Mark Monmonier


My Current Projects
Continues the Patents Project by examining the life and impact of the inventor of the Clock System map and rural directory.
“What if I told you that behind every great map is a network and behind every great network is a map?”
Fully updated for the digital age, which offers new opportunities for cartographic mischief, deception, and propaganda
“Thoroughly researched, well written, and richly illustrated with original patent drawings.” – Judith Tyner
“a milestone in the historical study of twentieth-century cartography” – Journal of Historical Geography
“His irrepressible wit shines . . .” – Imago Mundi
“unexpectedly engrossing . . . overcomes all Weather Channel wonkery as a charmingly executed slice of Americana.” – Publishers Weekly
“Well written, engaging, mildly provocative, quirky at times.” – H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences
“An informative and entertaining read on climate change via the science of cartography.” – Weatherwise
“Engaging . . . a trove of giggle-inducing lore.” – Publishers Weekly
“A rewarding study of mapmaking and the uses of maps.” – Scientific American
“Engaging, even-handed introduction to the dark side of mapping technology.” – Physical Science Digest
“An artful and a funny book, which like any good map packs plenty in a little space.” – Scientific American
“Clever title, rewarding book.” – Scientific American
How maps help people avoid and officials plan for disasters.
Encyclopedia Entry
Article in The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology (2017).
Scholarly Screeds
Published on (11 January 2016) and (13 January 2016), DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3332.7126.
Published on and, 17 January 2016, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1235.5605.
Glimpse: the art + science of seeing, no. 8 (Autumn 2011): 14-21.
Weiner Schriften zur Geographie und Kartographie [Institut für Geographie und Regionalforschung der Universität Wien], 2004

Lake Effect:
Tales of Large Lakes, Arctic Winds, and Recurrent Snows

My redrafted version of geographic climatologist Val Eichenlaub's map of snowbelts, pubished in 1970 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. He included a slightly different map in his 1979 book Weather and Climate of the Great Lakes.
Snowbelts form downwind from the Great Lakes, a prime source of moisture, and their boundaries can vary markedly from year to year. Air flow is generally from the north, the northwest, or the west. Topographic obstacles such as Tug Hill (east of Lake Ontario) and the Keewenaw Peninsula cause the moist air to rise, cool, and produce heavy amounts of snow.

Available from Syracuse University Press. Click here for coverage on the Press's website. And the click on the Book Description link at the bottom. Also available from your favorite online bookstore.

Lake-effect snow is deposited by narrow bands of clouds formed when cold, dry arctic air passes over a large, relatively warm inland lake. Snow bands attached to one of the Great Lakes, or even the Great Salt Lake or Hudson Bay, can produce an intense “white out” lasting from a couple of minutes to two days. Television meteorologists call this the “lake-effect snow machine” because a slight shift in wind direction can shut down the snow suddenly, like flicking a light switch. With perhaps only half the water content of regular snow, lake snow is typically light, fluffy, and relatively easy to shovel. And because long stretches of gray days with persistent flurries are the norm, shoveling is a near-daily activity in the snowbelts, where whimsical weather is notorious for disrupting transportation, closing schools, canceling events of all types, and occasionally collapsing old or poorly designed buildings. Intriguing stories of the lake effect’s quirky behavior and diverse impacts include widespread ignorance of the phenomenon in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before a network of systematic observers had collected several decades of data worth mapping, and the advent of reliable short-term predictions based on satellites, Doppler radar, and computer models.

Lake-effect snow bands streaming off Lakes Superior and Michigan, as captured on November 30, 2004 by NASA's SeaWiFS sensor..
Satellite image shows how winds from the northwest control the formation and direction of snow bands formed on Lakes Superior (upper left) and Michigan (center). Notice the multi-lake snow bands crossing Lake Huron and Georgian Bay (lower right). Multi-lake snow originating on the upper lakes enhances lake-effect snow off the lower lakes.

I’ve written this book for two audiences: Great Lakes residents who want to understand the lake-effect phenomenon and its implications more fully and nonresidents misinformed by a media stereotype of ceaselessly brutal winters. What I intend as a comprehensive and engaging narrative fits nicely into seven chapters, each with a telling one-word title: Recipe (chapter 1) outlines the basic physics essential to understanding what follows, Discovery (chapter 2) explores the slow cartographic recognition of lake-effect snow as a distinctive meteorological phenomenon, Prediction (chapter 3) examines the evolution of forecasting strategies, Impacts (chapter 4) limns societal effects and coping strategies, Records (chapter 5) investigates the collection and use of snowfall data and questions the national obsession with extreme weather, Change (chapter 6) looks at historical trends in snowfall and the regional implications of global warming, and Place (chapter 7) identifies seasonality as a key component of local economies and regional culture.

