February 2018

Blowing in the Wind

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Before and during January’s Blizzard Brody, many of us weather-watchers heard forecasters toss about terms that we have never or rarely heard. I decided to troll the Internet to learn more about three of them: Bomb Cyclone, Bombogenesis, and Polar Vortex.

A Bomb Cyclone, simply put, results when the atmospheric pressure inside a rotating storm rapidly drops “like a bomb” (that is, the barometer falls at least 24 millibars in 24 hours).

The process that leads to a Bomb Cyclone is called Bombogenesis.

Probably a simpler way to think of both is just a big Nor’easter with a lot of snow, high winds and at least three hours of poor visibility!

Polar Vortex is a word that we started to hear last year. I first thought it was the same as an Arctic Blast, a strong cold front coming down from Canada. But not so, according to National Geographic.com. A polar vortex is actually a constant “thing” and there are two vortices, one at the North Pole and one at the South Pole. The vortices are wind currents that circulate above each pole, “like spinning hats” (National Geographic.com). The hats are held in place by the jet stream, a steam of air which carries weather from one coast to the other. In the Northeast, if the jet stream is weakened by kinks or undulations, some of the low pressure and wind from the North Polar vortex escapes further south bringing arctic air.

Why all these new-fangled words? Well for one, it makes wall-to-wall weather coverage sound more exciting and maybe a bit scary? For another, I read that these words are new only to us but have been part of meteorology’s glossary for decades or even centuries.

In any case, I hope that we don’t hear these words too many more times this winter.

Finally, I would like to end with a quote I found on the Internet from the comedian Carl Reiner:

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”

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