NSNEWS ONLINE DESK: The “Bomb Cyclone” about to wallop the East Coast has been referred to as a bombogenesis by meteorologists — leaving many scratching their heads.
The term dates back to the 1940s when some meteorologists began informally calling strong storms spawning over oceans “bombs” because they developed “with a ferocity we rarely, if ever, see over land,” Fred Sanders, a former MIT professor, told USA Today in 2005.
Sanders, who died in 2006, brought the explosive term into common usage in a 1980 article in the Monthly Weather Review called “Synoptic Dynamic Climatology of the ‘Bomb.’”
“He was a forecaster in the late 1940s and did a lot of work in forecasting,” John R. Gyakum, who co-authored the paper, said of his late graduate school adviser.
“I have a suspicion that the term was coined well before the paper was published but it has been cited many times and entered the popular lore more nowadays,” said Gyakum, now a professor of synoptic and dynamic meteorology at McGill University in Montreal.
Gyakum said mariners and forecasters have probably been observing the phenomenon for hundreds of years, though they most likely had a different word for it.
Asked if he thought calling a storm a “bomb” had the potential to create panic, Gyakum said he did not.
“I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to view the explosively developing cyclone as a bomb,” he said. “It’s an easy path to take and a much easier term to use.”
He added that though the storm about to wallop the East Coast may not have the exact impacts as a bombogenesis, “the potential is there.”