What Does It Take to Make a "Frankenstorm"?

Scientific American

Click here to listen to this podcast

Snow, but also rain. Tropical force winds but not confined to a tropical storm's well-defined center. That is, high winds not near the so-called eye, but rather spread out over the extent of the storm like a winter squall. And an October 29th full moon, which should amplify any storm surge.

The remnant of Hurricane Sandy is presently colliding with a mass of cold air from the Arctic north and a more traditional storm moving in from the west. This merger, as Halloween approaches, is creating what's been dubbed "Frankenstorm." And Frankenstorm is going to linger because the upper atmosphere is, as they say, blocked, or not moving very fast. Blocked weather becomes extreme weather, allowing a system to inflict drought or deluge on the same spot for days.

Some research suggests that one of the most obvious examples of global warming—the historic meltdown of Arctic sea ice this summer—contributes to such stalled weather systems. That issue will no doubt be the subject of even more research after this storm.

But Frankenstorm is yet another instance of the kind of weather we can expect under climate change. Buckle up—it may be a bumpy ride. 

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs.

Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.

© 2012 ScientificAmerican.com. All rights reserved.

View Comments (5)