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Ok, this is the closest forum that I could find to post this question on StackExchange. I think this question is appropriate for this forum too.

Isn't Nor'easter supposed to move from the Northeast to Southwest, hence its name? But the recent Nor'easter that hit the Northeast right after Hurricane Sandy seems to have moved from the southwest to northeast, according to the meteorologic graphics that were shown all day long on TV. Can someone explain?

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I would think Nor'easter = "Northeast wind" = "blowing towards the Northeast" – Russell Steen Nov 12 '12 at 15:26
See At least the name got its origin from the direction FROM which it is blowing. So my question is basically, whether Nor'easter is defined more by its nature - i.e., non-tropical storm originating in mid-latitude area - regardless of the direction from which it is blowing. – Anon Nov 12 '12 at 16:41
The wind comes from the NE but the system itself can move N/NW – Kevin Nov 12 '12 at 19:17
This might alternatively belong on Physics tagged "meteorology". – gerrit Nov 12 '12 at 23:25
Definitely a question that I thinks belongs here. Welcome to The Great Outdoors S.E. – MaskedPlant Nov 13 '12 at 16:41
up vote 15 down vote accepted

Yes, "Nor'easter" is derived from "north-easter" meaning the winds come from the northeast. That is exactly what happens in a nor'easter.

You are confusing the wind direction with the travel direction of the storm. The whole storm moves up the coast, but remember these are counter-clockwise rotation cyclonic storms. The winds that bring the most stuff and the notorious bad weather hit the New England coast from the ocean. These are usually the leading or northwesterly regions of the storm, so the winds themselves come from the northeast.

Remember that the names evolved long before people understood large scale weather patterns. All people in Cape Cod, Gloucester, or "down east" Maine knew was that the nastiest weather accompanied by serious precipitation come howling from the northeast. While not universally true of course, it's actually not that far off in the larger scheme of things. "Normal" weather here in New England comes from the west. Notable exceptions are the "Montreal Express" being cold and dry from the northwest, and a nor'easter bringing strong winds and serious precipitation from the northeast. "Nice" weather from the northeast basically doesn't happen here. The old mariners and fishermen knew a lot about local weather without understanding the global picture.

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Nor'easters move from the south to the north. Just like a hurricane. They are cyclonic and the wind that hits the coast comes from the NE.

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Anon is correct. Nor'easter is a storm system blowing high winds and Artic air coming from the north or north east. A Sou'wester originates in the tropical/subtropical Atlantic and brings warm air and heavy precipitation. Newscasters tend to call these northeasters thinking, I guess, that it's a storm on the northeastern United States and therefore a nor'easter or they simply get things backwards. Again, the storms with heavy precipitation moving from the south into and along the East Coast US are sou'westers.

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