18th Conference on Weather and Forecasting, 14th Conference on Numerical Weather Prediction, and Ninth Conference on Mesoscale Processes

Monday, 30 July 2001
A numerical simulation of a rare lake-effect snowfall in Western Nevada
Mary M. Cairns, NOAA/NWS, Reno, NV; and J. Corey and D. R. Koracin
The state capitol of Nevada, Carson City, experienced a rare lake-effect snowfall during the first week of November 2000. Within a two-day period, over 53 cm (23 in) of snow fell in Carson City as a result of lake effects from Lake Tahoe, CA. Several surrounding smaller lakes in western Nevada experienced up to 25 cm (10 in) of lake-effect snow during the same time period.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Reno, Nevada, some whose experience covers over 25 years in the local area, had never experienced such an event. Lake effect snow is typical in the Northeast over the Great Lakes, as well as over the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake are considerably smaller in size, but were able to produce significant snowfall during the three-day period.

These mesoscale events present a challenge to the Reno office. The forecasters had access to high-resolution numerical guidance during the event, a local 15-km MM5 model and a 12-km workstation-version of the Eta model. Even with the use of these tools the forecasters did not realize the potential of the lake-effects.

This paper presents a numerical model simulation of the lake-snow event using the Pennsylvania State University/National Center for Atmospheric Research Fifth-Generation mesoscale Model (MM5). The Reno NWS has access to local observations of winds, temperature, and precipitation information from a variety of state and federal sources, including Alert stations, air pollution networks, and private mesonets. This data will be used in the numerical model simulation for model initialization and evaluation. Previous studies with the MM5 in Western Nevada have pointed to needing resolutions of 3-5km to capture mesoscale events. The MM5 for this event will be run at two resolutions: 3- and 6-km. Results of the simulation and evaluation of model performance during this event will be shown.

Companion papers on this event have been submitted to the 18th Conference on Weather Analysis and Forecasting. These include "Lake Effect Snowfall in Western Nevada Part I: Synoptic Setting and Observations" by Cairns et al., and "Lake Effect Snowfall in Western Nevada Part II: Radar Characteristics and QPE" by Huggins et al.

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