Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Acacia Pepler, Research Scientist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

The eastern United States experienced a very severe winter storm last week, which caused damaging winds, heavy snow and the highest tide on record for Boston. Meteorologists call this type of storm a “bomb cyclone”, or simply a “bomb”. But what is it?

A “bomb” is an old meteorological term for a low-pressure system outside the tropics (that is, an extratropical cyclone) that intensifies very rapidly, based on how fast the atmospheric pressure drops at the centre of the storm. A common benchmark is a drop of 24 hectopascals (hPa) over 24 hours, although this varies slightly with latitude.

The recent bomb in the US had a reported pressure drop of 59hPa over 24 hours, making it one of the strongest such storms ever recorded.

Read more: Weather bomb: scary new name for common winter storm

While it’s the overall intensity that matters most for impacts like strong winds and storm surge, the rapid development of a bomb often makes it harder to forecast its exact intensity and timing. This in turn increases the risks to life and property.

Explainer: 'bomb cyclones' – the intense winter storms that hit the US (and Australia too) New Yorkers were hit with an icy blast last week. Darren Ornitz/Reuters

What, where and why?

Just like a normal extratropical cyclone, a bomb gets its energy from variations in temperature, between the warmer temperatures towards the Equator and cooler temperatures towards the poles, as well as vertically through the atmosphere. This is different to tropical cyclones, which get their energy from very warm sea surface temperatures in the tropics.

During the cooler months the east coasts of continents are the perfect breeding grounds for bombs. The interaction between cold continental air and warm, moist ocean air provides lots of energy for a cyclone to develop. But compared with normal extratropical cyclones, bombs are much better at efficiently converting this potential energy into motion and impacts on the ground.

Bombs are most common in the winter, but can occur all year round, including systems that rapidly reform from a decaying tropical cyclone.

On average, there are about 70 bombs worldwide each year. About two-thirds are in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly off the east coasts of the US and Japan. Australia typically experiences several bombs each year, although they don’t tend to intensify as rapidly as the recent US storm.

Many of the severe cyclones on Australia’s east coast (known as East Coast Lows) meet the definition of a bomb. In December 1998, a rapidly intensifying East Coast Low brought tragedy to the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, killing six competitors. More recently an East Coast Low intensified very rapidly over June 20-21, 2016 – luckily, this was further from the coast than the cyclone that caused major damage just a couple of weeks earlier.

Explosive storm intensification can also occur around southern Australia. The storms and tornadoes that blacked out South Australia’s electricity network in late September 2016 were related to a rapidly intensifying cyclone that brought very strong winds and high coastal sea levels to the state’s southeast.

Explainer: 'bomb cyclones' – the intense winter storms that hit the US (and Australia too) South Australian weather maps for September 27-29, 2016, showing the cyclone’s rapid development before it made landfall. Bureau of Meteorology, Author provided

The future of bombs

Globally, extratropical cyclones are projected to shift closer to the poles on average, which means fewer winter cyclones in southern Australia. Trends in the strongest cyclones or bombs are less clear, but there is some indication that they have grown more frequent in recent decades, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere.

Northern Hemisphere studies suggest that bomb cyclones will also move towards the poles, although they might become more intense on America’s east coast.

Read more: Explainer: the wild storms that lash Australia’s east coast

Fewer studies have looked at projected changes in bombs in the Southern Hemisphere, but previous research has found that Australia’s East Coast Lows are expected to become less frequent as a result of global warming, particularly during winter, which is when the bomb storms typically occur, while intense cyclones may become more frequent south of Australia.

But remember: even if bombs become less frequent, increasing sea levels and atmospheric moisture can potentially worsen their impacts in the future.

Authors: Acacia Pepler, Research Scientist, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Read more http://theconversation.com/explainer-bomb-cyclones-the-intense-winter-storms-that-hit-the-us-and-australia-too-89924

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Prime Minister Bridget McKenzie press conference

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon everybody. The good news is that the Qantas flight is on its way to Wuhan and I want to thank everybody for their cooperation, particularly the Chinese Government as...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Is Hiring a Corporate Lawyer for Your Company Necessary?

Alternative online legal services like LegalZoom, Incfile, and Rocket Lawyer provides young and budding entrepreneurs access to legal help at a much affordable price without having to hire or meet a l...

Joe Curmi - avatar Joe Curmi

Top 5 Green Marketing Ideas for Your Eco-Friendly Small Business

According to studies, about 33 percent of consumers prefer buying from brands that care about their impact on the environment. This is good news for anyone running an eco-friendly business. It’s a...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Choosing the Right Coworking Space For Your Business

As the capital of Victoria in Australia, Melbourne is inhabited by millions of people and is known as one of the most liveable cities in the world. The latter is due to the city’s diverse community...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

Travel

Travelling With Pets? Here Is What You Should Know

Only a pet parent can understand the dilemma one experiences while planning a vacation. Do you leave your pets at home?  Will you get a pet sitter or someone to take care of them while you are away?...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR GRADUATION TRIP

Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo