According to Jeff Halverson of the Capital Weather Gang, the recent storm (named winter storm Juno by The Weather Channel) was a textbook example of what is technically known as a Miller-B cyclone, and colloquially known as a ‘noreaster, as the primary winds are from the Northeast when the snow is flying. Noreasters are, by far, the major cause of snow along the Atlantic Coast, all the way from North Carolina to Maine.
There’s no denying climate change, as average surface temperatures are about 1.4°F warmer than they were in the 1860’s, when there were enough reliable weather stations to make an accurate estimate. A fraction of that warming is in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, and some of this Atlantic warming is from other causes such as internal ocean circulation cycles decades in length.
Onshore temperatures where Juno spun up are about 2°F above average—but don’t necessarily relate that to climate change as there is a big patch of water about 1000 miles to the northeast just as below average temperature. It seems logical a slightly warmer ocean will yield a tad more moisture which, if significant, should show as increased snowfall in our coastal cities. It turns out there are other things that go along with a warmer ocean that compensate for this effect.
This last storm was, as Halverson said, a Miller-B cyclone in extremis. When these really wind up (and that happens every year or two), they develop what is called a “warm seclusion” at their center, and for twelve hours or so they look a lot like hurricanes to the untrained eye, complete with a cleared-out center.