The storm pummelling large swaths of the United States and Canada is what forecasters call a “bomb cyclone.”
What is a “bomb cyclone”?
- Forecasters have termed the blizzard as different from the usual weather events and called it a “bomb cyclone.”
- While this kind of storm is not exceedingly rare, this one is very strong, with high winds that are bringing heavy snow or rain to many areas.
- Storms form when a mass of low-pressure air meets a high-pressure mass.
- The air flows from high pressure to low, creating winds.
- What defines a bomb cyclone is how rapidly the pressure drops in the low-pressure mass — by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.
- This quickly increases the pressure difference, or gradient, between the two air masses, therefore making the winds stronger. This process of rapid intensification has an even more ferocious-sounding name: bombogenesis.
- As the area where the two air masses meet moves northward and eastward, conditions for bombogenesis should continue moving as well. But as the Arctic air spreads over most of the country it will eventually warm, reducing the pressure difference. The storm will dissipate.
- As the winds blow, the rotation of the Earth creates a cyclonic effect. The direction is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.
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