Researching Lake Effect 930in716 February 6, 2018

Tuesday, February 6th

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Her. It's 9:30. PM 716. Lake effect snow on the podcast everywhere and here in Western New York knows how lake effect snow impacts us. And then. Being able to understand how lake effect snowfall will behave in a warmer world in the future. That says. It's gonna be really useful for us to be making predictions. I'm Tim Wenger and the podcast is powered by the Brothers of mercy a five star rated skilled nursing residents offering affordable living in a country setting. Lake effect snow fall one of nature's and of course western New York's greatest snow machines. It happens when that cold wind flows over the warmer waters of the lakes giving rise to intense bands of precipitation can dump several feet of snow. And a single location in a matter of well hours or days. A new study at the university of buffalo aims to learn even more about this phenomenon. Which is really been the basis of some of the Great Lakes region's most epic weather events including back to back storms and 2014. That buried parts of us here in Western New York under seven feet of snow. Remember that. The ultimate goal of the research is to understand whether lake effect snow will become more frequent or intense in coming decades. And see earth potentially warms. I sat down with doctor Elizabeth Thomas assistant professor of geology in the UB college of arts and sciences in her office also in her lab. And even in an environmentally controlled cooler than it keeps the soil samples. Being used in this study at that perfect chilly temperature. I am a geologist and study how. Climate and weather changed in the past and the goal of that this project is to try to understand it. How lake effect snow changed in the past with the goal of doing a better job at predicting future lake effect snow fall. And to do that we the look at sentiment archives. So leaks are sediment traps and there's mud in the bottom of those lakes and leaking collect cord is. Of set that sentiment and look back in time. At how climate or plants or anything changed in the past. And what we're. In studying in particular for this project. Is something called leaf waxes. Now and just like. The scheme and are the oil that we. Pretty used on our scan plants produce waxes as a protective coating on their leaves. And it's. Those leaf waxes are made up of hydrogen and cartons there's a lot like big gaps that we put in our cars they're just big long hydrocarbon chains. And hydrogen is in the reflexes. Come from rain and snowfall that the plants or that eventually make his way into the soil. And the plants suck up that water and use that to build their reflexes. And then. There's one more step in the process there the hydra engines in the water. Are made up of two different isotopes there's a heavier isotope and a lighter isotopes of hydrogen. That has a massive one and deuterium has a massive TU. They behave slightly differently in the water cycles so hydrogen evaporates more easily than deuterium. And then brain's outer snow is out more easily. And so those leaf. And it turns out that lake effect snow has a different signature of those heavy and light isotopes. Van. Regulars know that might come from a nor'easter or something. And so we can actually look at snow today and see a chemical difference between lake effect snow and others now. And then it turns out that the leaf waxes. Preserve bat different chemical signal. And then the waxes themselves. That are produced by plants living everywhere on the landscape turn Western New York. Those waxes get. Blown off and leaves preserved in these lake sediment archives. And then we can go and measure collect the sentiments and measure those reflexes. And get an idea of what. Ice atop the composition of snowfall was in the past. Let's back up because there's a lot there it's really complicated very increasingly complicated. What do you hope to accomplish what you say you can't predict what the research is gonna say obviously that would that would be you know a good thing to do but what are you hoping to find out in the end or be able to do with the research. So what we know frowned not work by many other geologists and Kelly O plan intelligence is. That there's a time period around six to 101000 years ago. That was Warner. It's a relatively warm period in Earth's history it's not warmer than today but warmer than like 1850 warmer than pre industrial times. And that warm period we think is a pretty good analog effort studying what's happening today with climate here in Western New York. Until we know from these temperature records that there is this relatively warm period so we wanna look at how snowfall and rainfall behaved during that time period. And I was actually just talking with another meteorologist. Today and heat. Thinks that meant he gets questions a lot like is there going to be more lake effect snow on the future less lake effect snow in the future as the league's warm up. And as air masses warm up because we know that it's cold air over a warm lake that gives us these big storms. And so. But. We don't know and he that's what he answers to all of it is the people who asking that question we just don't know what it. Lake effect is gonna do you how it's gonna behave in the future. And so by looking back at this previous. Relatively warm period in Earth's history. We're hoping to do a better job of understanding how lake effect snow behaved during that relatively warm period. And and provide it better predictions for future lake effect. So concealed knowledge is power I mean you were were digging up no pun intended some you know at some knowledge that should be able to help her hopefully we'll be able to help. Not only forecasters but geologists to figure this whole puzzle. Exactly. Where do you go for this sentiment how do you how do you determine where to look for