Midwest, Great Lakes in for a Cold, Snowy Winter

October 23, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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AccuWeather.com Expert Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi is forecasting rough winter conditions across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions.

Bastardi indicates areas of the Great Lakes and Northern Plains could have the worst of this winter's snow and cold. This includes cities in the Midwest, such as Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis.

Additionally, cities normally affected by lake effect snow could see more than usual this year for a number of reasons.

"I think the Great Lakes, interestingly enough, while they may not be that cold, may have a heck of a lot of snow this year from big synoptic scale storms," he said.

La Niña will make synoptic, or large-scale, storm systems more prevalent in the northern half of the country.

During a La Niña winter, the southern jet stream moves northward, channeling more storms and cold snaps into the northern half of the country.

Additionally, the above-average summer in the Midwest warmed the Great Lakes more than average. Currently, the lake temperatures are slightly above normal, according to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek.

Warm lake water creates a higher probability of lake effect snow. For lake effect snow to occur, there needs to be a large enough difference between the temperature of the lake and that of the air above it.

This much colder picks up water vapor as it travels across the warmer lake water, in turn dumping large amounts of snow on areas of the Upper Peninsula, western Michigan and western and northern New York state.

The warmer lake temperature factor will dwindle as the autumn gives way to colder winter conditions.

Prime lake effect season is November through early January before the lakes begin to freeze, so predicted cold conditions November and December could create a lake effect mess for many places.

"Simply put, the colder it is, the less warm the lakes need to be for lake effect conditions," Dombek said.

Alberta Clippers, fast-moving storms that mainly affect the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, could also add to the mix.

While Alberta Clippers are not large snow makers, a shot of cold air in a clipper's wake could spell trouble, as it could create more lake effect snow as the air travels over water.

Be sure to check out Joe Bastardi's complete 2010-11 Winter Forecast and check back with AccuWeather.com through the coming weeks as we continue to forecast the upcoming winter conditions.

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