My redrafted version of Val Eichenlaub's map of snowbelts, pubished in 1970 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Table of Contents
1  Recipe
2  Discovery
3  Prediction
4  Impacts
5  Records
6  Change
7  Place

Mark Harrington's map of October snowfall was his only monthly map to hint of lake-effect snow. Notice the 130-inch snowfall line immediately south of Lake Superior on the Keewenaw Peninsula, an appendage of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. None of his other seven monthly maps shows a lake effect. Harrington based his study on about 100 stations, many too far south for significant snow. Maps of winter precipitation in previous studies were based on seasonal precipitation, for which snow was melted and combined with rain; they showed no snowbelts.
In 1894 Mark Harrington, chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau, published his Rainfall and Snow of the United States. An "atlas" supplement accompanied his 80 pages of text and tables. Only one of the supplement's 23 charts addresses snowfall, and it consists of eight small maps like this one, each covering one month, October through May. In 1896 a textbook by Frank Waldo included a map of average annual snowfall, presumably based on Harrington's maps or data. Its only snowbelt was in the U.P.

My redrafted version of Charles Franklin Brooks' 1914 map of mean annual snowfall, one of numerous maps in his geography dissertation at Harvard.
Brooks based his snowfall map on a network of 159 stations, all in the eastern United States and all with 15 years of continuous data from July 1895 through June 1910. Brooks was the first climatologist to discover the Great Lakes snowbelts. His other contributions include founding the American Meteorological Society.

"Lake Effect is a unique contribution, an ideal example of how to describe complex geographical phenomena to an interdisciplinary and general audience." – Cary J. Mock, The Geographical Review

"Overall, this book is well written and gives a solid overview of the history and impacts of lake effect snow. . . . a must-read for anyone interested in weather/​climate." – Bob Hickey, Cartographic Perspectives

2013 Central New York Book Award in Non-Fiction, awarded by YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center. Excerpt from the citation, prepared by judge Sonja Livingston, author of Ghostbread (2010): “The topics of meteorology and science can easily become overly technical or dry, but Monmonier’s writing is clear and engaging. Like the best nonfiction writers, Monmonier’s personal anecdotes, humor and passion for the topic is contagious as he invites readers to explore this unique weather phenomenon along with him.”

“For fans of snow, meteorology, cartography, history, weather records, maps and geography, Monmonier’s book is a treasure trove of engrossing and entertaining stories about some of the snowiest inhabited areas in the world. . . . Monmonier, as he did in his 1999 book, Air Apparent: How Meteorologists Learned to Map, Predict, and Dramatize Weather, weaves together a rich gumbo of history, science, geography and culture in Lake Effect.” – Doyle Rice, in USA Today

"Syracuse University professor Monmonier renders isolated weather incidents unexpectedly engrossing. . . . Culminating in an engaging guided tour with the author and his wife, Marge, through snow-choked villages in the Tug Hill area of New York (Lewis County), the book overcomes all Weather Channel wonkery as a charmingly executed slice of Americana.” – Publishers Weekly

"Everything you expect from Professor Monmonier – thorough research, clear presentation, and unconcealed love of his subject.” – Bernard Mergen, author of Snow in America

"Noted author and geographer Mark Monmonier’s masterful and comprehensive book details the science, history, geography, and social aspects of the lakes we love.” – James Rodger Fleming, author of Meteorology in America

"Mark Monmonier has delighted readers for years with book after book showing how geography and weather have shaped human history. . . . He’s turned his flair for narrative to the story of the lake-effect weather that rules his native upstate New York. . . . Enter his world and you’ll be glad you did.” – William H. Hooke, Policy Program Director, American Meteorological Society

"Those who have never personally experienced lake effect snow cannot possibly appreciate what it’s like to see one of these intense weather events. Mark Monmonier delves deep into the subject and explains why lake effect snow happens, as well as its impact on the nation’s snow belt.” – Paul Gross, Certified Consulting and Broadcast Meteorologist

“. . . clear and accessible examination of lake-effect snow, a regionally important meteorological phenomenon, and how it has shaped the history of the Great Lakes region.” – Atmospheric Science Librarians International, 2012 Choice Award, “Honorable Mention – Historical Category”

" Mark Monmonier . . . delivers a thorough and comprehensive overview of the subject, with the occasional touch of humor . . . the perfect book for true fans of meteorology and those folks who just want to learn more about this form of precipitation." – Laurel C. Wernett, Life in the Finger Lakes

“. . . recommended [for] lower-and upper-division undergraduates and general readers. . . . the chapters are extensively footnoted and contain clear black-and-white illustrations. . . . a useful resource for library collections supporting meteorology and geography programs, and for collections in Great Lakes regions.” – Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

". . . provides an understanding as well as a meteorological and scientific cartography-based history of the weather phenomenon known as lake-effect snow . . . Despite what one might expect in a heavily technical book, the writing is clear and accessible and numerous explanatory descriptions are included." – Reference and Research Book News