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

By Sara DiNatale | Times Staff
Published: January 3, 2018 Updated: January 3, 2018 at 07:57 PM
Omar Elkhalidi uses a wood shim to scrape ice off his windshield that accumulated overnight from freezing temperatures, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Savannah, Ga. Only a few motorists ventured out in freezing rain that coated bridges and ramps with ice, forcing police to close roads and highways in Savannah. [Associated Press]

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, theyíre just clever Twitter hashtags.

"You canít have a hurricane in the winter," said WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Grant Gilmore. "A hurricane needs warm ocean water. Theyíre completely different types of weather systems even though theyíre both low pressure."

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

Itís called bombogenesis. And if youíre 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 itís not an anomaly, itís 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 [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.