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Timothy A. Clary, Getty Images
Timothy A. Clary, Getty Images

What to Expect From the ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Set to Pummel the East Coast

Timothy A. Clary, Getty Images
Timothy A. Clary, Getty Images

We're just a few days into the new year, and a winter storm of historic strength is already churning up the East Coast. As The Washington Post reports, the weather event has the potential to be the most severe storm in decades to form over the waters east of New England at this time of year.

The storm is being described as a "winter hurricane" and a "bomb cyclone"—terms that rival "snowpocalypse." But it's more than just dramatic weather lingo. Unlike blizzards that form over land, this one is powered by the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to drop to Hurricane Sandy-level atmospheric pressure within 24 hours. As pressure decreases more rapidly, the storm grows more intense in a process called bombogeneis (hence the "bomb" part of "bomb cyclone"). If it follows current projections, the storm will blanket the coast in dense, fast-falling sheets of snow.

The storm is already blasting southeastern states with rare ice and snow, prompting winter storm warnings in northern Florida for the first time in years. As it makes its way up the coast, the system will continue to strengthen. By the time it reaches New England Thursday, it's expected to hit the region with 40 to 60 mph winds and up to a foot of snow.

While the exact trajectory remains unclear, everyone living near the northeast coast should be prepared to hunker down from late Wednesday to Thursday night. A winter storm warning has been launched for the New Jersey shore, parts of Long Island, and parts of Connecticut, and a winter storm watch is currently in effect in New York City. Major cities farther south and farther inland, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., could make it through the storm with little to no snow accumulation.

The bomb cyclone follows a wicked cold snap across the U.S. that's already claimed the lives of 11 people. Temperatures in the northeast have remained below freezing since Christmas, and the impending storm will bring even more frigid weather this week.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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Weather Watch
Thanks to Desert Dust, Eastern Europe Is Covered in Orange Snow
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iStock

Certain areas of Eastern Europe are starting to look a bit like Mars. Over the last few days, snowy places like Sochi, Russia have experienced an unusual snowfall that coated mountains in orange powder, according to the BBC.

The orange snow was the result of winds blowing sand from the Sahara east to places like Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia. The sand mixes with precipitation to form orange-tinted snow. According to the BBC, the phenomenon occurs semi-regularly, turning snow orange about once every five years, but this year is especially sandy. As a result, skiers are navigating slopes that look like they're from a different world, as you can see in the video below from The Guardian.

The Sahara rarely gets snow, but when it does, the landscape can look somewhat similar, as you can see in this image of the Atlas mountains in Morocco.

Instagram is currently filled with photos and videos from Eastern Europe featuring the odd-looking snow. Check out a few samples below.

[h/t BBC]

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Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images
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Weather Watch
What Is Thundersnow?
Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images
Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images

The northeastern United States is dealing with its second major nor'easter in a week, with rain and heavy snow—and the associated power outages—cutting a path across the Mid-Atlantic and New England. But news of the adverse impacts of the snowstorm is being accompanied by an unusual buzzword: thundersnow. Thundersnow occurs during a thunderstorm that produces snow instead of rain. The mechanisms that produce rainy thunderstorms and snowy thunderstorms are largely the same, even if the air temperature is below freezing.

A band of snow can become strong enough to produce lightning through two processes known as convection and forcing. Convection occurs when an area of warm air quickly rises through cooler air above it. Convective snow is most common during lake effect snow events like those you’d find on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, since the process requires extreme vertical temperature gradients that can result from bitterly cold air flowing over a warm body of water.

Forcing is slightly different. A strengthening low-pressure system involves fast, dynamic changes in the atmosphere, especially when one of these storm systems quickly gains strength. Such a fast-developing storm can cause large amounts of lift in the atmosphere, a process that forces air to swiftly rise like you’d see during convection. This creates intense bands of snow that can grow so strong that they produce thunder and lightning. This process is responsible for the thundersnow that occurs during blizzards and nor’easters, those powerful storms that regularly hit the eastern coast of the U.S. during the winter. Thundersnow can be pretty exciting—just ask The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore:

The name “thundersnow” can be a bit misleading. One of the most enjoyable things about a snowfall is how silent it is outside when there’s a thick blanket of snow on the ground. Snow absorbs sound waves so efficiently that you can usually only hear ambient noises immediately around where you’re standing. Snow muffles the sound of thunder for the same reason. Thunder that might be audible for many miles during a rainy thunderstorm might only be audible for a few thousand feet away from where the lightning struck. Unless the lightning strikes very close to where you are, you might only see a bright flash during thundersnow without ever hearing the thunder.

While thundersnow is a fascinating phenomenon to encounter, it does involve lightning, after all, and it’s just as dangerous as any other lightning bolt you’d see in a rainy thunderstorm. If you’re ever lucky enough to experience thundersnow, the event is best enjoyed indoors and out of harm’s way.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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