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]

Denver is About to Experience Summer and Winter Temperatures Within 24 Hours

iStock.com/mphotoi
iStock.com/mphotoi

In a story tailor-made for exhaustive Weather Channel coverage, Denver, Colorado is about to experience one of the more bizarre weather shifts in recent memory. After an expected Tuesday high of 80°F, residents can anticipate a dramatic shift down to 32°F by midday Wednesday, with an initial half-inch of snow accumulation increasing to up to 7 inches by Wednesday night.

Put another way: Citizens who need to make sure they hydrate in the warm temperatures Tuesday will have to bring out the parkas the following day.

The Denver Post reports that the warm air coming ahead of the cold can result in a clash of air masses, prompting areas of low pressure that can create forceful and damaging weather conditions. The storm could bring winds of up to 60 miles per hour and possibly even cause power outages. Snow accumulation should dissipate by the weekend, when temperatures are expected to climb back into the 60s.

The high temperature record for April 9 in Denver is 81°F, set in 1977.

[h/t The Denver Post]

What Is a Bomb Cyclone?

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The phrase bomb cyclone has re-entered the news this week as parts of the central U.S. face severe weather. Mountain and Midwestern states, including Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota, all fall in the path of a winter storm expected to deliver tornadoes, hail, heavy snow, flooding, and hurricane-force winds on Wednesday, March 13 into Thursday. It seems appropriate for a storm that strong to have bomb in its name, but the word actually refers to a meteorological phenomenon and not the cyclone's explosive intensity.

According to The Denver Post, the bomb in bomb cyclone stands for bombogenesis. Bombogenesis occurs when a non-tropical storm experiences at least a 24 millibar (the unit used to measure barometric pressure) drop within 24 hours. Low pressure makes for intense storms, so a bomb cyclone is a system that's built up a significant amount strength in a short length of time.

This type of storm usually depends on the ocean or another large body of water for its power. During the winter, the relatively warm air coming off the ocean and the cold air above land can collide to create a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure. Also known as a winter hurricane, this effect has produced some of the worst snowstorms to ever hit the U.S.

The fact that this latest bomb cyclone has formed nowhere near the coast makes it even more remarkable. Rather, a warm, subtropical air mass and a cold, Arctic air mass crossed paths, creating the perfect conditions for a rare bombogenesis over the Rockies and Great Plains states.

Central U.S. residents in the bomb cyclone's path have taken great precautions ahead of the storm. Over 1000 flights have been canceled for Wednesday and schools throughout Colorado have closed.

[h/t The Denver Post]

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