The ominous name “bomb cyclone” comes from a process called explosive cyclogenesis, or bombogenesis, in which a weather system undergoes a rapid drop in pressure.
Bombogenesis occurs “when a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. A drop in pressure in a system equals strengthening of the system.
Think of it as a winter hurricane.
Such weather systems in the northern hemisphere are centers of low pressure. When the pressure drops, the storms get stronger. When they drop in such a dramatic fashion over a short period of time, the results are equally dramatic.
Bomb cyclones can be life-threatening. Conditions can impact visibility, making travel difficult and dangerous. Wind chill can intensify already bitterly cold temperatures, and power outages may knock out heating systems.