What is a Nor'easter?

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Nor’easters, or northeasters, live up to their names. They affect the northeast coast of North America from Virginia to Canada, and the storms’ rotation causes the leading winds to blow from the northeast.

A nor’easter is a type of cyclone that can pack hurricane force winds and dump torrents of rain or feet of snow. Cyclonic storms, including nor’easters and typhoons, form around low pressure systems in the atmosphere. Unlike their tropical typhoon cousins, nor’easters are fueled by cold air.

DNEWS StormTracker: Follow the Winter Storm Here

Nor’easter’s hunger for cold air can make them particularly devastating in the winter. Frigid winter arctic air can collide with the warmer winds of the Gulf Stream and intensify the storm. The cold and snow brought by the storm then intensify the suffering of hapless humans caught by the tempest.

Unfortunately for people, winter is the nor’easters favorite time to show up. They are most common between October and April, though they can occur anytime.

A nor’easter in 1888 killed approximately 400 people, mainly New Yorkers. Another in 1950 killed more than 350 along the East Coast.

HOWSTUFFWORKS: 10 Worst Nor’easters of All Time

IMAGE: Satellite image of a Nor’easter taken from GOES-12 on Feb. 12, 2006. NASA-GSFC, data from NOAA GOES.

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