Forecasters are predicting explosive intensification this weekend for an extra-tropical storm in the North Atlantic that is expected to eclipse the intensity of last October's superstorm Sandy.
Unlike Sandy, the nameless North Atlantic superstorm poses no threat to land. But it does highlight the power such storms can attain.
It's forecast to develop winds of up to 98 miles an hour, while the air pressure at its center – expected to reach a low between 920 to 930 millibars – would rival that of a category 4 hurricane, according to forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Ocean Prediction Center in College Park, Md.
The system is the same storm "that gave us some snow a couple of days ago in DC," says Robert Banks, a forecaster at the Ocean Prediction Center. The storm intensified as the cold air moved out over relatively warm North Atlantic water, which is feeding energy into the system.
In addition, the system is merging with two other upper-level troughs – providing the storm with yet more punch.
It's not clear how this storm will fare in the record books, Mr. Banks says. But over at the Weather Underground's web site, data gathered by British weather historian Stephen Burt shows five other storms between 1824 and 1986 with central pressures ranging from 920.2 to 925.6 millibars.
An extra-tropical superstorm in January 1993 holds the record for low pressure – 913 millibars – for North Atlantic winter storms in an event that destroyed an oil tanker after it ran aground at the Shetland Islands. The tanker, the MV Braer, was carrying 85,000 tons of crude oil.