A ‘cold-weather bomb’ is bearing down on the East Coast — and it could deliver lots of snow and record-low temperatures

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Boston blizzard cold weather
People
on a street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston during
white-out, blizzard-like conditions in
February.

REUTERS/Brian
Snyder


  • A winter storm is forecast to slam the East Coast this
    week, bringing snow and freezing weather from Florida to
    Maine.
  • The storm’s central pressure is expected to drop to
    about 950 millibars, which is equivalent to a Category 3
    hurricane.
  • The region is expected to be slapped with an Arctic air
    mass on Saturday to plunge temperatures to below zero in New
    York City.


The East Coast will probably get even more frigid before the end
of this
cold snap
, at least if current weather models hold true.

A “cold-weather bomb” is bearing
down on the East Coast
, and it could bring heavy snowfall and
record-breaking freezing temperatures.

Winter-storm
warnings
have been issued from Florida up to Maine, though
the storm’s effects will depend on which way it tracks. As of
now, it’s looking pretty daunting for the Northeast.

What is a ‘weather bomb’?

This isn’t hyperbole — a “weather bomb,” or “bombogenesis,” is
the term used by meteorologists for this kind of storm system.
The phenomenon gets this ominous label when the central pressure
of a low-pressure system drops at least 24 millibars (a unit for
measuring atmospheric pressure) within 24 hours.

Bombogenesis occurs when cold, continental air masses meet warm,
moisture-rich oceanic air. That can create high winds and heavy
precipitation,
according to The Weather Channel
.

The storm working its way up the East Coast is expected to exceed
the standard bombogenesis rate by several millibars and drop to a
minimum pressure of about 950 millibars — equivalent to a
Category 3 hurricane. (Hurricane Sandy, which devastated New York
City and the New Jersey coast in 2012,
had a minimum pressure of 946 millibars
when it made
landfall.)

Meteorologists consider air pressure
to be a measure of a storm’s intensity
, meaning this could be
one of the strongest winter storms ever to hit the East Coast —
at least on record.

This GIF shows the projected pressure lows off the coast of New
York and New England on Thursday afternoon, based on current
models from the interactive forecast site Windy: 

Current models show the storm creeping up the East Coast,
bringing high winds, heavy snowfall, and the potential for
coastal flooding. It’s expected to
dump 3 inches of snow
on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on
Tuesday evening, a phenomenon not seen since
2010
. Even Jacksonville, Florida, is expected to see some
snowfall on Wednesday.

By Thursday, if the storm track holds, a combination of heavy
snowfall and high winds will create blizzard conditions that
could dump over a foot of snow in much of southern New England,
Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland,
according to Mashable’s Andrew Freedman
. People as far
southwest as Dallas aren’t expected to see temperatures above
freezing for the next few days.

This shows the projected wind circulation on Thursday
afternoon: 

After the snow, a deep freeze

New Yorkers — who just lived through one of the most frigid New
Year’s Eves of the past century — may also see blizzard-like
conditions if the storm shifts about 50 miles west. The National
Weather Service expects New York to receive 2 to 4 inches of snow
on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Following the storm, temperatures are expected to plunge
precipitously.

An Arctic air mass over Canada’s Hudson Bay creeping south, drawn
in by the massive air circulation in the storm’s wake, could
bring temperatures in New York City to the single digits this
weekend and well below zero on Saturday evening.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, New Yorkers should hope for
heavy snowfall.

Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist, explained
on Twitter
that even a couple of inches of snow can serve as
infrastructure insulation, protecting water pipes and subway
tracks from extreme cold. Without that snow, water pipes can
freeze or burst, which could then knock out power and create a
cascade of damage that would make commutes (not to mention life
in general) a bit miserable.

Despite what President Donald Trump has
claimed on Twitter
, winter storms — just like hurricanes and
heat waves — can be made more severe by climate change. As the
White House and Congress gear up
to take on infrastructure
this year, that’s probably a threat
they should keep in mind.

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