Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes
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Lake Michigan Coastal Dune Home
Introduction to Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes
Features and Types of Dunes
Wind, Sand and Coastal Dunes
Climate, Dune, Lake and Seasonal Factors
Methods, Results and Research Students
References and Links to More Information


Environment - Snow

From October to April, snow is part of the environment of Lake Michigan coastal dunes. For example, Muskegon, MI, receives an average of 268 cm (106 inches) of snow each year.

The amount of snowfall received by a coastal dune system in a year varies according to location and temperature and moisture conditions. Lake-effect snowfalls increase the amount of snow along the coast (compared to locations further inland), and they may result in adjacent dune systems receiving very different amounts of snow.

Muskegon climate normals: snow
Data source: 1971-2000 monthly normals as published in the
Climatography of the United States No. 20 available from the National Climatic Data Center at

Snow protects beach and dune surfaces from wind erosion. The protection may be short-lived as wind removes the snow before moving the underlying sand. The transport and deposition of mixtures of snow and sand are called "niveo-aeolian".

Snowcover tends to be highly variable on beach and dune surfaces. The snow may disappear shortly after it falls or it may accumulate at a location and persist for weeks or months. Exposed locations such as the windward slopes of dunes tend to have the least (and most-quickly removed) snow on them. Sheltered locations such as depressions and the lee slopes of the dunes tend to accumulate deep snow drifts that remain for long periods of time.

Snow protects the lower parts of the windward slope of this parabolic dune from wind erosion. Slopes at the top of the dune are bare because wind swept the snow away. There are deep drifts of snow and sand over the top of the dune. (North Beach Park parabolic dune in January 2005.)




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Last updated 03/23/10.