Lake Effect Snow Warnings To Make A Return This Winter

JAMESTOWN – The National Weather Service is reversing its decision on the elimination of Lake Effect Snow Warnings across the Great Lakes region. The Warning will be reinstated into the Watch, Warning, and Advisory system starting this winter season.

In 2018, the national headquarters of the NWS decided to eliminate Lake Effect Snow Warning from the WWA system, in favor of combining lake effect snow into Winter Storm Warnings. In 2017, the NWS removed Lake Effect Snow Watches and Advisories and combined them with the existing Winter Storm Watch and Winter Weather Advisory respectfully. The changes were made as part of an on-going program within the NWS called “Hazard Simplification”.

For many decades, the WWA system has been the NWS’ way of alerting the public of impeding weather hazards. However, recent social science studies have revealed some confusion relating to the definition of the various terms and products within the WWA system. The Haz Simp project is aimed at eliminating that confusion by making adjustments to the current system, and/or rethinking the entire system from scratch.

The “Periodic Table Of Products” is a graphic made by NWS meteorologist Andy Horvitz that shows the complexity of the current WWA system

Over the past couple of years, the NWS has collected public feedback on proposed changes to current WWA products, such as consolidating and eliminating certain products and reformatting the text structure of issued products. When the decision was made to group lake effect snow into Winter Storm Watch/Warning products and retire the standalone Lake Effect products, some people felt that was a step in the wrong direction as it made it even more confusing to decipher between the two.

Lake effect is totally different than a winter storm. In a typical winter storm scenario, the effects are felt over a wide area. Lake effect, on the other hand, is very localized. The weather can vary in as little as a few miles.

This change garnered some criticism from broadcasters and the general public over the past couple of years. The good news is the NWS heard you loud and clear. The “new” Lake Effect Snow Warning will be added back into the WWA system on Oct. 1.


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