10 miles or so away from the lake on a good day. If it’s strong enough, it can be felt as far south as into parts of Rochester. Once you start approaching the thruway, the lake breeze usually has reached its limit. The influence of the lake breeze can become blocked when it meets hills that act like a barrier to the wind the farther south you go. The difference between just Rochester and Canandaigua is over 200 feet in elevation sitting around 10 miles apart.

Did you know?

Lake Breezes often create a “lake shadow” where sunny skies prevail out over the water and inland before a field of cumulus develop. This occurs when daytime heating bubbles up convection (clouds) as the cool air crosses over the lake and onto the warm land.

Lake breezes can also produce showers and thunderstorms from this convection. Read about how HERE.

Will we see the lake breeze this week in weather? Click HERE for your local forecast.

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory

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