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    Monday, Dec. 9, 2013
    APTOPIX Lions Eagles Football
    Fans covered with snow wait in the stands before an NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    The Northeast will have another round of accumulating snowfall early this week, right on the heels of the weekend winter storm.

    For a heavily-populated area, this will be primarily a snowstorm and a disruptive one at that.

    Snow is expected to start on Monday night in the mountains of Tennessee, then quickly spread across the mid-Atlantic and New England throughout Tuesday.

    Most locations along the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston, will pick up 1 to 3 inches of snow from this storm.

    However, along the the I-95 corridor there is the potential for 6 inches of snow to fall locally.

    Unlike the storm this past weekend that brought a combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain to the region, precipitation looks to fall mainly as snow in the Northeast with rain farther to the south.

    The Delmarva Peninsula is an exception to this, where slightly warmer air will allow for sleet to mix in with snow for a few hours.

    RELATED:
    PHOTOS: Snow Wreaks Havoc in the Northeast
    You've Never Seen a Snowflake in This Much Detail
    How to Survive a Power Outage During an Ice Storm

    This snow will cause headaches for tens of millions of people on Tuesday across the I-95 corridor, especially those taking to the roads.

    Snow can lead to slippery roadways, causing reduced visibility and a heightened risk of accidents. If you plan on taking to the roads, allow extra time to arrive at your destination and extra stopping distance when motoring along.

    Those taking to the air should expect flight delays for inbound and outbound flights.

    Snow will come to an end from southwest to northeast across the region Tuesday afternoon and evening as the storm quickly tracks off the East Coast.

    MORE ON SKYE: Icy Storm Hits US, Affecting Many States

     

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    Updated Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, 5:27 p.m. ET
    Trucks, trailers, and cars litter southbound lane of Interstate 81 at Salem Ave. Sunday. The morning's snow created hazardous conditions on roads across the Tri-State.
    Trucks, trailers, and cars litter southbound lane of Interstate 81 at Salem Ave. Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/The Herald-Mail, Kevin G. Gilbert)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Snow and bitter cold snarled traffic and prompted another 1,650 U.S. flight cancellations on Monday, and tens of thousands of people were still without power after January-like weather barged in a month early.

    The storm covered parts of North Texas in ice over the weekend and then moved East. Below-zero temperatures crowned the top of the U.S. from Idaho to Minnesota, where many roads still had an inch-thick plate of ice, polished smooth by traffic and impervious to ice-melting chemicals, making intersections an adventure.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Icy Storm Hits US, Affecting Many States
    PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 8: Bryce Brown #34 of the Philadelphia Eagles is tackled by Glover Quin #27 of the Detroit Lions during a game on December 8, 2013 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles won 34-20. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images)Many travelers wished they were home, and people in homes without power wished they were somewhere else.

    Some of the most difficult conditions were in North Texas. More than 22,000 Dallas-area homes and businesses were still without power on Monday, according to electric utility Oncor. That was down from 270,000 on Friday. Dallas students got a snow day.

    More than half of the nation's flight cancellations on Monday were at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, dominated by American Airlines. About 650 travelers were stranded there Sunday night.

    Nationally, there have been more than 6,100 flight cancellations since Saturday, according to FlightStats.com, including more than 2,800 by American or its American Eagle regional airline. American emerged from bankruptcy protection and merged with US Airways on Monday.

    A flight cancellation meant that Fred and Brenda Mull of Oklahoma City spent Sunday night in a Dallas hotel instead of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. American canceled their Monday morning flight, too, and they weren't happy as they sat in the international lobby. They'd spent three hours on hold with American, which told them not to go to the airport or search for a new reservation - advice they ignored.

    "Am I supposed to sit at the hotel and wait for them to call? And pay for the hotel?" Brenda Mull said. "They wouldn't have gone through bankruptcy if they ran it like a business." The couple was scheduled on another flight Monday night.

    RELATED ON SKYE: You've Never Seen a Snowflake in This Much Detail

    Half of the high school band from Norman, Okla. landed at Dallas-Fort Worth on Monday after playing in a Pearl Harbor Day parade in Hawaii. But the flight for the other half of the band was canceled because of the ice, leaving them stranded for an extra day in Hawaii.

