"Bomb Cyclone"? Snow in Florida? What's with the East Coast storm

Icicles hang from the fountain at Beau View condominiums in Biloxi, Miss., on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. A hard freeze hit South Mississippi overnight and temperatures are expected to remain near or below freezing for the rest of the week.(John Fitzhugh/The Sun Herald via AP)/The Sun Herald via AP)

It's been hard not to hear the calamity going on along the East Coast for a major storm brewing, with words tossed around like "Bomb Cyclone" and "Bombogenesis" (Not an 80s band name, sadly) with weather charts whizzing across social media in a dizzying array of colors and lines with predictions of blizzards, below zero temperatures and damaging winds.

You'd almost think it snowed in Florida or something...

Scratch that, it did.

Those of us on the West Coast watching from afar might wonder what's going on that's causing such a tizzy. In fact, this is just the second phase of the dominant winter pattern stealing the headlines across the Midwest and East Coast.

First, we already had the super cold with temps ranging from the 20s to below zero (and wind chills well below zero) and Lake Effect snows, which lead to scenes like this:

and this:

and this: (COOL!!)

But not quite this:

Now we add in a second wrinkle into this arctic jumble in a massive storm that is already bringing some freezing rain and rare snow to the southeast, but is expected to undergo bombogenesis and develop into a bomb cyclone as it heads up off the coast of New England.


First, some help with the wacky weather terms -- already vying for 2018's "Weather word of the year" -- coming off earlier entries such as "polar vortex" (also still being used today) and "superstorm" that have also surfaced this decade. Bombogenesis is a term for when a storm undergoes rapid strengthening to the tune of at least a 24 mb drop in central pressure over 24 hours. "Bomb Cyclone" is the result.

This... actually is not that uncommon. Storms "bomb" out off the Pacific Coast all the time and are the source of just about all our major wind storms. All you need is colder air mixing into a warmer storm and you have a the potential for rapid strengthening -- sort of like feeding a hungry bear after it's been hibernating. In the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, it's as common as ice on a crab pot. ( I meant the storm, but maybe the bear analogy too...). We've talked about these storms many times before, but apparently many hadn't heard the term before. (Not sure why... #EastCoastBias)

Well, this storm is predicted to bombogenesis the heck out of itself (and now... it's a verb. You're welcome, new weather word monitors) as it heads up the East Coast, losing as much as 50 mb in a day. (Coming soon to late night informercials: "The Bombogensis Diet. Lose 50 mb in just one day!")

And as mentioned, it's already got some storm street cred. A little bit of snow and a dollop of freezing rain around Tallahassee sent the region into a confused disarray, cancelling schools and closing a major interstate when freezing rain coated a popular bridge in a layer of ice. ABC News reports most of the cities in northern Florida (or likely anywhere in Florida, for that matter) don't have any snow removal equipment. Because: why? You don't see Juneau investing in cooling centers...

The storm moved up into coastal Georgia. This is actually a scene from Savannah, Georgia, adding them to the list of unusual cities that have suffered more winter-type freeway travel issues this year than Seattle and Portland.

As it goes off the Carolinas, here comes the bombogenesis (They can feel it coming in the air, tonight...oh Lord...)

The storm is expected to be close enough to the coastal sections of the Atlantic Seaboard to bring strong winds and heavy snows as the storm continues to deepen, becoming so strong that the NOAA is even sending some of their hurricane hunter aircraft into the storm to gather data:

By Thursday afternoon the storm has deepened to a powerful 951 mb low (according to the Wednesday morning run of the Euro model) which would be on par with the strongest storms ever to swirl off the Pacific Northwest coast. (Note: I'm writing this from the West Coast so if you happen to be reading this from somewhere in the actual path of the storm, get specific forecast information from your local news and weather sources. I'm giving general impacts, not intending to be specific.)

This will bring very strong winds and heavy snows into parts of coastal New England with eastern Massachusetts looking to get the brunt of it.

But as crazy as strong as the storm seems, if it stays on the current track, the U.S. will miss the worst of the storm, which could have been catastrophic had a storm that size and powerful made it inland into a major population area. Check out the model's predicted wind speed gusts -- that wide circle of dark red in the center of the browns is the top of the charts at 90-100 mph gusts. If you look at the top right corner, that model is predicting a gust of 135.7 mph somewhere on the chart.

The charts do show some sort of landfall -- perhaps with the storm getting as low as 948 mb before arriving, somewhere into Nova Scotia.

After that storm passes though, comes Round 3 as that massive storm taps into even colder arctic air and wraps it back around into New England. As chilly as it's been there now (single digits and teens), temperatures are expected to drop below zero in the days after the storm -- some places in the New England interior could drop to 20 below zero with -10 possible in Boston and New York.

How rare is that? The forecast charts show it as around 40-45 degrees below normal. To put that in perspective, that would be about a low of -15 in Seattle.

When does it end? Long range charts suggest a return to normal for them early next week. Meaning we have some time to dig through the weather vocubulary book ahead of the next event. I'm staking an early claim to "Vorticity Max"...

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