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Explosive cyclogenesis

The Braer Storm of January 1993 explosively deepened to a record low of 913 mbar (hPa)

Explosive cyclogenesis (also referred to as a weather bomb,[1][2][3] meteorological bomb,[4] explosive development,[1] bomb cyclone,[5][6] or bombogenesis[7][8][9]) is the rapid deepening of an extratropical cyclonic low-pressure area. The change in pressure needed to classify something as explosive cyclogenesis is latitude dependent. For example, at 60° latitude, explosive cyclogenesis occurs if the central pressure decreases by 24 millibars (0.71 inHg) or more in 24 hours.[10][11] This is a predominantly maritime, winter event,[10][12] but also occurs in continental settings.[13][14] This process is the extratropical equivalent of the tropical rapid deepening. Although their cyclogenesis is entirely different from that of tropical cyclones, bomb cyclones can produce winds of 74 to 95 mph (120 to 155 km/h), the same order as the first categories of the Saffir–Simpson scale, and yield heavy precipitation. Even though only a minority of bomb cyclones become this strong, some weaker ones can also cause significant damage.


In the 1940s and 1950s, meteorologists at the Bergen School of Meteorology began informally calling some storms that grew over the sea "bombs" because they developed with a great ferocity rarely seen over land.

By the 1970s, the terms "explosive cyclogenesis" and even "meteorological bombs" were being used by MIT professor Fred Sanders (building on work from the 1950s by Tor Bergeron), who brought the term into common usage in a 1980 article in the Monthly Weather Review.[5][10] In 1980, Sanders and his colleague John Gyakum defined a "bomb" as an extratropical cyclone that deepens by at least (24 sin φ / sin 60°) mb in 24 hours, where φ represents latitude. This is based on the definition, standardised by Bergeron, for explosive development of a cyclone at 60°N as deepening by 24 mb in 24 hours.[15] Sanders and Gyakum noted that an equivalent intensification is dependent on latitude: at the poles this would be a drop in pressure of 28 mb/24 hours, while at 25 degrees latitude it would be only 12 mb/24 hours. All these rates qualify for what Sanders and Gyakum called "1 bergeron".[10][13] Sanders' and Gyakum's 1980 definition, which is used in the American Meteorological Society's Glossary of Meteorology, said that the "bomb" was "predominantly" a "maritime, cold season event".[10][12]

In October 2010, an unusual weather system that reached the strength of a Category 3 hurricane and spanned 31 states in the United States and six Canadian provinces, underwent bombogenesis, according to Environment Canada.[16] Severe weather warnings included "tornadoes, blustery blizzards, powerful gales, wind-driven rains, heavy snows and thunderstorms".[16] The storm had the greatest impact in the Canadian province of Manitoba with the city of Winnipeg setting an "all-time record for its lowest-ever barometric pressure".[16]

In early 2014 in the North Atlantic, fourteen wind events out of twenty that had reached hurricane-force, underwent bombogenesis, the process that creates a bomb cyclone, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).[17] NOAA said that bombogenesis "occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours."[17]

A bomb cyclone developed near the Great Lakes during the late December 2022 rapidly intensifying North American winter storm, when large, frigid, polar air masses from the polar vortex, propelled by high-pressure systems in Canada, met with the low-pressure mass of very warm air, resulting in a sharp and rapid drop in atmospheric pressure.[18][19][20] It reached the criteria to be classified as bombogenesis when the atmospheric pressure dropped 24 millibars within 24 hours.[21][19] The US National Weather Service's meteorologist, John Moore, reported a sharp pressure difference or gradient from 1,047 millibars (30.9 inHg) to about 962 millibars (28.4 inHg).[19] As warm air was drawn into the storm, the winds got stronger, and air pressure and temperatures fell rapidly.[18][22] The US National Weather Service reported a drop in temperature of 26 degrees in Montana in three minutes on December 24.[19] The storm hit "large swaths" of North America leaving 55 fatalities in the United States and four in Canada.[19][23] Strong winds and blizzard-like conditions intensified in the Northern Plains.[24] With no Canadian province and territory spared [tone], there was a total of 425 emergency weather warnings on December 24—an "almost unprecedented number".[25] Extreme conditions included wind chill readings of −50 °C (−58 °F), heavy snow, "storm surges, ice fog, strong winds", and "ice bombs"—in reference to chunks of accumulated ice that threatens to fall on cars when crossing certain bridges.[25] The storm in the United States was described as "historic" by the NPR. It affected about 60% of the population, and resulted in the issuance of "one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever".[20] At its peak on December 24, 1.5 million households in the United States and 500,000 in Canada were without electricity.[25]

