Meteorologists have hit on one possible way to detect one of the worst kinds of storms before they take shape. Explosive cyclones, so called "meteorological bombs," pop into existence in a day or two and can wreak havoc on land, as well as at sea. That makes them especially hard to forecast.
Hurricane Sandy was a monster, but not a bomb, since it was forecast with extraordinary accuracy a week ahead. A meteorological bomb, on the other hand, develops at a frightening pace, with the atmospheric pressure dropping a millibar or more per hour for at least 24 hours.
In late January, there was a historic meteorological bomb in the North Atlantic, with the pressure dropping a startling 58 millibars in 24 hours. That storm, named Jolle, generated the mammoth waves that enabled surfer Garrett McNamara to break the world record on a 111-foot giant off the coast of Portugal.
"In a more typical storm, you might see a pressure drop of one millibar per hour over less than that number of hours," said meteorologist Greg Carbin of the U.S. National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.