The long-awaited nor'easter is finally cranking off the coast of New England this afternoon, and it really looks about as beautiful as expected on both satellite imagery and surface pressure analysis maps.

The center of the cyclone is down near 960 millibars (give or take a few), which is the typical pressure one would find in a category 3 hurricane. As the storm reaches its strongest point over the next couple of hours, a couple of beautiful features can be noted on satellite.

The first is the well-defined center of the storm, swirling a few hundred miles off the coast of Cape Cod. To the northwest of the center is the solid shield of heavy snow that's going to make a mess of Cape Cod, eastern Maine, and Atlantic Canada. Down to the southeast you can see fields of cumulus clouds following the path of the winds into the center of the system.

Further inland towards the Mid-Atlantic and the Appalachians, you can see two features as the nor'easter's tight circulation brings high winds from the northwest across the mountains and out into the Atlantic.

Over the Appalachians themselves, you can see gravity waves caused by the winds flowing up over the crests of the mountains. The terrain is creating something similar to the ripple effect you would see after you throw a rock into a pond. The wind flowing over the mountains is causing the air to "ripple," creating a wavy effect in the clouds.

Seen in both the above image and the one below, the storm is also creating a pretty cool area of cloud streets off the coast of the southeast.

Starting from around the Delmarva Peninsula straight down the coast to Florida is a prominent area of cloud streets, which I discussed in a post a couple of days ago. As the cool air moves from the United States over the warmer ocean waters, the warmer water heats up the air immediately above it, creating little pockets of convection. The convection creates cumulus clouds, which are then pulled into rows by the stiff northwesterly winds. The cloud street effect is most prominent off the Carolina coast.

This really is a great system — bombogenesis, an incredible satellite presentation, and minimal impact to heavily populated areas. What more could a guy want?

[Images via GOES/NASA/ESO]