    "Tough break for them, huh?" joked parent chaperone Tami Meyer.

    The storm dumped snow through the Mid-Atlantic region. Freezing rain prompted the federal government to allow workers to arrive up to two hours later than normal Monday or take unscheduled leave.

    In Washington, cab driver Mahdi Abdi said he had been driving since around midnight and the main roads were clear. But side streets were a different story.

    "The small streets, a lot of them are icy," said Abdi, 52. "I don't even go in."

    Power outages were reported in Virginia, parts of West Virginia, Maryland and the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area following freezing rain, wet snow and sleet. More than 15,000 customers in Maryland were without power, where the weight of the ice weakened tree limbs that then contacted power lines and other equipment. Some 109,000 customers were without power in Virginia.

    Parts of northwest and southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia got snow, while sleet and freezing rain prevailed west and north of Richmond.

    The area is in for more wintry weather. The National Weather Service predicted a second storm for the Mid-Atlantic region, with five inches of snow possible Monday night.

    At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, more than 100 flights were canceled, according to FlightStats.com, and crowds were sparse Monday morning as travelers made alternate plans. Some, though, were settling in for a long wait.

    Emilio Lobato, 53, his wife Cheri and their daughters Katherine, 12, and Victoria, 10, were forced to spend an extra night in Washington following a long weekend sightseeing trip. Their flight home Sunday to Jacksonville, Fla., was canceled, and on Monday, the best they could do was a late-afternoon flight to Tampa, across the state.

    "My daughter said it would be great to see some snow," Lobato said. "You know what they say: Be careful what you wish for."

    "These kids are good travelers," he said. "It's part of the hazards of being a tourist," Lobato said. "They've got homework and books, and maybe they'll break out in some Christmas carols."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Icy Storm Hits US, Affecting Many States

     

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    Monday, Dec. 9, 2013

    Visitors at Strataca are required to wear hard hats and self-rescuer devices, both for safety purposes and for the imersive experience. [Credit: Larry Smith (European Pressphoto Agency)]

    For some people it's a mountaintop, for others it's a lapping seashore, but for Gayle Ferrell, the most serene place on Earth is 650 feet (198 meters) underground.

    Ferrell works as the director of operations at a museum called Strataca, set in the abandoned tunnels of an active salt mine in central Kansas. The museum - which has access to about 300,000 square feet (28,000 square meters) of mined-out channels - has been open since 2007, but just unveiled a new attraction in November called the Salt Safari that brings visitors through an extended 3-hour-long sub-surface hike.

    Clad in hard hats and carrying Mine Safety and Health Administration self-rescuer devices (breathing apparatuses used by miners in emergencies), visitors descend hundreds of feet in a freight elevator and enter a world covered in glittering, geometric salt crystals. [Album: Hike the Strataca Salt Safari]

    A retired salt miner and the museum's maintenance manager together lead the group through the tunnels, explaining how the mining operations work and how the shimmering deposits formed.

    "This is not a museum where you read boards and that's it," Ferrell told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet. "You go 650 feet underground. This is the only place in North American where the public can do that, and go into an active salt mine."

    Wonder of Kansas

    The museum was listed by the Kansas Sampler Foundation as one of the "8 Wonders of Kansas" in 2007, a list that includes several other natural wonders and culturally significant sites. Strataca has since drawn about 55,000 visitors annually from all 50 states, along with 25 countries around the world, Ferrell said.

    Though she says she had held a better paying job at an accounting firm before joining Strataca several years ago, Ferrell has never regretted her decision to spend her days underground.

    "It is a very serene and calming atmosphere, and time passes in a whole different dimension," Ferrell said. "Three hours seems like 30 minutes."

    The salt deposits that make up this unique environment formed about 250 million years ago, when modern-day Kansas sat close to the equator and was more arid than it is today.

    "It would have been a hot environment without a lot of rain," Shane Lyle, senior research assistant with the Kansas Geological Survey, told LiveScience, comparing the area's ancient climate to that around the modern-day Arabian Sea. (Lyle informally advises Strataca on geologic content in its exhibits.)

    During that ancient time, a body of water called the Permian Sea covered large parts of what is now North America. The site of the salt mine formed a shallow embayment to the north of the sea, cut off from the larger body of water.

