Anyone that has been keeping an eye on the weather lately will likely have seen the large storms that are currently raging in the Atlantic Provinces, and the North Eastern US states. Storms are common throughout the year on the Atlantic coast, often wreaking havoc, with hurricane force winds, and large amounts of precipitation, resulting in either blizzard conditions or flooding.
These storms have two origins, and though both may feel similar on the ground, they form in very different ways.
The first of these are tropical storms. These form when two warm fronts collide: one from very dry desert air; and the second from very humid equatorial waters. These storms thrive on heat to maintain a “warm-core” which fuels the strong winds that form the classic spiral image.
In spite of the fact that the tropical storm season for the Atlantic officially runs from June through November, hurricanes have, on occasion, formed before and after these dates. Such as Hurricane Alex, which is currently crossing of the Atlantic.
The most famous tropical storm to hit Newfoundland in recent history was Hurricane Igor, which broke all records in September 2010 when 10 inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours. A state of emergency was declared in 30 communities, and power was lost across the island, taking over a week to be returned to many areas.
The second of the two types of storms that affect Newfoundland and the Atlantic Provinces form between September and April. These are the result of cold air coming from the northeast that hits warm humid air moving up through the jet stream. These storms are called Nor’easters, in reference to the strong northeasterly winds that are so characteristic to them.
The combination of these two very different kinds of fronts is volatile, and can result in hurricane force winds, and large amounts of precipitation. The moisture is gathered from the warm and humid air that is collected as the Jet Stream flows over the Gulf Stream. While the winds are formed by the strong vortex at the top of the storm that sucks air upwards from the ground very rapidly, forming a cold-core which powers the storm, and gives it the unique comma-like shape.
These storms often result in large amounts of snowfall, freezing rain, and plummeting temperatures, as the cold northeasterly winds push down from the Atlantic.
For Newfoundlanders, Nor’easters are well known for causing strong ocean swells, high waves, and flash flooding of rivers and ponds.
Although these storms are very different in origin, they can feel very much the same when on the ground, and both warrant extra care when planning for holidays, day trips, or simply a walk along the beach.
As the famous saying goes:
Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.
So take care in the coming weeks, and be sure to stay on top of that weather report!
The Skerwinkles xox