No need to panic – while powerful, “bomb cyclones” aren’t as terrifying of a weather phenomenon as its name would suggest.
If a winter storm is dubbed a bomb cyclone, or “bombogenesis,” by meteorologists, it means it is expected to rapidly intensify.
Read on for a look at these storms – and how often they can occur.
What is a bombogenesis?
The term bombogenesis is used by meteorologists to refer to a rapidly intensifying area of low pressure, Fox News’ Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said.
“The central pressure of an area of low pressure [winter storm] must drop at least 24 millibars in 24 hours to qualify,” Dean explained. “Several major impacts will include strong winds, beach erosion and coastal flooding especially with high tide.”
A millibar is the measurement of atmospheric pressure, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters,” the National Ocean Service explains on its website. “The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called ‘bombogenesis,’ which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone.”
A bombogenesis storm can be tropical or non-tropical, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said in a blog post.
“The term bombogenesis comes from the merging of two words: bomb and cyclogenesis. All storms are cyclones, and genesis means the creation or beginning,” Sosnowski said. “In this case, bomb refers to explosive development. Altogether the term means explosive storm strengthening.”
What happens during one of these storms?
If you’re caught in the path of a bomb cyclone, you could expect to see intense wind gusts or large amounts of snow.
The intensity of a bomb cyclone oftentimes peaks once the storm reaches New England, according to Wired.
Are they unusual?
It’s not unusual to get at least one storm that is classified as a bomb cyclone a year, Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with NOAA's Weather Prediction Center, told Fox News.
Bombogenesis Nor'easters actually occur most winters, WNYW-TV reported.
In 2018, two winter storms hit the northeastern coast of the U.S. that were classified as bomb cyclones – one in January and another in March.