Not just a snowstorm, but a 'bombogenesis'

The "potentially historic" Winter Storm Juno is about to dump up to 36 inches of snow and blast the Northeastern United States with near-hurricane force winds.

In this handout provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the GOES-East satellite, a major winter storm develops over the mid-Atlantic region and is bringing snow to the Northeast of the U.S. pictured at 14:15 UTC on January 26, 2015.
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In this handout provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the GOES-East satellite, a major winter storm develops over the mid-Atlantic region and is bringing snow to the Northeast of the U.S. pictured at 14:15 UTC on January 26, 2015.

Some of this fury may come courtesy of a meteorological phenomenon called "bombogenesis," which—despite its ominous name —meteorologists say occurs fairly frequently.

Sometimes known as "explosive cyclogenesis," Bombogenesis is a rapid drop in pressure of at least 24 millibars in the center of a storm in 24 hours. A millibar is a metric unit of air pressure equal to one-one-thousandth of the earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level.

Read MoreLive: 'Historic' snowstorm bears down on Northeast

The process begins when cold air mixes with warm air—say, when cold air moves over a warm ocean. The mixing air causes the drop in pressure, which acts like a meteorological "bomb" that can cause the storm to rapidly intensify. That, in turn, brings high winds, or monstrous ocean waves and flooding.

Winter storm Iola underwent bombogenesis on Friday, according to the Weather Channel, causing strong winds and flooding in central Massachusetts. It was still fairly light compared with what forecasters are predicting for its successor, Juno, expected to start pounding the Northeast later tonight.

The upcoming storm is already expected to bring power outages, flooding and coastal erosion—and Juno could yet undergo bombogenesis, according to the Weather Channel.

Read the full story at Weather Channel.