All Weather News

What is a Nor’easter?

3 Jan 2018, 10:04 am

The story topping every east coast headline is the monster Nor’easter tearing up the coast.

Ice, snow, hurricane-force wind, cold— this is a winter storm at it’s finest.

But what makes it a Nor’easter?

Winter Storm to Bring Snow and Ice to the East Coast

What Makes a Storm a Nor’easter?

The winds.

The name simply comes from the direction of the storm’s strongest winds.

The offshore low rotates counterclockwise, meaning the wind across the northeastern U.S. blows northeast-to-southwest.

Why Wind Direction Matters

Nor’easters are often associated with heavy rain, snow, coastal flooding, and powerful wind.

These powerful winds come from the unique location of these monster storms. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream (ocean current up the east coast) fuel the intense development of these offshore storms.

One of the other unique weather bits that makes these storms so strong is the location of the jet stream. Powerful upper-atmospheric winds pull the rising air from the top of the storm, allowing it to deepen (or strengthen) more rapidly.

The onshore winds bring ample moisture to the region, fueling the heavy snow or flooding rain.

Monster Winter Storm

Even though Nor’easters can happen year-round, the biggies tend to happen between November and March.

This is because of the presence of cold air in the atmosphere. A stark contrast in temperatures between the warm ocean currents and cold arctic air helps these storms strengthen.

In addition to aiding in storm strengthening, enough cold air pushing in from the north can turn the precipitation into snow. This is what can give us those incredible snowfall totals– a constant moisture source (Atlantic Ocean) and cold, arctic air to cool it before it reaches the surface.


The right weather pattern can cause the storm itself to strengthen rapidly.

If it happens fast enough we can call it bombogenesis! A really cool name that means something even cooler:

BOMBOGENESIS: When a Surface Low “Explodes”

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

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