What is a Nor'easter?

A nor'easter is a storm that mainly affects the northeastern part of the United States. These storms form along the East coast as warm air from over the Atlantic Ocean clashes with arctic cold to the north and west.

A nor'easter gets its name from the northeasterly winds that blow in from the ocean ahead of the storm. Nor'easters can occur at any time throughout the year, but they are most common between the months of September through April, according to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Carl Erickson.

Typically, around three nor'easters impact the U.S. a year, according to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brian Edwards. Heavy snow and hurricane-force winds can occur on the northwest side of the nor'easter.

Edwards said the main difference between a hurricane and nor'easter is the size of the wind field. According to NOAA, a wind field is the three-dimensional spatial pattern of winds.

"Hurricanes have a narrow field of strong winds with a concentration around the center, whereas a nor'easter's winds are spread out," Edwards said.

For example, a hurricane may only have a 30-mile radius of a strong wind field around the center, while a nor'easter may have a 100-mile radius of a strong wind field from the center.

More Weather Glossary

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This Day In Weather History

Nebraska to the Dakotas (1966)
Snowstorm dumped 12-36" from the 2nd to the 5th. Storm killed 15 people and 100,000 cattle. Snow drifted up to 30 feet. Visibility at Bismarck, ND, was zero for 11 consecutive hours.

Brownsville, TX (1983)
A high of 100 degrees; earliest 100 degree day ever for the city.

Mauna Kea & Mauna Loa, HI (1990)
Heaviest snow on the tops of the Hawaiian volcanoes in 15 years. Snow drifted 6-10 feet.