Is weather getting weirder? 7 strange meteorological terms explained

Nov 9 2021, 11:43 pm

The weather terms meteorologists use to describe meteorological events seem to get stranger as time goes on.

Most of the names that have gained popularity are simplified versions of more complicated scientific terms. So, as strange as they might seem, they’re for your benefit.

From heat domes to weather bombs, these are the weirdest of the bunch.

1. Polar Vortex

The most recent polar vortex experienced in Canada was this past February.

Various cold weather records were broken across the country during that season, but the polar vortex seemed to be the start of the recent trend of interestingly named weather phenomena.

While it might have seemed like a relatively new term, the concept has been around for over a century.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, North America experienced a particularly bad polar vortex in 1899.

More record-breaking winters are likely as climate change continues to create extreme weather events.

2. Pineapple Express

No, we’re not talking about the stoner movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. However, the strain of marijuana was actually named after the weather system, according to Rogen himself.

In 2020, in relative proximity to the polar vortex, Western Canada experienced a Pineapple Express. It’s an example of another term that we’ll dig more into, atmospheric river.

A Pineapple Express primarily targets the west coast, and depending on the forecast, it can bring either torrential rain and snow or just mild showers.

Why can’t we just say rain and snow or mild showers?

The term Pineapple Express has been around for over 100 years.

3. Tornadic Waterspout

Vancouver, BC, experienced a tornado recently. It’s true.

That tornado actually began as a tornadic waterspout, one of the less common weather terms to appear in recent years, though they do take place quite frequently.

A waterspout is essentially a non-supercell tornado. They’re also more simply called tornadoes over water.

A waterspout can also become a snowspout, which can lead to an ice devil, also known as a snownado.

4. Thundersnow

Also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thundersnowstorm, these events are quite uncommon.

They typically occur in eastern regions of Canada, like Nova Scotia.

While rare, thundersnow has been around for hundreds of years.

A study from the Royal Meteorological Society suggests that thundersnow events occur in only 0.07% of snowstorms in the USA.

5. Atmospheric River

Another term you’ve heard a lot about recently is atmospheric river.

The Weather Network describes an atmospheric river as a waterway in the sky that transports large volumes of water vapour into a region.

It is also known as a tropical plume or cloud band.

If you wanted to impress your friends and use it in a sentence, you could say, “Man, that Pineapple Express sure was one crazy atmospheric river!”

The term has been around since the early 1990s.

6. Heat Dome

These two words might be triggering to some, as the heat dome was the big story of the summer.


It brought devastating and fatal temperatures to many parts of the country, with several high temperature records being broken. The concept of a heat dome is relatively simple compared to some of the other types of weather events.

It’s essentially a system of pressure that operates like a pot with a lid on it, or a convection oven. Heat circulates within this system and isn’t able to escape, causing uncomfortably humid temperatures.

Heat domes are a relatively new concept, and there is not much in the way of publicly available data when it comes to heat dome history. Wikipedia’s references to heat domes only go back to 2012.

7. Weather Bomb

weather bomb

Jeff Hung/Shutterstock

The most recent weather event experienced in parts of Canada has been the weather bomb.

The scientific name for a weather bomb is explosive cyclogenesis, so it’s no wonder meteorologists have created something a little easier to say.

A weather bomb occurs when there’s a sudden drop in pressure in a 24-hour period. They are also called bomb cyclones or bombogenesis. Meteorologists have referred to weather bomb-type events as early as the 1940s.

While weather might not be getting weirder, weird weather is definitely becoming more common.

As winter approaches, we’re likely to see many more fun and quirky weather terms come up.

Amir AliAmir Ali

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