What Does Bombogenesis Mean? Stella Is Being Described As A "Weather Bomb"
Handout/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you're one of the 20 million people affected by Winter Storm Stella, you're going to want to listen up. This is likely to be the biggest weather event of the winter, with precipitation hitting everywhere from Washington, D.C. to Boston on the East Coast. The New York City area could see snow reach about 18 inches, and blizzard conditions are forecast for much of the area. But that's not even the scary sounding part. Stella could actually be a "weather bomb." Yes, you heard that right. So, what does Stella undergoing "bombogenesis" mean?

It's a technical term, as USA Today explains, and it's a combination of the words "bomb" and "cyclogenesis," the "formation of a cyclone or storm." The term usually is used in winter to describe a strong storm that gets even stronger very rapidly — usually in the course of 24 hours. Often this happens as a storm reaches the ocean, as is the case with Stella.

The cold polar air mass over land meets the warmer Gulf Stream air mass over water, and that causes the barometric pressure at the storm's center to drop. When that happens, the storm grows wildly — there can even be lightning and thunder. Technically the pressure must drop 24 millibars in 24 hours for it to be considered bombogenesis.

This can also happen in other parts of the country when there are warm and cold fronts that meet, but it's far more likely to occur on the Eastern seaboard, which is why we see such strong Nor'easters. Many of these experience bombogenesis, as a storm in Newfoundland, Canada, did recently. Mashable reported that it saw winds that reached 100 mph, thanks to the stark difference in pressure of the meeting systems.

As for wind from Stella, it's not predicted to be as severe. But it still could cause damage. In addition to the snow, New York City could see winds reaching 50 mph. In Boston that could be as high as 75 mph. As The Weather Channel reported, that could easily lead to downed trees and power lines across the Northeast.

The region is already preparing for the storm. New York City schools will be closed, thousands of flights were cancelled, and the House of Representatives in D.C. has cancelled votes for Tuesday. (USA Today reported big runs on snack foods, too.)

Hopefully you've already made your run to the store, because with predictions looking the way they do, bombogenesis and all, you're not going to want to leave the house — be it for chips or anything else.