Chasing Lake Effect Snow Squalls in a Plane

Burlington, Ontario - Feb 03 2017
Since I live in Toronto, it is easy for me to chase lake effect snow squalls since I'm surrounded by several of the Great Lakes. Snow squalls form when cold air passes over the relatively warm lake water and picks up moisture from the lake. This moisture then gets dumped as snow. Sometimes a LOT of snow. After years of chasing these events on the ground, we (Mark Robinson from The Weather Network) and I arranged to take a small plane up and "chase" them from the air.
Many thanks to pilot Steve Thorne ( @Flightchops ) for his tremendous help.



Environment Canada RADAR was showing a band of lake effect snow coming off of Georgian Bay (part of Lake Huron). That was going to be our target.
Our chase vehicle for the day. a 1970's era Cessna, single- engine plane. Over the years, I've done a lot of small plane flights, but this would be a first for me.
Airborne! Looking down on the snow-covered ground and passing over the 401 highway.



In the back of the plane. Cramped, but a cool experience. This something that Mark Robinson from The Weather Network and I had been wanting to do for a while.

Before getting to the snow squalls. We never did make it to the main squall. A few smaller squalls popped up between our location and the main squall, so we went for those instead.

After reaching the snow squalls. A big difference in visibility. As we were flying using visual flight rules only, we were not allowed to penetrate the snow squall and get into zero visibility, but we could skirt the edges.


This was about as bad as the visibility got. We didn't want to get into anything worse, so we turned around. Between the turbulence, the maneuvers, and looking through a camera eyepiece, I was starting to feel quite sick by the end of it all. Thankfully, my lunch managed to stay down.