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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    After a cold, clear winter night without much wind, the ground and nearby tree branches may be covered by tiny, white ice crystals.

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This Day In Weather History

Astoria, Or (1998)
5.56 inches of rain fell, setting a new all-time record. the previous rainfall record was 4.53 inches from January 9, 1966.

Northeast (1950)
Great Appalachian Storm (24th-26th) developed greatest wind force, deepest snow, most severe early-season cold in history of the Northeast: 18.8 inches of snow at Akron, OH; Youngstown, OH, had a maximum 24-hour snowfall of 20.7 inches and a maximum single storm total of 28.7 inches; Steubenville, OH, had a maximum single storm total of 36.3 inches; Pittsburgh, PA, had a maximum 24-hour snowfall of 20.1 inches and a maximum single storm total of 27.7 inches; and Charleston, WV had a maximum 24-hour snowfall of 15.1 inches and a maximum single storm total of 25.6 inches. At coastal stations such as Newark and Boston single-minute wind speeds in excess of 80 mph were registered. There was a 108 mph gust at Newark. Peak gusts of 110 were noticed at Concord, NH; 108 mph at Newark, NJ; and 100 mph at Hartford, CT. Atop Mt. Washington, a wind gust of 160 mph hit from the southeast early on the 26th. Central Park, in the heart of sheltered Manhattan Island, set an 80-year record of 70 mph.

Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton (1971)
Heavy snowfall in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area. It started to snow the night before, and by about noon Thanksgiving Day 11/25/71, 20.5 inches of snow was reported on the ground at the Avoca, PA airport. Some of the surrounding areas had even more snow. Dallas, PA, had 27 inches and parts of the Poconos had as much as 30 inches. Barn roofs collapsed, power lines were downed, and tree branches were broken. The majority of the snow fell within 12 hours.