We Almost Had a Fifth Nor'easter

Almost nor’easter number five spun up offshore earlier this week
Almost nor’easter number five spun up offshore earlier this week
Image: NOAA/RAMMB

When I traveled home from California in the midst of the for’easter last week, buoyed by confidence that, by some miracle, my flight to Philly hadn’t been canceled, I was sure that this was the end of the wintry hell-storm that had engulfed my corner of the planet for the last month.

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Little did I know we almost had a fifth nor’easter.

According to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, the ocean storm that almost became nor’easter five ‘explosively’ intensified off of New England on Monday night, its central pressure dropping 24 millibars in about 24 hours, qualifying it as a—you guessed it—bomb cyclone.

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Humans were spared the impacts of this storm, which stayed far enough offshore to have little effect other than whipping up some tremendous oceanic swells and creating solid surfing conditions up and down the Atlantic coast, according to Surfline.com. 

It’s been a wild month for nor’easters, storms that form due to the collision of warm maritime from the Gulf air with cold, dry air from the polar jet stream, feature cold cores, and are confusingly named for their counterclockwise rotation that delivers winds from the northeast.

Why exactly the northeast has been a churn factory for these storms lately is still being debated, but many experts believe it has to do with the North Atlantic Oscillation, which dipped into record-low territory at the beginning of the month, creating a strong high pressure ridge over Greenland and the north Atlantic that encouraged the formation of a countervailing low pressure zone further south and west.

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The pressure gradient set up by a negative NAO not only helps fuel nor’easters, it can impede their progress out to sea. Some researchers have also discussed how climate change may be contributing to the storms’ intensity, and perhaps, their frequency.

Mercifully, nor’easter number five didn’t happen, sparing coastal residents another volley of wind, snow, and flooding. But in the era of high-resolution satellite imagery, the storm did manage to produce some glorious new desktop backgrounds.

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Image: NOAA
Illustration for article titled We Almost Had a Fifth Noreaster
Image: NASA (Capital Weather Gang)
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[h/t Washington Post]

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Maddie Stone is a freelancer based in Philadelphia.

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DISCUSSION

dnapl
Dense non aqueous phase liquid

All this sciency stuff really explains that Maddie should be canonized and become the new patron saint for liberal east coast elites. You know, those Boston, NYC and Philly book learner types, with their fancy science and arts schooling.

St Medard is the patron saint for protection from bad storms. But that’s mostly for rural folks, i.e. hinterlandia deplorables commonly known as Midwesterners. Oh fine, you smart set types explain the little ice age circa medieval times? Medard did.

The way I read this piece is Maddie stopped the fifth nor’eastern from wreaking havoc. I’ll make sure Cuomo adds Earther International headquarters in NYC to the list of shrines for the faithful along the I-95 pilgrimage.

You don’t have to experience martyrdom or be catholic to become a saint. I think. My cannon and environmental law isn’t sound. I believe you just have to perform a really kickass miracle. Stopping a storm in route from CA via cross country air travel - that’s a fucking miracle. IMHO.