Image: Wikimedia Commons

The East Coast is currently being hit by a massive winter storm that will cause hurricane-force winds and blanket the region in snow. As usual, scary-sounding terms like “bombogenesis” and “bomb cyclone” have gone viral.

But what’s so crazy about this particular storm and what the heck is bombogenesis?

While it may not be an official meteorological term, experts use it to describe a very real phenomenon. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, bombogenesis occurs when a cyclone (or storm) rapidly intensifies and atmospheric pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in a 24-hour period. The word “bomb” refers to that rapid drop in pressure in a short time.

Image: NASA

The resulting storms produce especially strong winds near the center of the system. At the peak of the storm currently making its way up the coast from Florida to New England, some forecasts say it will resemble a “winter hurricane” — with winds that could take down trees, cause power outages and lead to coastal flooding.

But as crazy as it all sounds, none of this is really new.

Bomb cyclones actually form pretty frequently off the Mid-Atlantic Coast in winter as cold air moving over land collides with a mass of warm ocean air. That’s why seemingly every year, East Coasters hear panicked reports about crazy Nor’easters — which is just a fancy name for storms moving along the coast.

Still, this week’s weather is nothing to scoff at.

Starting Wednesday, the explosive weather system will bring a mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow to Florida and North Carolina and will intensify as it reaches northern New England by late Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

“These strong winter systems are notorious for packing big winds and waves to go along with heavy snow!” according to a tweet by the NWS.

Previous Nor’easters have caused billions of dollars in damage and led to disastrous coastal flooding, says the weather service. So while there’s no need to run for cover from the approaching weather bomb, you should definitely take these storms seriously.