Howling winds, a barrage of snow, and churning seas typical for a nor’easter will pound the East Coast beginning Thursday; but this storm threatens to explode into a scenario far worse, with some meteorologists warning residents from Florida to Maine it could indeed mutate into a bomb cyclone, or bombogenesis — effectively transitioning from hefty winter wallop into dangerous winter hurricane — with a drop in pressure of 24 or more millibars in a period of twenty-four hours.
Watches and warnings have been issued along the entire Eastern Seaboard as Winter Storm Grayson threatens waves as high as 26 feet and winds approaching 80 miles per hour — if not worse.
With much of the United States already in the midst of a record-eradicating deep freeze and some areas buried under massive amounts of snow — Erie, Pennsylvania, torched previous records with a 65-inch snowfall, in just one example — the news a bomb could paralyze portions of the East might not exactly be welcome.
But it’s on its way.
“The real apex, the peak of the storm, will be Cape Cod to Nova Scotia,” Gregg Gallina, a forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, told Bloomberg.
Boston, a city whose seven-day streak of temperatures below 20 degrees shattered a century-old record — but which is begrudgingly all-too familiar with nor’easters — may see a foot of snow, the Boston Herald reports.
“This is a three-headed monster with the snow, the wind and coastal flooding,” local Channel 7 meteorologist, Jeremy Reiner, asserted. “The concern with this storm is the incredible winds and bitter cold.”
The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore concurred, stating plainly, “It will be a Goliath.”
Following are the forecast pressure lows for New England for the afternoon Thursday, according to Business Insider:
This GIF shows the projected wind circulation as of Thursday afternoon:
Cantore cautioned the colossal tempest could cause widespread loss of power up the coast while leaving “biting Arctic cold” in its wake — but noted vigilance is imperative with the storm still fomenting and expected to increase potency around North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras and Outer Banks. In fact, Florida already issued a Winter Storm Watch — a rare and indicative action Cantore suggests does not bode well for New England and Coastal Canada.
“This is a winter hurricane,” Cantore advised, cited by the Herald. “It’s a very dynamic storm packing high winds and below-zero wind chills. It’s insane. This has the potential to really explode, but don’t just focus on the snowfall. The wind and the cold — and the cold after — will be big.”
He added of the Canadian region encompassing Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and surrounds, “Say a prayer for our friends in the Canadian maritimes. They’re going to get whacked.”
Residents in areas affected by the massive disturbance are advised by the National Weather Service, “If a high wind warning is issued, stay inside and away from windows.”
Meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted Tuesday, “All day Thursday meteorologists are going to be glued to the new GOES-East satellite watching a truly amazing extratopical ‘bomb’ cyclone off New England coast. It will be massive — fill up entire Western Atlantic off U.S. East Coast. Pressure as low as Sandy & hurricane winds.”
All day Thursday meteorologists are going to be glued to the new GOES-East satellite watching a truly amazing extratopical "bomb" cyclone off New England coast. It will be massive — fill up entire Western Atlantic off U.S. East Coast. Pressure as low as Sandy & hurricane winds pic.twitter.com/6M4S3y75wT
— Ryan Maue | weather.us (@RyanMaue) January 2, 2018
Indeed, “Some computer models are projecting a minimum central air pressure of below 950 millibars at its peak, which would be nearly unheard of for this part of the world outside of a hurricane,” noted Andrew Freedman for Mashable. “For comparison, Hurricane Sandy had a minimum central pressure of about 946 millibars when it made its left hook into New Jersey in 2012.”
Should the storm sustain pressure that low, it would be unprecedented for a non-tropical cyclone system in thirty years.
12z NAEFS MSLP valid at 12z Thurs at minimum values for all hours relative to the Dec25-Jan15 30 year CFSR climate record. pic.twitter.com/Fe7Ho8nRip
— Anthony Sagliani (@anthonywx) January 2, 2018
According to The Weather Channel, as pointed out by Zero Hedge, beyond the specific drop in pressure, a “[b]ombogenesis results when there is a large temperature gradient, usually between a cold continental air mass and warm sea-surface temperatures. However, it can also be the product of a cold polar air mass and much warmer air from the south, say, over the Plains states.
“Over that temperature contrast, a powerful, intensifying jet-stream disturbance triggers air to rise and kicking off the bombogenesis process.”
When that happens, “Winds increase dramatically and precipitation, including snowfall, can become intense. Blizzard conditions can occur, sometimes, accompanied by lightning as the system is bombing out.”
UCLA climate scientist, Daniel Swain, told Mashable, “Relationships between the ocean and atmosphere are complicated, especially as they relate to explosively developing extratropical cyclones (like the one currently in the forecast).
“But the extreme thermal contrast between very cold atmospheric temperatures over land and an unusually warm nearby Gulf Stream certainly sets the stage for impressive storm-strengthening potential. Ocean conditions are not the only factor at play (atmospheric conditions, like the position and strength of jet stream winds in the upper atmosphere, are also critical), but they’re definitely important.”
Its course as-yet uncertain, there could be an albeit flimsy silver lining for areas impacted most heavily by snow — inches of the fluffy precipitate insulate pipes and infrastructure from constant and brutal winds — without that layer, exposure easily causes stressed pipes to fracture, triggering a domino effect of potentially disastrous problems.
Meteorologists and government officials warn the public to take precautions and prepare, while watching forecasts to track the monster storm.
Ominous predictions do not issue guarantees such scenarios will result, and it remains to be seen precisely what course, intensity, impact, and effects will result from this storm— but, given the already biting temperatures and certainty for life-endangering conditions, this blustery winter squall isn’t one to ignore as exaggeration.