Bombogenesis anyone?

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Last week a strong storm nicknamed “bomb cyclone” hit the Eastern United States of America. This rapidly intensifying storm dumped snow in its path, but also brought with it freezing temperatures, destructive winds, and coastal flooding from Maine all the way down to Florida. The extreme weather brought life to a stand still.

What is a bomb cyclone?

The term “bomb cyclone” definitely sounds like a scary term. But nothing actually explodes during one! Phew! It is a storm – low pressure system – that has basically undergone “bombogenesis.”

What is Bombogenesis?

Photo Credit: USA Today

It is a term often used by meteorologists (people who study weather and the atmosphere) to describe a storm that rapidly intensifies.

  • Bombogenesis, simply means a storm that has a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure.
  • Atmospheric pressure is measured in what we call millibars. A storm becomes a bomb cyclone when it drops 24 millibars in 24 hours
  • The lower the millibars, the stronger the storm.

Why does the atmposheric pressure fall?

Storms are typically caused by areas of low pressure. When a cold front meets a warm front, the warm air rises above the cold leaving a sort of void. This void is an area of low pressure. This low pressure pulls in neighboring cold winds. The winds and the Earth’s rotation create a spinning effect. The cold air spirals inwards towards the center and then exits through the top.  As more air leaves the top, the pressure falls, further intensifying the storm. This effect creates the characteristic swirling clouds and winds

What happened on the East Coast you might ask???

Photo Credit: NASA

The Bomb Cyclone on the Eastern coast formed when cold air from the US mainland met with warmer air from the Atlantic Ocean. The storm’s pressure dropped 59 millibars in 24 hours, which made it one of the most rapidly intensifying East Coast storms in the past 40 years, according to Weather Channel meteorologists.

In satellite photos and videos captured by the NOAA and NASA, you can see the system pulling up warmer air from the tropics, as well as the system circulating colder air coming down from the Arctic. It was so large that it was clearly visible from space, and satellites could take awe-inspiring images. 


 

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