Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Bomb" Explodes Off Coast Of Alaska; Fallout Starting to Affect U.S. (Cold, Snow)

Satellite view of the record breaking intense
storm over the Bering Sea.  
An enormous bomb exploded in the Bering Sea in the past couple of days, in that space of stormy ocean between Alaska and Russia.

Don't worry, the bomb wasn't Russia and Vladimir Putin finally getting to annoyed with the United States that he wants to start a war with us. Putin's still busy in the Ukraine.

This bomb was meteorological, a storm that development wicked fast and became arguably the strongest storm on record in the far northern Pacific Ocean. (The Bering Sea is part of the Pacific Ocean.)

Meteorologists really do call some storms bombs. For the precise science geeks out there, a bomb is a storm whose air pressure falls by 24 millibars within 24 hours.

For the people out there who don't dwell on things like millibars, suffice it to say that a bomb is a storm that goes really quickly from nothing special to a real monster of a blow.

Back to those millibars for a minute. The air pressure at the center of the storm late Friday night and early Saturday morning local time bottomed out at 924 millibars, the strongest yet measured on record in the Bering Sea, says weather historian Christopher Burt. 

Of  course, it's hard to precisely measure storms out in the ocean, and it used to be much harder in the days before satellites and that sort of thing, so there might have been stronger storms in the Bering Sea in the past.

In general, the lower the air pressure in a storm, the stronger the storm is.  For comparison's sake, the air pressure in Burlington, Vermont Sunday morning, with near normal weather condition, no particular storms or high pressure systems in the area, was 1009 millibars.
This map, via David Hulen on Twitter, show
no cargo ships in the red circle, where the
intense storm is. The yellow circle shows
cargo ships near Alaska waiting for the
storm to move or dissipate before they
head out on their journey.  

Superstorm Sandy in 2012 had a central pressure of 946 millibars when it made landfall in New Jersey, the second lowest air pressure of any storm that hit the East Coast north of Cape Hatteras. (The Great Long Island Hurricane of 1938 is Number 1)

We all know what a huge mess that was.

The huge storm in the Bering Sea might be in the Pacific ocean, but there is nothing pacific under this monster system.

There were forecasts of 50 foot waves, though none that high have officially been measured yet. Winds no doubt reached hurricane force.

Luckily, not a lot of people live in coastal areas near the storm, so it's not causing widespread destruction.

So why should we care about a big bad storm directly affecting not that many people?  First of all, it's cool. It's a record-breaking storm, for gawd's sake.

Second of all, this big storm will affect you if you're living anywhere in the eastern half of the United States.

No, hurricane force winds and 50 foot waves are not going to hit your house, so relax.  But as I pointed out the other day, this storm is affecting the jet stream, causing a big ridge of high pressure in western North America, which in turn is causing a big southward dip in the jet stream to form in the eastern halves of Canada and the United States.

When that happens, we get big cold spells. Starting now in the Northern Plains and by midweek or so on the East Coast, it's going to turn wintry cold and stay that way for awhile.

Winter storm warnings are flying from eastern Montana, through parts of the Dakotas, into Minnesota, including Minneapolis and northern Wisconsin as a storm rides along the cold front bringing the chill.

Temperatures in parts of Montana are expected to fall into the teens below zero this week, with wind chills making things feel much colder.

It still looks like most of the eastern half of the United States is going to stay colder than normal for the most part for at least two or three weeks, maybe longer.

We have, in part, the big bomb that went off in the Bering Sea to thank for our early winter.

1 comment: