'Bomb cyclone' winter storm hits US East Coast: What is it?

by Fox News

Bundle up! Brutal winter weather – with strong winds, snow and subzero temperatures – has hit much of the eastern U.S. and is expected to continue through the weekend.


The National Weather Service warned of a wintry mix expected along much of the Atlantic seaboard – from Florida to North Carolina. Blizzard warnings have been issued for parts of Delaware; Virginia; Maryland; coastal New Jersey; Long Island, N.Y.; and coastal New England. Many of those areas could see at least a foot of snow.

This storm has been dubbed a “bomb cyclone” or “bombogenesis” by meteorologists as it is expected to rapidly intensify.

What is a “bombogenesis”?

The term "bombogenesis" is used by meteorologists to refer to a rapidly intensifying area of low pressure, Fox News’ Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said Wednesday.

“The central pressure of an area of low pressure (winter storm) must drop at least 24 millibars in 24 hours to qualify,” Dean explained.

"The cold air from Canada combined with the warmer ocean waters of the Gulf Stream is what will trigger this explosive strengthening pattern."

- Fox News' Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean

A millibar is the measurement of atmospheric pressure, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“In this case, with a nor’easter, the cold air from Canada combined with the warmer ocean waters of the Gulf Stream is what will trigger this explosive strengthening pattern,” Dean said.


What does that mean for this winter storm?

By Thursday morning, the storm had moved out of the southeast, after bringing rare cold and snow to some regions, including Tallahassee, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; and Savannah, Ga.

"This could be one of the strongest offshore storms we’ve ever experienced with a central pressure in the 950s," Dean said Thursday.


Coastal eastern Massachusetts, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, could see damaging wind gusts of up to 70 mph Thursday, Dean said. And the heaviest snowfall is expected for eastern New England and eastern Long Island.

The NWS warned the “greatest concern” for the southeast New England area is “the potential for damaging wind gusts.” Power outage is also a concern, the NWS said.

"The dangerous second part of this storm will be the record breaking cold this weekend with lows in the single digits this weekend for parts of the northeast and windchills below zero," Dean said. "This will be life threatening especially for those who lose power."

Is this storm unusual?

It’s not unusual to get at least one storm that is classified as a “bomb cyclone” a year, Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with NOAA's Weather Prediction Center, told Fox News.

What is unique about this storm, though, is that it is developing so far south, Jackson said. Normally, these storms can form around Washington, D.C., or further north.

And while the storm is fairly developed, Jackson said it would only “take a little wobble” to push it further west, causing major metropolitan areas to experience a “major winter storm,” he said. 

Fox News’ Travis Fedschun contributed to this report, along with the Associated Press. 

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.

Written by News Desk

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