What does a bomb cyclone mean for winter weather?

A person cross-country skis on a sidewalk in Bellingham, Wash., early Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. Heavy snow, freezing rain and sleet have disrupted flights and motorists trying to travel across the Pacific Northwest. (AP Photo/Lisa Baumann)

(NewsNation) — Frigid temperatures are forecast for much of the U.S. just in time for the holidays. Meteorologists say winter storm Elliot has the potential to become a bomb cyclone, but what exactly does that mean?

In the most simple terms, a bomb cyclone is rapidly strengthening storm where pressure drops 24 millibars within 24 hours. Storms are formed when warm and cold air collide, the cold air forcing warmer air higher into the atmosphere and creating an area of low pressure near the ground.

The quicker the pressure drops, the more powerful a storm can be. Bomb cyclones commonly form on the East coast of the U.S., because the conditions are ripe for warm and cold fronts to collide.

Bomb cyclones form in a way similar to hurricanes and can bring some of the same challenges, like strong, damaging winds, heavy precipitation and flooding.

Like any storm system, bomb cyclones are unpredictable, with forecasts changing as meteorologists track the path of the storm. Forecasters can’t say for sure that Elliot will become one. But even if the storm system doesn’t meet the criteria it can still cause plenty of damage.

According to the Weather Channel, winter storm Elliot is expected to bring frigid temperatures and snow to the Midwest and plains starting on Wednesday night and into Thursday, with some areas expecting blizzard conditions. The peak of the storm is forecast for Friday, with high winds and heavy snow expected to hit the Great Lakes region, while the Northeast is expected to see rain followed by a drop in temperature that could result in dangerously icy conditions.

Regardless of how it develops, Elliot is already threatening to cause serious travel disruptions just in time for Christmas. If you’re flying, prepare for the possibility of delays and canceled flights and if you’re hitting the road, make sure you’re prepared to handle emergencies.

For those in the path of the storm, experts also recommend stocking up on canned food, water, flashlights and batteries in case of power outages.


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