04 January 2018

Bombogenesis and bomb cyclone

Today the East Coast of the U.S. was hit with a big snowstorm and terms like bombogenesis and bomb cyclone were all over the news and social media. They sound like made-up media terms, like snowmageddon or snowpocalypse, but they are legitimate meteorological terms.

These terms were new to me but have been in use by meteorologists since at least 1980. The winter storm in March 1993 that was called the Storm of the Century was also a bomb cyclone. Social media has made bombogenesis and bomb cyclone part of our winter vocabulary.

But why "bomb?" That term comes because, like a bomb, the storm's pressure has to drop at least 24 millibars in less than 24 hours. That marks how quickly a storm strengthens.

The more familiar cyclones of tropical temperatures feed off patches of warm ocean water. But a winter bomb cyclone is from colliding air masses. You might hear it called a "winter hurricane" but meteorologists usually avoid that name.

And why "genesis?"  Bombogenesis refers more specifically to a bomb storm's development or "genesis." First the genesis, then the cyclone.

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