What is a Snowbomb? 7 Things You Didn’t Know

What is a snowbomb?
This eery image was made with AI software and is 100% original


A snowbomb is a massive winter storm that can generate hurricane-force winds and drop tremendous amounts of snow. Snowbomb storms can mean paradise for skiers and snowboarders, but can also wreak havoc on cities. Read this recent article from the Daily Mail, where a Snowbomb hit New York pretty scary. 

In this article, we’ll go through 7 things you didn’t know about snowbombs. We’ll cover what creates a snowbomb, how severe these storms are, and what they mean for skiers and snowboarders.

1. What Is a Snowbomb and Why Does it Matter?

One of the key features of snowbombs is that these storms first start over the ocean. This means they carry tremendous amounts of moisture that, when it runs into cooler polar air, can create massive snowstorms.

Now, why does this matter to you? You’re probably on this site because you either enjoy skiing or snowboarding or you want to get into these sports. Snowbombs have one major impact on winter activities. They can drop huge amounts of snow overnight. All of the moisture these storms carry in from the ocean can fall as snow, which means amazing ski resort conditions.

2. A Storm Becomes a Snowbomb when Pressure Drops Rapidly

What is a snowbomb?
What is a snowbomb?

Many areas commonly have severe winter blizzards, but snowbombs are a specific type of storm. The technical term used to define whether a storm meets snowbomb category is bombogenesis. This terrifying-sounding word just means that the air pressure drops a certain amount in under 24 hours. It’s easy to think of the storm rapidly intensifying in a very short time.

Drops in atmospheric pressure are typical for any storm, but this level of change is far more than normal and creates extreme weather. This is why snowbomb storms have such extreme winds and precipitation. The rapidly dropping pressure causes a storm to quickly become more severe.

3. Snowbombs Are Often Called Bomb Cyclones

There are many other names used for these massive winter storms. One of the most common terms used is bomb cyclone. Meteorologists also use the term explosive cyclogenesis.

While different names and terminology are used, all of them describe a winter storm that starts over the ocean and rapidly grows stronger and more severe.

4. Snowbombs Are Like Winter Hurricanes

Snowbombs can reach the same storm level as category 3 hurricanes. Imagine a hurricane combined with a blizzard! Both showbombs and hurricanes develop over the ocean, create destructive winds, and can have massive precipitation. There are many differences though.

  • Hurricanes usually occur in Fall and Summer while snowbombs are obviously winter storms. In northern areas, snowbombs are most common between December and February.
  • Hurricanes are most common closer to the equator, and snowbombs are storms that happen closer to the poles.
  • Unlike hurricanes where the storm is strongest near the centre, snowbombs can actually have the most extreme winds and precipitation at their edges.

5. Massive Winter Storms Occur When Warm Coastal Air Meets Cool Northern Air

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In many areas across the world, it is common for winter storms to be caused by warm, wet air from the tropics meeting cold air from the poles. In these conditions, the moisture from warmer regions cools rapidly and freezes to fall as snow.

Snowbombs work the same way but are far more extreme than normal winter storms. It is the fact that these storms first develop over the ocean that makes them so severe. Over the ocean, they have space to pick up tremendous amounts of moisture and grow in intensity before hitting land.

6. What Snowbombs Mean for Skiers and Snowboarders

Here is what you are probably most interested in: how does a massive Snowbomb storm like this affect ski slopes? The answer is just one word: snow. And lots of it. Snowbombs have that name for a reason. These storms rolling in from the ocean bring tremendous amounts of moisture that falls as snow. It may not be the best time for you to be adventurous and hit the double black diamond ski slopes. 

That’s great news for skiers and snowboarders because more snow means better conditions. Imagine two feet of snow falling at your local resort overnight. This is a paradise for those of us who love to ski or snowboard.

It is also critical to remember that while massive snowfall can mean amazing conditions for skiing and snowboarding, it also can increase the risk of avalanches. Always follow resort guidelines, especially after massive snowstorms. If you are venturing into the backcountry, make sure you understand the avalanche conditions and have the equipment and knowledge to stay safe.

7. Snowbomb can Wreak Havoc on Infrastructure

It’s not all glorious powder-covered slopes though. Because snowbomb storms develop so rapidly, they can have disastrous consequences for populated areas. While communities in areas with severe winters are usually well equipped for dealing with normal snowfall, snow bomb cyclones are so extreme they can bring cities to a halt. Here are a few common impacts of these massive storms.

  • It is common for the high winds and heavy snowfall of snowbomb storms to damage power lines in cities and create blackouts.
  • Massive snowfall can block roads and bring transportation to a halt. Because these storms move in quickly, cities are often not prepared to manage the snowfall, and it can take days to clear roads.
  • Severe winter storms also often lead to cancelled flights and even totally shut down airports.
  • While snowbombs can drop a lot of snow and create great conditions for skiing, the severe winds in these storms can also cause ski resorts to close lifts for safety reasons.

Key Takeaways

  • Snowbombs are extreme winter storms that start over the ocean and then move inland with high winds and massive snowfall.
  • The quickly dropping temperature that creates these storms is called bombogenesis and leads to a storm that rapidly strengthens.
  • Snowbombs can drop huge amounts of snow, which can mean incredible ski and snowboard conditions.
  • Snowbombs can also cause power outages and bring transportation to a standstill.

Quick  Snowbomb summary: 

A snowbomb, also known as a “bomb cyclone” or “explosive cyclogenesis,” is a type of winter storm characterized by rapidly falling air pressure, which causes the storm to rapidly intensify. These storms begin over the ocean, and as they move inland, they bring with them high winds and heavy snowfall. The term “bombogenesis” is used to describe this rapid drop in pressure, and it is a key characteristic of a snowbomb.

In terms of severity, snowbombs can reach the same level as category 3 hurricanes, with destructive winds and heavy precipitation. They are similar to hurricanes in that they both develop over the ocean, but snowbombs occur closer to the poles and in the winter, whereas hurricanes tend to happen closer to the equator and during the summer and fall.

For skiers and snowboarders, snowbombs can be a paradise as they bring a large amount of snowfall, which leads to better ski resort conditions. However, it’s also important to note that while the snowfall may be beneficial for winter sports, it can also cause significant damage and disruption to communities.

About the author

I'm Lee, 15 years of skiing experience mainly in Europe, I hope you like my posts! :)



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