Environment & Biodiversity Geography

What is a ‘Bomb Cyclone’?

The bomb cyclone continued to wreak havoc as the death toll from weather-related incidents in the United States reached 34, leaving millions without power.

Bomb Cyclone

  • A bomb cyclone is a large, intense mid-latitude storm with low pressure at its core, weather fronts, and a variety of associated weather, ranging from blizzards to severe thunderstorms to heavy rain.
  • When its central pressure drops rapidly—by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours—it becomes a bomb.
  • When a cyclone “bombs,” or undergoes bombogenesis, it indicates that it has access to the best ingredients for strengthening, such as high temperatures, moisture, and rising air.

What is the significance of the term “bomb”?

  • Most cyclones do not intensify quickly in this manner.
  • Forecasters are on high alert because bomb cyclones can cause significant damage.


  • The term “bombogenesis” is a combination of the terms cyclogenesis, which describes the formation of a cyclone or storm, and bomb, which is pretty self-explanatory.
  • When a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters, this can happen.
  • This rapidly strengthening weather system is formed through a process known as bombogenesis, which results in the formation of a bomb cyclone.


  • Heat and moisture are abundant over the warmer ocean.
  • However, as cool continental air moves overhead, creating a large temperature difference, the lower atmosphere becomes unstable and buoyant.
  • Clouds and precipitation form as air rises, cools, and condenses.
  • The US coast is one of the most common areas for bombogenesis.
  • Storms in the mid-latitudes – a temperate zone north of the tropics that includes the entire continental US – get their energy from large temperature contrasts.
  • During the winter, there is a naturally potent thermal contrast between the cool land and the warm Gulf Stream current along the US East Coast.
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