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Nor'easter or sub-tropical storm? Some friends and I were on the outer banks (Portsmouth Island) from May 5th until May 8th. Clearly we picked a poor time weather-wise (for most of 48 hours waves topped the initial dunes and the wind rocked the cabin). The locals referred to the storm as a "nor'easter." Today, that same system is apparently called subtropical storm Andrea. So, the question - did we have the pleasure of a "nor'easter" or a sub-tropical storm or is sub-tropical storm just the meteorologically correct way of saying "nor'easter"?

Posted May 15, 2007

MIKE MOSS SAYS:   Robert,    Sounds like an interesting visit, though not what you hoped for I'm sure. In a case like this, the answer can reaklly be "both." The term Nor'easter is usually associated with intense extratropical low pressure systems that form move along a coast in sush a position as to produce strong and persistent northeasterly winds on shore. In this case, the storm began its life cycle as just such a system, then eventually became separated from the general west to east midlatitude flow and sat for a while over ocean waters that were just warm enough to partially transition it to a more tropical structure. While it took on the designation Subtropical Storm, there isn't anything wrong with considering it a nor'easter as well, nor is there anything wrong with dropping the nor'easter terminology once the storm has been named by the National Hurricane Center. Since you were there from the 5th through the 8th, and Andrea was not named until midday on the 9th, it was still more of a "nor'easter" during your visit.

You can see the initial NHC discussion making the decision to designate the system subtropical at

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2007/al01/al012007.discus.001.shtml?

Also, for more info on the differences in extratropical, subtropical and tropical storm systems, see my "Neutercane" blog entry at

http://www.wral.com/weather/blog/1028424/

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