What’s a Nor’Easter?

The weather geek echo chamber erupted this afternoon following a Weather Channel headline and subsequent Capital Weather Gang article about the headline “Nor’easter to Threaten Millions”

While the “threat” is a fairly minor one – a few inches of rain could lead to some isolated flooding up in Maine as well as gusty winds along the coast north of Boston. This lead me to wonder – what storms deserve the moniker “nor’easter” and what storms don’t.

The answer to this is complex, subjective, and varies from location to location. Here’s the broad definition from the American Meteorological Society Glossary.


The key phrases here are “within 100 miles east or west of the coastline” and “winds of gale force”. In order to qualify as a nor’easter locally I save the distinction for storms that produce gale force winds or greater on Long Island Sound that are from the northeast.

The bottom line is that while this storm may be considered a nor’easter for our friends in Maine it’s not a nor’easter down here in Connecticut. It’s just some rain.

As for the headline from The Weather Channel – I get the frustration some have with the somewhat dramatic and ominous description. It’s a fine line but at the end of the day The Weather Channel’s website is a business. It’s a highly successful business and the way that business thrives is on advertising revenue through clicks and page views from a global audience. I’m guessing my suggested headline of “FAIRLY WEAK STORM TO BRING BENEFICIAL RAIN TO NEW ENGLAND” wouldn’t draw too many eyeballs to weather.com!


3 thoughts on “What’s a Nor’Easter?

    • Michael – I think that’s part of the problem with the digital landscape. Thankfully, at the local level we have a lot of control over what we put in our newscasts on our our website/social media accounts. We are totally honest with what to expect and that’s what we tell our viewers. That said, when your business is based on clicks and page views on a global scale it’s very difficult to get content to go viral without headlines like that. I wish it wasn’t the case but I’m not sure what the solution is.

  1. Pingback: So, Was This Storm a Nor’Easter? Yes – I’ve Changed My Mind | Way Too Much Weather

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