    Through time, water evaporated from the isolated body of water, leaving salt behind. Eventually, the salt became so concentrated that it fell out of solution and formed crystals on the seafloor, Lyle said.

    Buried salts

    Over the course of millions of years, the embayment and the rest of the Permian Sea cyclically dried up, flooded, and dried up again about 15 times, as a result of global changes in climate: Cool climates tend to suck water up to the poles where it is stored as ice in glaciers, Lyle said. Each time the sea dried up, hundreds of feet of salts settled, later to be covered by muds. Eventually, under the weight of overlying deposits, the salts hardened and the mud turned to shale rock through a process called lithification, Lyle said.

    Today, the mine's product is distributed throughout the Midwest and Northeast as road salt to help melt ice during winter months. Some abandoned mined-out areas have also been leased by a company called Underground Vaults and Storage, which offers its clients a secure and naturally climate-controlled environment to store valuable items, including a number of original Hollywood movies, according to the Strataca website.

    Aside from the adventure component of the Salt Safari, Ferrell says that the museum aims to provide a compelling educational experience for the thousands of school students that visit each year, some of whom get the unique chance to spend a night in the mine.

    Follow Laura Poppick on Twitter. Follow OurAmazingPlanet @OAPlanet, Facebook and Google+. Original article at LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

     

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    Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013
    Lions Eagles Football
    In the snow, Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles cannot hang onto the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

    Philadelphia International Airport received more snow (8.6 inches) from a single storm this past Sunday than it did all of last winter, when 8.3 inches fell.

    Mother nature pulled out all the stops with heavy snow in a narrow zone centered near the Mason-Dixon Line Sunday.

    The heavy snow quickly covered roadways, caused flight delays and cancellations, and contributed to many accidents.

    The mechanics and variables behind the snow debacle are complex and numerous. A simple explanation is offered in this story.

    According to Brian Wimer, AccuWeather winter weather expert, "For starters, a layer of fresh cold air moved in near the surface Saturday night over the mid-Atlantic and shortly thereafter a weak storm moved northeastward into that fresh cold air."

    While the storm was weak, there was plenty of warm, moist air to the south waiting to be tapped.

    "The weak storm allowed a warm front to set up several thousand feet above the ground which caused the air to rapidly rise and cool in an unusually narrow zone rather than be spread out over hundreds of square miles," Wimer said.

    The band of heavy snow focused from parts of West Virginia to northern Virginia, northern Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware and southern New Jersey, including the Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia metro areas. At times, the snow fell at the rate of 1 to 3 inches per hour.

    As a result, many areas exceeded their original prediction of snow in a little over an hour. The liquid amount from the snow around Philadelphia was a factor of 20 lower, so that 1 inch of snow was only about 0.05 of an inch of water or rain.

    RELATED:
    PHOTOS: Snow Wreaks Havoc in the Northeast
    You've Never Seen a Snowflake in This Much Detail
    How to Survive a Power Outage During an Ice Storm

    The band of snow could have just as easily set up farther south or north compared to where it did. Instead, it occurred in the vicinity of the Mason-Dixon Line.

    According to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity, "Horizontal winds were very light from around 5,000 to 10,000 feet up, near where the snowflakes were rapidly forming and growing most vigorously."

    These light winds allowed the snowflakes to become very large and not be blown apart.

    There are probably a couple of dozen of potential events similar to this past Sunday but in reality they only occur a handful of times over nation during a typical winter. Figuring out exactly where they will first set up and expand to prior to their occurrence is very challenging.

    Snowfall From the Sunday to Monday Storm (As of Midday Monday)

    City
    Amount (Inches)
    Wilmington, Del.
    8.5
    Philadelphia (City)
    5.5
    Harrisburg, Pa.
    2.0
    Baltimore
    1.6
    Boston
    1.0
    Providence, R.I.
    0.8
    Washington, D.C.
    0.6
    New York
    0.1
    Hartford, Conn.
    0.3
    Pittsburgh
    0.3

    Another storm will affect part of the Northeast Tuesday. For many areas along the I-95 corridor, there may be enough to shovel and plow.

