So What’s with the White Stuff in Gaylord?

Posted on January 18th, 2019

The Skinny on Gaylord’s Snow from Jim Keysor of the National Weather Service

snow-elevation-graphicThere are myriad ways our region stands out, though our most well-known attribute may just be the heaping helping of white stuff we receive each winter. And we mean lots of snow— the fluffiest, most amazing kind of snow you can hope for, whether you’re in the mood for snowmobiling, skiing or snowshoeing. Even simply strolling the shops downtown takes on a winter wonderland and magical feel with snowflakes softly falling all around.
Just how much are we talking? You can count on the sky unloading up to 142 wonderful white inches. Thank you, Mother Nature. Of course, we must give props to our super-central, tip-of-the-mitt geographic position that ensures a plethora of lake-effect snow.

“In a typical winter, probably 70 percent of the snow that Gaylord receives would be lake-effect snow,” notes Jim Keysor, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service here in Gaylord. In other words, two Great Lakes—Superior and Michigan—play integral roles in boosting the snowfall in our area. How so exactly? “The process of lake-effect snowfall, and
rainfall, is the process of cold air moving across an unfrozen body of water … and we normally
have a wind direction that blows from north and northwest that brings the air across the Lakes
into our area,” Keysor explains.

Mostly, this is air coming across Lake Michigan. But this weather phenomenon—
meteorologists calls it “fetch”—also occurs on Lake Superior to the north and typically affects
the Gaylord area several times a winter.

“A lot of our big-snow events involve both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The air actually
begins to pick up moisture in Lake Superior, and those are our biggest events,” Keysor notes.

“We can also thank our elevation—Gaylord sits at one of the highest points of northern Lower
Michigan—for the awesome amounts of powder-like snowfall.”

Keysor describes it like this: imagine air full of moisture coming inland and hitting a hill
or higher elevation area. At that point, snowfall and rainfall are intense, as though the
atmosphere is wringing out a sponge.

Better yet for all you snow-lovers: the white stuff just keeps coming, all season long. This is
due in part to our prevailing northwest winds.

“It’s very unusual here to go for any length of time where we don’t have snow cover,” says
Keysor, who has worked as a meteorologist in cities all around the country. “That makes
Gaylord unique in that regard.”

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