Duluth (Orographic City) Local Influences


Lake Superior and the surrounding higher terrain greatly influence snowfall and other weather in Duluth, MN. People unfamiliar with Duluth may be surprised at how much the rise in elevation within the city can act like a mountain range concerning its affects on weather. As a friend once told me, "But, it's just a little hill!" Apparently it is not. Duluth, along with surrounding areas along the Lake Superior North Shore, is an excellent example of a mesoclimate.


More About Duluth

Duluth is located at the narrow western tip of Lake Superior along a ridge that runs along the north shore of the lake. Lake Superior’s North Shore is oriented from east-northeast to west-southwest. Elevation increases abruptly near the lake shore on both sides of the lake. The city of Superior, WI, across the harbor from Duluth, is generally flat but with the hills a little farther from the lake. Duluth itself is built partially on the side of the hill. Some of the city sits on a narrow strip of flat land at the bottom of the hill while the rest is built inland beyond the ridge crest. Elevation within the city rises up to around 800 feet from the lake shore to beyond the ridge crest. More specifically, the elevation at Duluth International Airport is 817 feet higher than at Sky Harbor Airport.

Duluth's diverse terrain and proximity to Lake Superior contribute to large differences in snowfall within the city both seasonally and during many individual storms. Seasonal snowfall on top of the hill averages 80 or more inches. Amounts at the bottom are generally 20 inches less.


Increasing Duluth's Snowfall...Good!

Decreasing Duluth's Snowfall...Not Good

Other Local Influences


General References

Employees of the National Weather Service in Duluth, MN

Meteorological Education and Training (MetEd) website operated by the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education, and Training (COMET®) at http://meted.ucar.edu/ of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

American Meteorology Society’s “Glossary of Meteorology”

Additional references are included with many of the separate entries.