Entries in Storms (2)


Is Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice Causing Harsher Winter Storms?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- New research suggests disappearing sea ice at the top of the planet is playing a “critical” role in driving colder, snowier winters here in the United States.

Retreating Arctic sea ice, according to the researchers, helps alter the atmosphere in two ways.

First, scientists found that less ice is causing a change in atmospheric circulation patterns, weakening the westerly winds that blow across the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  That weakened jet stream, in turn, allows more frequent surges of bitter cold Arctic air not only into the U.S., but also in Europe and east Asia.

“We have more cold air outbreaks,” said Jiping Liu, a senior research scientist in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, and a co-author of the new study released Monday.

The second factor, Liu said, is that more water is evaporating into the air as Arctic ice at the ocean’s surface melts away.

“This greatly enhances the transfer of moisture from the ocean to the atmosphere,” Liu said.  That humidity, he says, essentially acts as fuel to help supercharge “Snowmageddon”-type storms like the ones that paralyzed parts of the northeastern U.S. in 2010.  A more recent, deadly deep freeze in Eastern Europe left 650 people dead.

“The record decline in Arctic sea ice is at least a critical contributor to recent snowy winters in northern continents,” Liu said.

Liu says the new research may also help connect the dots between human-caused global warming, vanishing ice and our changing weather.

Climate researchers believe that the three-decade decline in Arctic sea ice cannot be explained by natural causes alone.  The National Center for Atmospheric Research, for example, recently found that roughly half of Arctic sea ice decline from 1975 to 2005 can be blamed on the increasing amount of climate-changing greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, that humans are releasing into the atmosphere.

“Is Arctic ice in a death spiral?  Maybe not yet, but it’s in big trouble,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, recently told ABC News, pointing out that the five lowest amounts of Arctic sea ice on record (since 1979) have all been recorded in the last five years.

If Arctic sea ice continues retreating as expected, the researchers said that “may load the dice” in favor of bigger, more persistent future snowstorms.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tossed Cruise Ship Docks in Malta; Passengers Revolt over Refund

Photo Courtesy - Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images(VALLETTA, Malta) -- A Royal Caribbean cruise ship docked safely in Malta Tuesday morning after severely listing in rough seas over the weekend, tossing passengers and loose objects like rag dolls.

The Brilliance of the Seas was carrying 2,100 passengers, including 1,600 American vacationers, when it encountered rough waters over the weekend in what the cruise line described as a "serious incident."  The 90,000-ton ship swayed as far as 15 degrees in either direction several times.

Several passengers reported minor injuries such as bumps and bruises and at least two people suffered broken bones.

The problems began when the ship left Greece.  Vicious storms lashed the Mediterranean Sea just before 3 a.m. Sunday morning, slamming the ship with 30-foot waves and 80-mile-an-hour winds as it approached Egypt.

The ship never made it to Egypt as conditions were too rough.  Some passengers became angry when a cruise ship representative said they would offer everyone a $200 credit following the ordeal.  After those protests, Royal Caribbean reversed its decision and decided to offer passengers a refund for the full value of the cruise.

The ship is expected to stay in port for a couple of days.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio