This week we have been subject to the “bomb cyclone”, a name given to a severe winter storm that has been pushing up the East Coast. The names for these winter storms have been put together by scientists, and meteorologists use these names as a way to make weather more visual.
The name “bomb” is a bit of a misnomer. The storm is not actually known as a bomb.
Locating the beginnings of the storm
A Bomb is simply an area that is being bombarded by snow and winds at nearly the same speed.
To get an idea of the intensity of the storm that is creating havoc along the East Coast, check out some of the images on this page.
What are the deadly winds that cause New York to be in its sub-freezing wind chill?
What about windchill?!
What is up with the snow?!
The extreme wind speeds along the East Coast are causing havoc with power lines.
On the other side of the storm, it is a near troposphere, where snowflakes take on water on their journey to the ground.
Once the snow is at the surface, it contains a critical chemical called oestrogen that retains water and starts to let it melt.
Even the heaviest snow in this case is easily sub-freezing on average.
Arctic air, which has been so dominant throughout December and is continuing into the weekend, is just adding to the snowcover in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Washington and Boston.
One of the most difficult elements of snow is retaining this snow across long distances and on the ground. This is why storm-tornadoes often travel in banding formations. If the storm is weak and buckled, the worst of the storms should be confined to a particular region. The lack of steering winds makes for strong storms that travel over relatively short distances, which affects how long snow melts.
Locating winter storms, and more importantly, their names, are most often a man-made effort to show what kinds of hazards winter storms bring. The names were chosen in 1996 from multiple sources such as the American Meteorological Society, Environmental Protection Agency and the American Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.
The “bomb” moniker was chosen for a number of reasons including the general popularization of the word bomb as a military concept. The meteorological names are heavily weighted toward winter storms as opposed to summer storms.
Using names has also been used to help people keep track of the storm as they travel. Additionally, similar names for heat waves and hurricanes has helped organizations identify potentially dangerous storms for people who are most in danger.
The name “snow” has not been a neutral moniker. There are only a couple dozen names for snowstorms, but many people refuse to use the more numerical sounding storms, such as “bomb cyclone.” So the extent to which the naming system has functioned is unclear.
However, these winter storms have gained notoriety and held the #1 spot among all things meteorological on Twitter for several days.
The severe weather and the Winter Storm Warning for Washington D.C. will continue into Saturday as the East Coast is forecast to receive heavy snowfall from Friday through Saturday.