Bomb cyclone, flurricane, and more: A glossary of future winter weather terms | Commentary

A man walks down North Preston Street in West Philadelphia as snow falls on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2017.

Winter has come. It’s a magical time, really. We can let our long-term anxieties about climate change be overtaken by day-to-day worries about winter storms and whether or not we have enough milk, eggs, and bread.

A fun, new twist on winter weather is all the vocabulary that comes along with these storms.

In 2012, the Weather Channel started giving storms human names, as we do with hurricanes. Remember last year’s Winter Storm Stella? The one we’re in now is called Grayson. And it is gray, son.

Camera icon Matt Rourke / AP
A man pushes his way through driving winds during a winter snowstorm in Atlantic City on Thursday. A massive winter storm swept from the Carolinas to Maine, dumping snow along the coast and bringing strong winds that will usher in potentially record-breaking cold.








The “actual” meteorological terms are pretty cool. Who can forget thundersnow, a hard-rock-sounding phenomenon that seems to have had its Philadelphia genesis in, like, 2010? (Editor’s note: Thundersnow may have occurred prior to 2010, but based on in-depth Twitter research, no one cared before they could use the hashtag #thundersnow with a meme, anyway.)

This week’s new term is the bomb cyclone (bombogenesis if you’re nasty), which, based on several explainer articles, seems to have something to do with rapidly changing atmospheric pressure and a ravenous desire for higher television ratings.

It’s a sure bet Grayson would’ve gotten an alarmist stage name if bomb cyclone wasn’t already so hard-core.

Remember Snowmaggeddon? And Snowpocalypse? And I’m sure we all recall where we were when Snowzilla came to town. How are we not all polar bear food right now?

As climate change continues to ravage our planet, there will surely be a need for even more weather vocabulary — and, of course, we’ve got some Philly-specific suggestions for how to describe storms of the future.

Here are a few to whet your whistle and freeze your lips. Maybe this winter we’ll get to experience them all.


Telltale signs: Brisk breezes, crystalline icicle formations, hilarious walking conditions, picturesque street scenes. Instagram may become impassable for 12 to 48 hours.

Recommendation: Make snow angels. Catch delicate flakes on your tongue and make wishes for world justice. Buy milk, eggs, and bread.


Telltale signs: Mild-to-vicious temperatures, thundersnow, slush-lightning. Strange hieroglyphs — often in the shape of cartoon genitalia — sometimes appear in the snow on car hoods and windshields. Call 311 to report.

Recommendation: This is difficult weather for possums, raccoons, and pigeons. Consider inviting them into your spare room. Dress them in flannel onesies. Buy milk, eggs, and bread.

Doom Squalls

Telltale signs: Eerie calm followed by sudden microbursts of winter, ear chills, shiver spots, arctic splashing, visible flatulence, light dustings of snow concealing sidewalks strewn with garbage. Snowmen may occur naturally. Citizens often engage in frownwalking, which can lead to face strain.

Recommendation: Dress in heavy wools and linens. Shroud all extremities in secrecy. Turn off all lights and devices. Buy milk, eggs, and bread.


Telltale signs: White fangs, screamcicles, snowpiercers, ice storms, key parties defined by joyless encounters and crippling ennui. Space heaters may begin speaking Latin. Yeti sightings likely. Ice capades and other terrifying winter delights will break out in some areas, as foretold by the ancient texts.

Recommendation: Run a hot bath. Sit on the edge of the tub and breathe in the steam. Think about old friends. Hum “Streets of Philadelphia” to the cat. Buy milk, eggs, and bread.

Trudgement Day

Telltale signs: Flavorless water ice falling from the sky, increased sleet cred, Tokyo drifts, polar surge pricing, sluggish plow movements. Access to your dumpster hot tub may be limited.

Recommendation: If you can make it to South Philadelphia, you simply must witness the migration of men in Eagles hoodies and gym shorts shoveling out their cars, which occurs whenever snowfall exceeds 12 inches. Buy milk, eggs, and bread.

The Perfect Snowrm

Telltale signs: Frigid wind from all directions, biting cold, sleds rising from the grave, snowfall exceeding two Embiids (or six Iversons) in height. Doors won’t open. Phone lines will fall. Cats will decide playtime is over. Society breakdown is inevitable. Disoriented dog owners may simply cover their pet’s droppings with snow rather than picking them up. With any luck the owners will step in that very same place during the thaw. Except the thaw may never come. You always knew there would be a final storm.

Recommendation: Make yourself a nice salad.

Patrick Rapa is a freelance writer living in South Philadelphia. He’s pretending he’s not home so somebody else will shovel his sidewalk. @mission2denmark