Looking out the window of my apartment all I could see was white. These images of Thursday’s storm from space are awesome. Earther also dives into what made this storm unique:
The source of the storm’s power is the huge temperature difference between the warm ocean currents and cold air covering most of the eastern U.S. The process is known as baroclinic instability.
Andrea Lang, a meteorologist at the University of Albany, likened it to what would happen if you had a fish tank divided in half with warm water on the bottom and cool water on the top. If you pull out the divider, the dense cold water would immediately drop and the warm water would rise.
“From a physics perspective, potential energy in the mass of the water was converted to kinetic energy (the movement of the water) to create a circulation,” she told Earther in an email. “In the atmosphere, this type of instability is called baroclinic instability.”
Baroclinic instability is a common factor in all nor’easters, strong winter storms that impact the East Coast, but this storm will likely go down as one of the most rapidly intensifying on record for the region. The new GOES-16 satellite is not only helping produce drool-inducing images, but returning data on a major event that will help meteorologists improve forecasts for the next storm, whether its a bomb or a plain ol’ nor’easter.