Going through a blizzard of weather jargon

A winter storm loaded with heavy, wet snow, a true northeasterly storm. battered parts of Northeastern US this week. Meanwhile, the latest in a series of atmospheric rivers brought more moisture to Californiaa state where crippling drought has given way to a series of damaging, torrential rains.

Some commonly used weather terms and their definitions, which are based on material from the National Weather Service:

atmospheric river Long, broad plumes of moisture that form over an ocean and flow across the sky over land.

Snow storm – Wind speeds of 35 mph or greater and substantial falling and/or blizzard snow with visibility of less than a quarter mile for three hours or more.

cyclone — Storm with strong winds revolving around a moving center of low atmospheric pressure. The word is sometimes used in the United States to mean tornado and in the Indian Ocean area to mean hurricane.

Right A widespread and generally fast-moving straight-line windstorm. It is typically over hundreds of miles long and over 100 miles wide.

The Boy, The Girl – El Niño is a natural weather phenomenon that begins with unusually warm waters in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and then changes weather around the world. The other side of El Niño is The girlwhich is an occasional but natural cooling of the equatorial Pacific that also changes the climate around the world.

Hurricane or typhoon – A warm-core tropical cyclone in which the minimum sustained surface wind is 74 mph or greater. Hurricanes spawn east of the International Date Line. Typhoons develop west of the line. They are known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean and Australia.

Microburst — It occurs when a mass of cold air rushes down from a thunderstorm, hits the ground, and shoots out in all directions.

Polar vortex It usually refers to the gigantic circular weather pattern of upper air in the Arctic region, which wraps around the North Pole (but can also apply to the South Pole). It’s a normal pattern that’s strongest in the winter, keeping some of the colder weather near the North Pole at bay. The jet stream usually locks in the polar vortex and keeps it to the north. But sometimes, part of the vortex can break or move south, bringing unusually cold weather to the south and allowing warmer weather to creep north.

Some commonly used weather terms and their definitions, which are based on material from the National Weather Service.

Snow squall – An intense but short-lived period of moderate to heavy snowfall, with high winds and possible lightning.

storm surge – Abnormal rise of water above the normal tide, generated by a storm.

Twister – Rotating and violent column of air that forms a pendant, usually from a cumulonimbus cloud, and touches the ground. On a local scale, it is the most destructive of all atmospheric phenomena. Tornadoes can come from any direction, but in the US most move from the southwest to the northeast. Measured on the F scale from EF0 to EF5, which considers 28 different types of damage to structures and trees. An EF2 or higher is considered a significant tornado.

Tornado Hazard – The National Weather Service issues to warn the public of existing tornadoes.

tornado alert – Alerts the public to the possibility of a tornado forming.

Tropical depression – A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind is 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

Tropical storm – A warm-core tropical cyclone in which maximum sustained surface winds range from 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).

tsunami – A large tidal wave or seismic tidal wave caused by an underwater disturbance such as an earthquake, landslide, or volcano.

nor’easter – The term used by the National Weather Service for storms that rise or move north along the east coast, producing winds that blow from the northeast.

Waterspout – A tornado over the water.

Wind chill factor — A calculation that describes the combined effect of wind and low temperatures on exposed skin.

wind shear — A sudden change in the direction and/or speed of the wind.

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage is supported by several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Leave a Comment