Lake-effect snow vs. blizzards, what’s the difference?

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A lake-effect snowstorm has already dumped over 4 feet of snow in Buffalo, with even more expected over the weekend.

According to The Associated Press, heavy snowfall in western New York has been attributed to the deaths of two people who had cardiac events while clearing snow.

Buffalo is situated near the Great Lakes and has always been impacted by lake-effect snow, but what makes these storms different from blizzards?

>> Photos: Lake-effect snow paralyzes parts of New York

What exactly is lake-effect snow?

Lake-effect snow is when cold air moves over warmer water, picking up moisture. The air then rises, and the water vapor condenses, forming clouds and eventually snow, according to the National Weather Service.

While lake-effect snow is most common in the fall and winter, it can happen any time of year if the conditions are right. The Great Lakes are especially prone to producing heavy lake-effect snows because of their large size and the distance over which the wind can blow.

The difference between lake-effect snow and a blizzard

A blizzard is a severe weather condition characterized by low temperatures, strong winds and heavy snow. In contrast, lake-effect snow is created when cold air passes over a warmer body of water, picking up moisture and creating conditions conducive to snowfall.

While both types of events can produce large amounts of snow, there are some key differences between the two.

Blizzards tend to be larger in scale than lake-effect snows. They also tend to last longer, often for several days. Lake-effect snowstorms typically only last for a day or two.

Finally, blizzards tend to be more disruptive because of the high winds and low visibility they bring. Lake-effect snows are generally less disruptive and might even have moments of clear skies.