How Could Future Climate Conditions Reshape a Devastating Lake-Effect Snow Storm?

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Lake-effect snow (LES) storms, characterized by heavy convective precipitation downwind of large lakes, pose significant coastal hazards with severe socioeconomic consequences in vulnerable areas. In this study, we investigate how devastating LES storms could evolve in the future by employing a storyline approach, using the LES storm that occurred over Buffalo, New York, in November 2022 as an example. Using a Pseudo-Global Warming method with a fully three-dimensional two-way coupled lake-land-atmosphere modeling system at a cloud-resolving 4 km resolution, we show a 14% increase in storm precipitation under the end-century warming. This increase in precipitation is accompanied by a transition in the precipitation form from predominantly snowfall to nearly equal parts snowfall and rainfall. Through additional simulations with isolated atmospheric and lake warming, we discerned that the warmer lake contributes to increased storm precipitation through enhanced evaporation while the warmer atmosphere contributes to the increase in the storm's rainfall, at the expense of snowfall. More importantly, this shift from snowfall to rainfall was found to nearly double the area experiencing another winter hazard, Rain-on-Snow. Our study provides a plausible future storyline for the Buffalo LES storm, focusing on understanding the intricate interplay between atmospheric and lake warming in shaping the future dynamics of LES storms. It emphasizes the importance of accurately capturing the changing lake-atmosphere dynamics during LES storms under future warming.

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Earth's Future