Bombogenesis: How It Creates a Big Snowstorm

The storm, which some forecasters are calling a "bomb cyclone" or "snow hurricane," is bringing snow along with damaging winds, bone-chilling temps and the chance of coastal flooding

(TNS) — The upcoming snowstorm will not only deliver a winter beating to Long Island, but also provides us with a funky weather term — bombogenesis.

While that may sound like a prog rock group, the term actually applies to a storm in which the air pressure decreases rapidly, whipping up winds and thickening the snowfall. In this case, the storm, which some forecasters are calling a "bomb cyclone" or "snow hurricane," is expected to drop 3 to 6 inches in Nassau County and six to 10 inches in Suffolk on Thursday. That's along with damaging winds, bone-chilling temps and the chance of coastal flooding.

"It is defined as a meteorological bomb," said Chris Stachelski, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Upton. "It's a very, very powerful storm."

Hurricane Hunter planes flying into the storm will help create forecast models, added News 12 Long Island meteorologist Richard Hoffman.

Here's a quick breakdown on bombogenesis, and what it means for us.

What is bombogenesis? Technically, it's defined as a storm in which the air pressure drops 24 millibars or more in 24 hours. This storm is expected to drop 30 millibars over that period, Stachelski said. It's not a freak occurrence, as this region gets one or two such storms each winter, he said.

Will we feel the pressure dropping? Stachelski said some people claim that bombogenesis can send women into labor or crank up your arthritis. But he's not sure about that.

What causes it? Several conditions are coming together in this "storm bomb." For example, the jet stream is carrying cold air over our warm water. That clashing of cold arctic air with the warmer Gulf Stream creates a chimney effect in which the warm air rises rapidly and the air pressure drops. "And then we have a snowstorm," said Tim Morrin, another Weather Service meteorologist.

What does it mean for me? The exact track of the storm remains a bit unclear. A shift to the west could mean more snow, but an eastward move could mean less trouble. As of Wednesday morning, moderate to heavy snowfall is expected during the Thursday morning commute, with winds gusting at 15 to 30 mph, Hoffman said. Some places could face blizzard conditions, bringing a welter of winter pain including power outages, poor driving visibility and beach erosion.

How should I prepare? You might want to stock up on supplies today, and plan on difficult travel during the Thursday evening commute.

What happens after? Temperatures will remain subfreezing through the weekend, with Friday and Saturday especially frigid, but start to rise above freezing on Monday, Stachelski said.


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Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.
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