    Most areas will receive between 1 and 3 inches of snow from the new storm Tuesday, spread out over a six- to eight-hour period. A narrow swath of 3 to 6 inches of snow will fall, including in some of the major I-95 cities.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Icy Storm Hits US, Affecting Many States

     

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    Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013
    Cold Snap Indiana
    Jim Cline clears a path for Christmas tree shoppers following a winter storm Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

    Yet another blast of Arctic air will roll southeastward this week over the Midwest and will reach the Northeast.

    The air will be the coldest of the season so far from Minneapolis to Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.

    The Arctic blast will be accompanied by stiff breezes and gusty winds, which will produce RealFeel(R) temperatures well below zero over the northern Plains and much of the Midwest and near zero in parts of the I-95 region.

    The worst of the cold will reach the Upper Midwest Wednesday, the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes Wednesday night and the Atlantic Seaboard Thursday into Thursday night.

    The action of frigid air passing over the open waters of the Great Lakes will set up bands of heavy lake-effect snow, that could unload 1 to 2 feet of accumulation and produce whiteouts in some locations of upstate New York, northwestern Pennsylvania, northwestern Indiana and Michigan.

    RELATED:
    PHOTOS: Snow Wreaks Havoc in the Northeast
    You've Never Seen a Snowflake in This Much Detail
    How Did Philly Get More Snow Sunday Than All of Last Winter?

    A bit of snow can fall over the Midwest away from lake-effect areas as a weak Alberta Clipper storm rides along the leading edge of the Arctic air. Along the East Coast, the air will follow a couple of days behind a storm bringing accumulating snow Tuesday.

    AccuWeather.com will have more information on the new Arctic outbreak and lake-effect snow as the week progresses.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth

     

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    Updated Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 5:55 p.m. ET
    Midwest Storm
    (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A modest snowstorm pushed through New England on Tuesday, causing messy travel conditions and widespread school and government closures along the Eastern seaboard despite bringing less accumulation than expected.

    With snow totals measured in inches instead of feet, the storm turned out to be more nuisance than menace.

    Hundreds of transportation crews treated and cleared highways in New England, where up to 3 inches of snow fell in places. State police in Connecticut reported scores of vehicle crashes and at least eight minor injuries.

    Public schools were closed in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and parts of Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some schools in Connecticut were closed, while a few districts in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts canceled afternoon activities.

    Flights were delayed in Philadelphia and New York City airports.

    In Washington, snow was falling at daybreak, but traffic problems failed to materialize as many workers stayed home. Non-emergency federal employees were granted excused absences, and others were told to telecommute, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said.

    The snow ended before the evening commute in Philadelphia, which was socked by a surprise 8-inch snowfall on Sunday; the new storm brought about 2 inches.

    In Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the snow persisted throughout the day, with some flakes falling during the evening drive, making for slick road conditions.

    In central and southwest Ohio, overnight snowfall made the morning commute slow and messy.

    Outside Washington, traffic was light Tuesday morning. With temperatures hovering around freezing, highways that had been plowed and treated were passable, but conditions began to deteriorate after 8 a.m. as the pace of the snowfall increased.

    The usually bustling Springfield Metro station was nearly deserted. Those who did have to work said the lack of traffic made the slushy roads easier to navigate.

    "I wish it was like this all the time - minus the snow," said Maelin Traylor, of Springfield. "The traffic was wonderful."

    Rick Hemphill, a retired deputy court clerk, had a busy Tuesday morning ferrying family members to and from their jobs in rural Washington County, Md., through several inches of fresh snow. He said he grew up driving in snow in mountainous western Maryland.

    "Snow is snow," Hemphill said as he refueled his four-wheel-drive vehicle near his Hagerstown-area home. "The closer you get to the city, it gets worse because they get it less often."

    Tuesday's storm offered up a sense of levity and fun for Rachel Ezekiel-Fishbein compared with Sunday's squall, which hampered her travel plans to Baltimore for a wedding. Schools in her hometown of Cheltenham, just north of Philadelphia, were closed.

    "Got the call from school at 5 a.m., rolled over and went back to sleep till 9," she said. "Kids are out sledding, and I'm working and making a pot of soup. Yep, I'm loving this snow day!"