In the last week of December 2022 through the first week of January 2023, a bomb cyclone hit the American West Coast, leading to the death of at least two people in California.[26][27]


Baroclinic instability has been cited as one of the principal mechanisms for the development of most explosively deepening cyclones.[28] However, the relative roles of baroclinic and diabatic processes in explosive deepening of extratropical cyclones have been subject to debate (citing case studies) for a long time.[29] Other factors include the relative position of a 500-hPa trough and thickness patterns, deep tropospheric frontogenetic processes which happen both upstream and downstream of the surface low, the influence of air–sea interaction, and latent heat release.[30]

Regions and motion

Absorbing the remnants of a powerful tropical cyclone can trigger explosive cyclogenesis

The four most active regions where extratropical explosive cyclogenesis occurs in the world are the Northwest Pacific, the North Atlantic, the Southwest Pacific, and the South Atlantic.[31]

In the Northern Hemisphere the maximum frequency of explosively deepening cyclones is found within or to the north of the Atlantic Gulf Stream and Kuroshio Current in the western Pacific,[10] and in the Southern Hemisphere it is found with Australian east coast lows above the East Australian Current, which shows the importance of air-sea interaction in initiating and rapidly developing extratropical cyclones.[32]

Explosively deepening cyclones south of 50°S often show equator-ward movement, in contrast with the poleward motion of most Northern Hemisphere bombs.[30] Over the year, 45 cyclones on average in the Northern Hemisphere and 26 in the Southern Hemisphere develop explosively, mostly in the respective hemisphere's winter time. Less seasonality has been noticed in bomb cyclogenesis occurrences in the Southern Hemisphere.[30]

Other uses of "weather bomb"

The term "weather bomb" is popularly used in New Zealand to describe dramatic or destructive weather events. Rarely are the events actual instances of explosive cyclogenesis, as the rapid deepening of low pressure areas is rare around New Zealand.[33][34] This use of "bomb" may lead to confusion with the more strictly defined meteorological term. In Japan, the term bomb cyclone (爆弾低気圧, bakudan teikiatsu) is used both academically and commonly to refer to an extratropical cyclone which meets the meteorological "bomb" conditions.[35][36]

