New England, the East Coast and Bermuda are under an intense and developing bomb cyclone Sunday morning.
The National Weather Service called the thunderstorm cluster “possibly one of the strongest north Atlantic thunderstorms on record” as it developed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Weather and area models — and scientists — have struggled to explain the unusual disturbance.
“What is a bomb cyclone?” meteorologist Jim Andrews of AccuWeather asks. “It’s kind of tricky. “
Here’s what we know:
This storm originated in the Caribbean Sea and made its way up the Atlantic to hit north of New England.
This is an old-fashioned jet stream event — which means that the air surging south is pushing brisk winds and falling temperatures along with it.
If this jet stream and air coming in behind it stays as close to the Atlantic as it has been so far, they’ll meet and create what’s called a “bomb cyclone.”
As a consequence, storms originating from the North Atlantic will get their energy from air zooming along with the jet stream and then collide.
Exactly how strong an event like this usually is isn’t entirely clear, but it typically isn’t strong enough to be called a “bomb.”
The National Weather Service website doesn’t specify which designation for extreme events or extremes is used; “explosive cyclogenesis” is used for weather events with potential for significant damage, “nuclear winter” is for a winter storm in which the cold air is so pervasive it triggers an outbreak of flu-like illness and “extreme cold” refers to subzero lows.
It could be a nuclear winter or a nuclear winter in the eastern US.
Andrews and other meteorologists haven’t pinned down the exact extent of the storm, but they do have a rough map for where it’s at, which shows a line of intense storms along the coast from Massachusetts to New York.
On top of that, the storm is causing travel disruptions as it slides up the coast, and the Jet Stream is bypassing the storm at one point and then diving south before shooting north again.
Some scientists believe the anomaly could be tied to an El Niño, but there’s no conclusive evidence that that’s the case, Andrews said.
The Atlantic is getting “too big for these weather systems to generate the energy in these systems,” he said.
Andrews said such explosive storms could happen again and again in the Atlantic due to Earth’s climate changing. But the path of the storms and the point at which they develop will change as climate patterns shift, he said.