Niagara Gazette

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June 25, 2013

94 in Alaska? Weather extremes tied to jet stream

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — • Superstorm Sandy took an odd left turn in October from the Atlantic straight into New Jersey, something that happens once every 700 years or so.

• One 12-month period had a record number of tornadoes. That was followed by 12 months that set a record for lack of tornadoes.

And here is what federal weather officials call a "spring paradox": The U.S. had both an unusually large area of snow cover in March and April and a near-record low area of snow cover in May. The entire Northern Hemisphere had record snow coverage area in December but the third lowest snow extent for May.

"I've been doing meteorology for 30 years and the jet stream the last three years has done stuff I've never seen," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private service Weather Underground. "The fact that the jet stream is unusual could be an indicator of something. I'm not saying we know what it is."

Rutgers' Francis is in the camp that thinks climate change is probably playing a role in this.

"It's been just a crazy fall and winter and spring all along, following a very abnormal sea ice condition in the Arctic," Francis said, noting that last year set a record low for summer sea ice in the Arctic. "It's possible what we're seeing in this unusual weather is all connected."

Other scientists don't make the sea ice and global warming connections that Francis does. They see random weather or long-term cycles at work. And even more scientists are taking a wait-and-see approach about this latest theory. It's far from a scientific consensus, but it is something that is being studied more often and getting a lot of scientific buzz.

"There are some viable hypotheses," Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh said. "We're going to need more evidence to fully test those hypotheses."

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