    Forecasters said more wintry weather could be on the way for the region this weekend.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Icy Storm Hits US, Affecting Many States

     

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    Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2013
    FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2012 file photo, Justin Bieber performs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Bieber arrived Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in the Philippines, where he has launched a campaign to help victims of last month's killer typhoon. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Invision/AP, File)
    In this Sept. 30, 2012 file photo, Justin Bieber performs at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Invision/AP, File)

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Teen heartthrob Justin Bieber visited young victims of Typhoon Haiyan on Tuesday, traveling to the Philippines after launching a worldwide campaign to help those affected by the deadly storm.

    Bieber arrived from Australia and flew to Tacloban, the devastated capital of central Leyte province, where he distributed shirts, toys and basketballs to children.

    The 19-year-old pop star visited a Tacloban elementary school that is being used as an evacuation center despite being heavily damaged by last month's typhoon, which left nearly 6,000 people dead and more than 1,700 others missing, and flattened entire towns and villages in the central Philippines.

    "It was like we were not hit by the typhoon, like Yolanda never came," one girl told Manila's TV5 Television, describing her feelings on seeing her idol. Typhoon Haiyan is known locally as Yolanda.

    Bieber took a quick walk around the school and checked a temporary learning space that was packed with about 300 children, including some from the local neighborhood, before moving to an outdoor stage to sing, said Kate Donovan, a spokeswoman for UNICEF.

    "He played a very beautiful set," she said. "He played a series of Christmas songs and some of his hits as well, including 'Baby.'"

    At another school also used as temporary shelter, Bieber played basketball with some boys and posed gamely for pictures with his fans.

    "Justin brought a lot of joy, hope and cheer to the hundreds of children who were there," Angela Kearney, UNICEF's emergency coordinator for Haiyan response, said in a statement.

    Kearney said the money Bieber raises "will give some of the children who were caught in the path of Haiyan access to education, vaccinations, better nutrition, clean water and sanitation."

    Bieber arrived on a special flight, Immigration officer Jerome Ollet said. Pictures on social media showed fans snapping photos of the star at Manila's airport.

    In a video posted on the fundraising platform Prizeo, Bieber asked fans to help him support victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

    Bieber is one of the several foreign and local celebrities and VIPs who have helped recovery efforts.

    Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop flew to Tacloban on Sunday to console survivors and pledge continuing aid.

    Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys visited an air force base in Manila two weeks ago and distributed crayons and coloring books to children of families who arrived aboard mercy flights by the Philippine and U.S. military from the typhoon-ravaged provinces of Leyte and Samar. The R&B star was in Manila at the time for a concert.

    Bieber said donors have a chance to win a prize to hang out with him in a studio while he works on his upcoming album.

    "The moment I heard about the tragedy a few weeks back, I thought I can count on you guys to make a difference," Bieber said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Photos from Typhoon Haiyan

     

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    Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013
    In this image provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, sastrugi stick out from the snow surface in this photo near Plateau Station in East Antarctica in 2008. Most of Antarctica looks quite flat, despite the subtle domes, hills, and hollows. A new look at NASA satellite data revealed that Earth set a new record for coldest temperature recorded in East Antarctica. It happened in August 2010 when it hit -135.8 degrees. Then on July 31 of this year, it came close again: -135.3 degrees. The old record had been -128.6 degrees. (AP Photo/National Snow and Ice Data Center, Atsuhiro Muto)
    In this image provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, sastrugi stick out from the snow surface in this photo near Plateau Station in East Antarctica in 2008. (AP Photo/National Snow and Ice Data Center, Atsuhiro Muto)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Feeling chilly? Here's cold comfort: You could be in East Antarctica which new data says set a record for "soul-crushing" cold.

    Try 135.8 degrees Fahrenheit below zero; that's 93.2 degrees below zero Celsius, which sounds only slightly toastier. Better yet, don't try it. That's so cold scientists say it hurts to breathe.

    A new look at NASA satellite data revealed that Earth set a new record for coldest temperature recorded. It happened in August 2010 when it hit -135.8 degrees. Then on July 31 of this year, it came close again: -135.3 degrees.

    The old record had been -128.6 degrees, which is -89.2 degrees Celsius.

