What lake effect looks like in WeatherSpork

With the winter just around the corner, you can bet the Great Lakes ice machine is starting to warm up its rusty engine.  This will be the first opportunity since WeatherSpork was released in March for fellow Sporkies to see how well it handles the great ice maker this coming winter.  Here’s a sneak peek…imagine you are flying from Quebec Jean-Lesage Airport (CYQB) to Buffalo, NY (KBUF) via Watertown, NY (KART).   Notice below on the WeatherSpork Map view the route takes you through the western edge of an icing G-AIRMET just downwind of Lake Ontario.  The route is mostly VFR, but marginal VFR conditions prevail around Watertown.

Perhaps the best way to visualize the icing threat along this route is through the WeatherSpork Route Profile view depicted below. Many lake effect events tend to top out at about 12,000 to 15,000 feet with solid clouds through that depth.  Athough there’s not a lot of precipitation expected, this event fits nicely into that range with tops around 11,000 feet MSL.

In the Route Profile view clouds are depicted by the solid white rectangles with the freezing level depicted by the dotted blue line.  You can expect temperatures warmer than 0°C below the blue dotted line and temperatures colder than 0°C above the blue dotted line.  Also depicted on the Route Profile is the Icing G-AIRMET by the blue dash-dot rectangles.

This makes it extremely easy to see that an IFR flight at 8,000 feet would place you in visible moisture at fairly warm subfreezing temperatures…perfect for finding supercooled liquid water.  It’s clear from this view that flying at perhaps 12,000 or 14,000 feet will keep you above this icing hazard with a good opportunity to descend into Buffalo just after Rochester, NY.

Notice below from the WeatherSpork Imagery view that there were several reports of light or trace icing near that route between 7,000 and 10,000 feet MSL.

Moreover, the Current Icing Product (CIP) from the WeatherSpork Imagery view shown below depicts a widespread area of light to moderate icing at 7,000 feet MSL and includes a circular area of supercooled LARGE drop (SLD) icing as well (for an explanation of that, please see What the SLD potential analysis won’t tell you).

All in all, expect this kind of event to rear its ugly head over the next several months.  Using WeatherSpork will make your future encounters with the Great Lakes icing machine much easier this winter.

“Most pilots are weatherwise, but some are otherwise.”

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer
Co-founder, WeatherSpork

Scott Dennstaedt

View posts by Scott Dennstaedt
CFI and former NWS research meteorologist. Founder of AvWxWorkshops.com and co-founder of WeatherSpork
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