When frigid air streamed over the relatively warm waters of Lake Erie this week, a “lake effect” snow event for the ages unfolded in the Buffalo area, with up to 88 inches of snow.
This historic event has raised the question whether the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore region could get snow from cold air passing over the Chesapeake Bay. The answer is no, but “Bay effect” snow can and does sometimes occur in southeast Virginia. The reason is simple geography.
Typically, the Bay Effect snow events only produce light amounts of snow because the Bay is narrow, providing limited real estate for bands to grow and then dump snow.Thank goodness!
But couldn’t the D.C. and Baltimore areas get “Bay effect” snow if there was a strong wind from the south moving up the Bay?
No. When the Mid-Atlantic has strong winds from the south, air temperatures are almost always above freezing – so snow is a non-starter. Furthermore, the air temperature must be substantially colder than the water temperature for either lake or Bay effect snow to develop.