National News

On bombogenesis and why winter is coming to Florida ... but a 'winter hurricane' is not

Posted January 7, 2018 6:10 p.m. EST

The frigid low-pressure storm riling up the East Coast is very real. It can be blamed for the 75-car pileup in Buffalo, N.Y., the snow in Tallahassee and the deep chill across Tampa Bay.

But a "winter hurricane" it is not.

Nor is it really a "snow hurricane" or "cyclone bomb," because neither of those phrases are actually things. Really, they're just clever Twitter hashtags.

"You can't have a hurricane in the winter," said WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Grant Gilmore. "A hurricane needs warm ocean water. They're completely different types of weather systems even though they're both low pressure."

So if not a hurricane, what's really going on with this monster system affecting the entire East Coast?

It's called bombogenesis. And if you're itching for slang use, Gilmore said meteorologists will also say a storm is "bombing out."

"(Bombogenesis) is a fancy word for describing the process the storm system or area of low pressure goes through when it drops 24 millibars within 24 hours," Gilmore said.

A millibar is a unit that measures air pressure. A cyclone, or area of low pressure, dropping that much so fast usually happens about twice a winter season. So while it's not an anomaly, it's also not common.

The storm, albeit not a hurricane, will still bring high winds, especially on the Eastern Seaboard. Snow is expected to pummel the coastline up north.

Floridians can blame bombogenesis for the rain and the well-below average temperatures.

"The storm strengthens so quickly that it actually helps push that cold air farther south," Gilmore said.

The rain Wednesday was just the beginning.

So while a "winter hurricane" may not be coming to Florida, winter certainly is.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.