Bombogenesis is a fancy word, and one that only seems to have made it into common usage within the last ten years (remember the Snowpocalypse of 2010? That was also a bombogenesis). While it might seem like back in the day, we just used to call this a snowstorm or a winter nor’easter, a bombogenesis is actually an extreme winter storm that forms and acts almost the same way as a cyclone over land or a hurricane during the late summer and fall.
In simple terms, bombogenesis is a storm that undergoes rapid strengthening. The vast majority of such storms occur over the ocean. The storm can be tropical or non-tropical in nature. Other common phrases for bombogenesis include weather bomb, or simply bomb. The term bombogenesis comes from the merging of two words: bomb and cyclogenesis. All storms are cyclones, and genesis means the creation or beginning. In this case, bomb refers to explosive development. Altogether the term means explosive storm strengthening.
So what does this have to do with climate change?
With cold temperatures and icy conditions leaving the continental US reeling over the New Year, it might seem counter-intuitive to say that we’re still experiencing global warming. But as climatologist Peter Frumhoff puts it, saying that climate change isn’t occurring because of the cold in the eastern US is “like saying if everyone around me is wealthy then poverty is not a problem…local weather is not an indicator of changes in climate.”
Alaska has been unusually warm this winter even though it is in the Arctic. It might seem strange that local weather events such as a balmy Alaska and freezing Florida can occur at the same time, but they’re examples of another phenomenon we can expect from a changing climate: more events at the extremes. Many scientists are studying these clues to explore the connections between a rapidly warming Arctic from climate change and shifting extreme weather patterns in northern hemisphere mid-latitudes (i.e. the continental US and Eurasia).
Scientists are making progress in better understanding how much natural seasonal patterns, ocean cycles, and other factors play a role in altering the jet stream and how much global warming is responsible. Some say a lot, others not as much. This is a robust scientific discussion that has continued to evolve over the past several years.
How will we know when this particular scientific debate is over? One way or another, the scientific community will reach consensus—just as it has with climate change more broadly.