This bomb's about to go off. Dmitriy Kochergin/Shutterstock

Thanks to the warping of the jet stream that crosses the Arctic, much of the United States is currently in the grip of an overly harsh and record-breaking cold snap. Sharks have reportedly washed up on beaches frozen to death, parts of the Niagara Falls have turned into crystalline marvels, and the President of the United States is talking out of his posterior with regards to climate change science.

As first reported by the Capital Weather Gang over at the Washington Post, the deep chill isn’t over yet. A rather peculiar meteorological phenomenon named a “bomb cyclone” is about to hit the East Coast this week which they said, not necessarily unfairly, will “resemble a winter hurricane.”

It will begin with a storm whipping the coastal parts of southeastern US, bringing with it blizzard-like conditions. Florida, for example, is already getting a fair bit of rain, sleet and snow dumped on it.

The system is predicted to then move out into the Atlantic Ocean near to New England, and models suggest that it will have hurricane-strength winds by around Thursday. Biting cold and plenty of snow will fall across parts of the US for a day or more.


So, at this point, we hear you asking: What the heck is a bomb cyclone, or even a winter hurricane? Well, rather bemusingly, there appears to be some disagreement as to what this phenomenon actually is.

According to plenty of meteorologists, a bomb cyclone is a real term. The system’s sudden drop in pressure appears to be where the “bomb” term has emerged from. The UK Met Office explains that a “weather bomb” is a somewhat unofficial term for a low-pressure system – like a storm or hurricane – whose core pressure drops by 24 millibars in 24 hours. In the US, this is sometimes known as bombogenesis.

“Meteorologically speaking, the process is known as explosive cyclogenesis. In this instance, the pressure system within 12 hours will drop from 995 millibars to 952 millibars,” Oli Claydon, a spokesperson for the UK Met Office, told IFLScience.

Update: Earther has found one of the original papers in which the word "bomb", as used in meteorological terms, is first officially described and applied. Neat!


As pointed out by meteorologist James Kossin over at The Daily Beast, however, this isn’t a “winter hurricane”. Although the storm will probably bring hurricane-force winds, it’s not technically a hurricane. It's just a storm.

“Hurricanes need a set of specific variables at play, which they are not at the moment,” Claydon adds.

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