this. There are lots and lots of leaks and bugs in western new York and ideally we would be working in a weaker bond that's right in the middle of one of today's lake effect snow belts. And so in somewhere in the south towns. One of the sites that were working and right now just trying to get a handle on exactly how the leaf wax is working exactly what they tell us about climate. Were working NG north jeans and new York and a little bit outside the main lake effect snow melts. And sent it and if your listeners know of a Laker on events in a lake effect snow belt I'd be. Really curious to know about your not. Looking in Lake Erie Lake Ontario the Great Lakes you're looking. Downwind and yes exactly act is it Lee Kyrie is the source and Lake Ontario lake near the source of our lake effect snow also were actually looking where the snow is falling in our backyards. OK so once you find this sediment in first for example to allay gore maybe and another one that will be found as a result of this podcast you know us. But once you find the sentiment what do you do. So we the actually go once we locate a god we go to the Bob we bring all of our scoring equipment so we. And send it they get to go down to the bottom of the lake pound that in with the weight and pull it up and inside that is that color. Of sentiment. And it's in order from that are at the top of the mud is the youngest and down towards the bottom we can go back in time thousands of years. And we bring that back here to the last. And split it open to conceal the layers and then we take samples. That we use for radio carbon dating thing how old the mud is. And then we also take samples where we can extract the leaf waxes and measure their. I to topic there chemical composition. To keep to give us an idea past lake effect snow fall so that core you can timeline that course and in the cup how precise can you be without. Yeah out weekend. We use radio carbon. Dating time macro fossils on my little bits of plants and twigs and things like that to get the age of the sentiment. And then it. We can we know within ten to game at fifty years something like that what the age that sentiment is. And so with this study won't be able to say you know 101000 years ago. There were other ten lake effect snow storms we can't beat that detailed but we can say you know for a given decade. 101000 years ago. There was more lake effect snow falls and there is today for less lake ethics and it's today. And if you were able to make that determination one way or the other what what does that mean firm for modern day in my life modern day forecasting forward lake effect. Snowball. Yeah I mean I think that impacts all of us whether we're at we have to be out shoveling every day an. It impacts how our communities. Make decisions about how many snowplows we need to die on the cell we have to buy. That impacts their budgets impacts how. Are our food is grown because our food is highly dependent on and it's bringing. Snow melts and and rain. To be able to it to grow that. And so I think that I mean we all everyone here in Western New York knows how lake effect snow impacts us. And then. Being able to understand how long lake effect snowfall will behave in a warmer world in the future. That so. That's gonna be really useful for us to. Being making predictions. Where you have with this with this study rate obviously are under way your Q have one site at least he referenced so far where he met with all the research project. Where starting right now and looking at modern samples so leaf waxes that are produced and deposited in lake sediment today. Just to try to understand exactly what those reflexes tell us about team and we have a couple of sites one in Jada and another one near Syracuse. Looking at how modern leaf wax is tell us about lake effect snow fall vs summer rainfall for example. And to Wear certain it initial stages of starting to look. For sites to to look back in time in the past once the identified those sites will go start collecting course. In what kind of manpower desist this require I'm sure students are involved student researchers. Talk about that a little bit. Yes so and that lean on this project and thus far there's and graduate student master's team meg Corcoran hearing you'd be working on analyzing the samples. And then to do a lot of the collections have actually been working with citizen scientists. One of them is my fathered near Syracuse. Collecting. Rain and snowfall samples for me and then also go visiting upon regularly collecting sediment samples. And then in north Geneva where collaborating with buffalo Audubon society. And some volunteers since citizen scientist volunteers. Who've been collecting sediment samples for us down so it's a big group of big group of people helping out. So now that the fees the fifty million dollar question is can you stop lake effect snow hit. Yeah I actually just learn recently that. There's summary six in the sixties and seventies. Here at you've been doing cloud seeding with they would fly airplanes and pour droplets of silver nitrate in the air overly Kyrie. To try to make their lake effect snow fall and even more dispersed across a senior rather than focused on like a single region in the and I'm sure that I haven't seen any of the results of that researcher was published in some obscure journals awhile ago that I haven't been able to access. But I'm guessing that since they'd. We don't do cloud seeding now the results didn't work out. When can we. When can we look for some conclusions from this research I would say in year two we'll have some results. Looking back in time. And hopefully predicting into the future we've waited this long and hurt it. Well we can't stop it of course says she says but we certainly can better understand. And were back. Tomorrow with a little bit of snow to. That's 9:30 PM 716. We're back tomorrow with a net a radiation from the studios of WD EA and buffalo law.