Words in the News

weather bomb

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Written by Liz Potter

Our autumn of wild weather continues with warnings that ‘storm Brian’ will bring wind and heavy rain to the British Isles this weekend. Reports of bad weather tend to be greeted rather excitably by the media and this storm is no exception, with broadcast, print and online media predicting potential havoc caused by a weather bomb forming over the Atlantic.

The Met Office‘s definition of the unofficial term weather bomb is “a low pressure system whose central pressure falls 24 millibars in 24 hours in a process known as explosive cyclogenesis”. This has the effect of drawing in air from surrounding areas, causing the system to rotate faster and faster and giving rise to strong winds that can bring down trees and cause structural damage. The term is only applied to storms that occur in areas outside the tropics.



While hurricanes and tropical storms have been named for many years, it is only recently that the British Met Office and the Irish Met Éireann have started to give names to storms affecting these islands. It seems that naming storms increases public awareness and willingness to take preventive action. Storm names are agreed by the two organizations in advance and start from the beginning of the alphabet each season, with male and female names alternating. Brian follows storm Aileen and will be succeeded by Caroline.

The first recorded use of weather bomb was in an Ohio newspaper in March 1948; it predates the first recorded use of the scientific term explosive cyclogenesis by five years.

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Liz Potter

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