Lake heating effect is the result of one specific property of water, it heats and cools at a slower pace than the air around it. Because of this Lake Champlain acts as a heat sink, moderating the temperature throughout the region. The economic benefits of Lake-effect can be measured. First, the lake heat effect allows the Champlain Valley to have a growing season which is longer than the rest of Vermont. The growing season in the Lake Champlain basin ranges from 150 days to 105 days in the mountains (LCBP). Whereas the average growing season for similar latitudes in Vermont tends to be about 120 days (history). This potential for an extra 30 days of growing season opens up possibilities for the cultivation of different kinds of crops. Such differences in growing season are represented by climate zone maps.  These maps divide the U.S. into eleven different zones of hardiness (with zones 2-10 being further divided into a and b sections). Because of the presence of Lake Champlain, most of the basin area is characterized as zone 4b. This is in contrast to much of the surrounding region, classified as zone 4a. In this classification zone 4a represents an average minimum temperature of -25 to -30 degrees F whereas zone 4b represents an average minimum temperature of -20 to -25 degrees F. The general trend for the region is zone 3. The difference between zone 3 and zone 4 is not only a longer growing season but increased viability for different types of crops.

Years Location CDD Trend CDD Average HDD Trend HDD Average
1892-2007 Burlington + 79 463 – 61 7707
1987-2007 Burlington + 30 536 + 91 7181
1987-2007 Vermont – 26 418 + 3 7629

Figure S1.1

The lake-effect also has implications for home heating. Figure S1.1 (above) represents the difference in heating degree days for the past thirty years between Burlington and the rest of the state. Burlington has, on average, 448 fewer heating degree days per year. This temperature difference is due to two factors the lake heating effect and the urban heat bubble (the heat caused by population centers). Such a difference in average temperature leads to savings in heating costs. Because of limitations in available information, only a portion of the possible savings are detailed here. These savings are calculated through a home heating estimate. Home heating costs were estimated for a home with 1,300 square feet of floor space. The average number of degree days for the state of Vermont is 7629. Assuming this number of degree days to be true, the price of heating a 1300 square foot home with propane would be $1,358 per year. Burlington, by contrast, has 7181 degree days which yields a cost estimate of $1,279. This means there is a decrease of $79 in heating costs, assuming the use of heating oil, for houses in Burlington. According to the 2000 census there were 15,885 households in Burlington. At $79 of heat saving per household, the result of lake-effect and the urban heat bubble provides a savings of roughly $1,255,000 for the city of Burlington.


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