The term "bomb" may be somewhat controversial. When European researchers protested that it was a rather warlike term, Fred Sanders, the coauthor of the paper which introduced the meteorological usage quipped: "So why are you using the term 'front'?"[37]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Fierce 'weather bomb' batters Britain". The Telegraph. 9 December 2011. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  2. ^ "The worst storm in years?". Met Office Blog. 28 January 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  3. ^ Edwards, Tim (9 December 2011). "Scotland storm: what is a weather bomb?". The Week. London, United Kingdom: Dennis Publishing. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  4. ^ O'Hanlon, Larry (25 February 2013). "Look out -- 'meteorological bomb' is on the way!". NBC News. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  5. ^ a b Williams, Jack (20 May 2005). "Bomb cyclones ravage northwestern Atlantic". USA Today. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  6. ^ Feltman, Rachel (3 January 2018). "What the heck is a bomb cyclone?". Popular Science. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Ryan explains Bomb Cyclogenesis". WBRZ News 2 Louisiana. Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  8. ^ Freedman, Andrew (1 March 2013). "Meteorological bomb explodes over New England". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  9. ^ Rodman, Kristen (23 January 2014). "What is Bombogenesis?". Accuweather. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Sanders, Frederick; Gyakum, John R (1980). "Synoptic-Dynamic Climatology of the 'Bomb'". Monthly Weather Review. 108 (10): 1589–606. Bibcode:1980MWRv..108.1589S. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1980)108<1589:SDCOT>2.0.CO;2.
  11. ^ Chelsea Harvey (November 10, 2014). "Here's What Caused The 'Bomb Cyclone' That's About To Freeze The Northern US". Business Insider. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Bomb". American Meteorological Society. Glossary of Meteorology. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  13. ^ a b "The Bomb". 27 October 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  14. ^ MacDonald, Bruce C; Reiter, Elmar R (1988). "Explosive Cyclogenesis over the Eastern United States". Monthly Weather Review. 116 (8): 1568–86. Bibcode:1988MWRv..116.1568M. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1988)116<1568:ECOTEU>2.0.CO;2.
  15. ^ Baker, Laura (2011). Sting Jets in Extratropical Cyclones (Ph.D.). University of Reading.
  16. ^ a b c Government of Canada (16 December 2010). "Freak Canada-U.S. 'Weather Bomb'". Environment and Climate Change Canada: Weather and Meteorology. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  17. ^ a b "What is bombogenesis?". US Department of Commerce and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. n.d. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  18. ^ a b Hoover, Amanda (22 December 2022). "Here Comes a Bomb Cyclone to Ruin Christmas". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  19. ^ a b c d e Fountain, Henry (23 December 2022). "What Is a 'Bomb Cyclone'?". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  20. ^ a b Ahn, Ashley (23 December 2022). "A huge storm brings icy temperatures and canceled flights to a majority of Americans". NPR. Retrieved December 22, 2022.
  21. ^ Kohli, Anisha; Espada, Mariah (24 December 2022). "A Deadly Storm Could Hit More Than 50 Million People". Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  22. ^ @NOAASatellites (December 22, 2022). "It's so chilly this morning, that @NOAA's #GOESEast can 'see' the temperatures in parts of the U.S. As #Arctic air plunges southward, dangerously cold temperatures ranging from -20 to -40°F are showing up as a blue shading over Montana and Wyoming" (Tweet). Retrieved 27 December 2022 – via Twitter.
  23. ^ "US bomb cyclone: At least 59 dead as North America gripped by devastating winter storm". Sky News. UK. 27 December 2022. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  24. ^ "Bomb Cyclone To Pack Snow, High Winds, Blizzard". The Weather Channel. December 21, 2022. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  25. ^ a b c Goldman, Russell; Ward, Euan (24 December 2022). "Storm Batters Canada, Leaving Thousands Without Power". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  26. ^ Donegan, Brian (2023-01-06). "Parade of storms will pound California through next week following deadly bomb cyclone". FOX Weather. Retrieved 2023-01-07.
  27. ^ Vera, Nouran Salahieh, Holly Yan, Allison Chinchar, Amir (2023-01-05). "The cyclone that killed a child in California is battering the state with ferocious winds, mudslides and even more flooding". CNN. Retrieved 2023-01-07.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ Weng, H. Y.; Barcilon, A. (1987). "Favorable environments for explosive cyclogenesis in a modified two-layer Eady model". Tellus A. 39A (3): 202–214. Bibcode:1987TellA..39..202W. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0870.1987.tb00301.x.
  29. ^ Fink, Andreas H.; Pohle, Susan; Pinto, Joaquim G.; Knippertz, Peter (2012). "Diagnosing the influence of diabatic processes on the explosive deepening of extratropical cyclones" (PDF). Geophysical Research Letters. 39 (7): n/a. Bibcode:2012GeoRL..39.7803F. doi:10.1029/2012GL051025. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  30. ^ a b c Lim, Eun-Pa; Simmonds, Ian (2002). "Explosive Cyclone Development in the Southern Hemisphere and a Comparison with Northern Hemisphere Events". Monthly Weather Review. 130 (9): 2188–2209. Bibcode:2002MWRv..130.2188L. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(2002)130<2188:ECDITS>2.0.CO;2.
  31. ^ Black, Mitchell Timothy; Pezza, Alexandre Bernardes (2013). "A universal, broad-environment energy conversion signature of explosive cyclones". Geophysical Research Letters. 40 (2): 452–7. Bibcode:2013GeoRL..40..452B. doi:10.1002/grl.50114.
  32. ^ Yoshiike, Satoki; Kawamura, Ryuichi (2009). "Influence of wintertime large-scale circulation on the explosively developing cyclones over the western North Pacific and their downstream effects". Journal of Geophysical Research. 114 (D13). Bibcode:2009JGRD..11413110Y. doi:10.1029/2009JD011820.
  33. ^ Kreft, Peter (4 March 2012). "The Bomb". Metservice NZ blog. Archived from the original on 17 September 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  34. ^ "New Zealand's media doesn't understand what a 'Weather Bomb' is". 27 March 2017. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  35. ^ 爆弾低気圧とは. Bomb Cyclones Information Database (in Japanese). Kyushu University. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  36. ^ Milner, Rebecca (3 December 2012). "Japan's top 10 buzzwords for 2012". Japan Pulse Blog. The Japan Times. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  37. ^ "Meet the Canadian who helped coin the term 'weather bomb'". CBC News. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2018.

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Explosive cyclogenesis
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