It’s not a nuclear bomb, a stick of dynamite, or even a firecracker. What it does is cause a lot of trouble when it visits you. It’s a “Bomb Cyclone.” It has some variations on its name like “Weather Bomb,” “Bombogenesis,” or “Cyclone Bomb.”
Most people had not heard of such a thing until one struck a large part of the U.S.with brutal blizzard conditions and shockingly cold temperatures. First we need a definition to get an idea with what we are dealing. According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) Ocean Service website “bombogenesis: “…a popular term used by meteorologists, occurs when a mid-lattitde cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone.” To make it simpler, 24 millibars is equal to 0.70872 inches of mercury on a standard barometer. That’s nearly a three quarters of an inch of mercury drop within a period of only 24 hours.
The storm began between January 3rd and the morning of the 4th off the coast of Florida. According to a Washington Post.com article written by their Weather Editor Jason Samenow “This storm’s pressure tanked 53 millibars in 21 hours (and 59 millibars in 24 hours), which puts it into the upper echelon of the most explosive East Coast storms ever observed – and perhaps even at the top.” That shows just how strong this storm was since 59 millibars is equivalent to 1.74227 inches of mercury which is more than twice the barometric pressure drop needed to qualify as a bomb cyclone.
On Wednesday morning January 3rd portions of north Florida, southeast Georgia, and coastal South Carolina had 6 inches of snow and a half inch of ice added on to it. For the first time in 28 years it snowed in Tallahassee, Florida. Even Savannah, Georgia iced up and then more than an inch of snow fell making it one of their snowiest days ever. Charleston, South Carolina had its third snowiest day with their National Weather Service Office reporting up to 5 inches of snow Wednesday.
From Washington Post.com “Blizzard warnings extended from the Virginia Tidewater region up the coast to eastern Maine, including Ocean City, Atlantic City, eastern Long Island, Boston, and Portland, Maine. These locations have all witnessed extremely heavy snow, exceeding a foot in some locations, and wind gusts of at least 40 to 60 miles per hour.”
When you look at the storm from a satellite perspective it strongly resembles a full-blown tropical hurricane, but with cold temperatures and snow.
Parts of South New Jersey reported 16 inches of snow fell while flights at JFK Airport were temporarily suspended due to whiteout conditions with winds gusting to 55 miles per hour. Islip Airport on Long Island reported three inch per hour snowfall rates for five straight hours and blizzard conditions producing wind gusts to 45 miles per hour.
Providence Rhode Island experienced heavy snow for seven straight hours (totaling 8 to 10 inches) with wind gusts 40-45 miles per hour.
Scituate, Massachusetts experienced serious coastal flood waters which produced a torrent that rolled through the streets of the town.
The storm’s enormous circulation helped draw several lobes of the Polar Vortex, the zone of frigid air encircling the North Pole, over the Mid-Atlantic Friday and Saturday dropping temperatures 20 to 40 degrees below what is considered normal. It even got cold enough to freeze part of Niagara Falls.
After seeing this massive storm and its effect on the East Coast I’m sure most of us are thankful that it didn’t have any direct impact on the Pacific Northwest.
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