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When it comes to winter weather, we truly are a United Storms of America. A summer shower might only affect a few towns, but winter storms tend to march across whole chunks of the country, unifying state after state under a banner of ice and snow. Hi, I'm Dave Thurlow from the Mount Washington Observatory and this week on The Weather Notebook, we'll be looking at some of the regional flavors of our winter weather.

Today we'll start off with the most famous one of all, the nor'easter. Where did this memorable name come from, and how did "north" become "nor"? You might think the name started because this winter storm affects the northeastern U.S. That much is true, but the name actually refers to the direction of the sharp wind during the height of one of these storms.

Nor'easters typically form off the mid-Atlantic coast, just offshore of Virginia or North Carolina. That's where the warm Gulf Stream waters lie closest to the shore. As the center strengthens and moves up the coast, it draws on warmth and moisture from the ocean. Meanwhile, cold air is usually in place over New England, just waiting to turn that moisture to snow.

Typically, the whole storm comes together off the coast between New York and Boston, where the center of a classic nor'easter might churn for a day or more. The flow around this storm center pulls in winds from the northeast across New England, thus the storm's classic name. As for the missing TH in 'nor'easter,' you can chalk that up to New England sailors who for centuries have shown a disdain for consonants.

Thanks to today's contributing writer Bob Henson and for all kinds of information on winter storms, visit our website at mountwashington.org. The Weather Notebook is underwritten by Subaru and the National Science Foundation.

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