    Ice scientist Ted Scambos at the National Snow and Ice Data Center said the new record is "50 degrees colder than anything that has ever been seen in Alaska or Siberia or certainly North Dakota."

    "It's more like you'd see on Mars on a nice summer day in the poles," Scambos said, from the American Geophysical Union scientific meeting in San Francisco Monday, where he announced the data. "I'm confident that these pockets are the coldest places on Earth."

    However, it won't be in the Guinness Book of World Records because these were satellite measured, not from thermometers, Scambos said.

    "Thank God, I don't know how exactly it feels," Scambos said. But he said scientists do routinely make naked 100 degree below zero dashes outside in the South Pole, so people can survive that temperature for about three minutes.

    Most of the time researchers need to breathe through a snorkel that brings air into the coat through a sleeve and warms it up "so you don't inhale by accident" the cold air, Scambos said.

    On Monday, the coldest U.S. temperature was a relatively balmy 27 degrees below zero Fahrenheit in Yellowstone, Wyo., said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private firm Weather Underground.

    "If you want soul-crushing cold, you really have to go overseas," Scambos said in a phone interview. "It's just a whole other level of cold because on that cold plateau, conditions are perfect."

    Scambos said the air is dry, the ground chilly, the skies cloudless and cold air swoops down off a dome and gets trapped in a chilly lower spot "hugging the surface and sliding around."

    Just because one spot on Earth has set records for cold that has little to do with global warming because it is one spot in one place, said Waleed Abdalati, an ice scientist at the University of Colorado and NASA's former chief scientist. Both Abdalati, who wasn't part of the measurement team, and Scambos said this is likely an unusual random reading in a place that hasn't been measured much before and could have been colder or hotter in the past and we wouldn't know.

    "It does speak to the range of conditions on this Earth, some of which we haven't been able to observe," Abdalati said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth

     

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    Ice from a wintry storm that swept across Texas late last week is causing dangerous conditions in the town of Plano. On Sunday, December 8, warmer weather was welcomed by the local residents, but it came at a cost at a number of apartment buildings near the popular Shops at Legacy complex in Plano. Enormous sheets of melting ice came plummeting off roofs and falling five stories to the ground, crushing cars and shredding trees as it fell.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Ice Sculptures That Will Take Your Breath Away

     

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    Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013
    Green lightning strikes as the Chaiten volcano erupts
    Green lightning strikes as the Chaiten volcano erupts during storms in the middle of the night on May 3, 2008 in Chile. (UPI Photo/Landov)

    SAN FRANCISCO -- A storm of charged particles coursing through a volcanic ash cloud sparked the spectacular green lightning seen at Chile's Chaiten Volcano in 2008, a researcher said Monday (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

    The green lightning revealed an electrical dance normally hidden inside thunderclouds, Arthur Few, an atmospheric scientist at Rice University in Houston, said. "It probably occurs in all thunderstorms, but you never see it," Few said. "Because of the structure of charges in a volcano cloud, it's on the outside of the cloud."

    Two spectacular photographs, snapped when Chaiten erupted in May 2008, recently caught Few's eye when he was investigating volcanic lighting. The volcano looms over the Andes about 800 miles (1,285 kilometers) south of Santiago, Chile, and erupted on May 2 of that year after lying dormant for hundreds of years. A retired professor, Few said he was driven to explain the phenomenon simply out of curiosity.

    "I asked myself, 'My goodness, where does this come from and why don't we see this in lightning storms?'" he said.

    Few thinks that the volcanic green lightning strikes are what scientists call "streamers" — channels of positive charge surging from the ground to the atmosphere.

    In thunderstorms, these positively charged zones hide inside the clouds, carried on ice crystals, Few said. When the channels connect with clouds of negatively charged particles, lightning results. But volcanic ash reveals the streamers because ash particles swirl on the cloud's surface.

    "We rarely see that positive streamer because it's inside the cloud, but it is revealed when we look at a volcanic cloud," Few said.

    The green color comes from electrically excited oxygen atoms, similar to the phenomenon that produces the Earth's green aurora, he said. "It's basically the same physics," Few said.

    Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us OurAmazingPlanet @OAPlanet, Facebook and Google+. Original article at LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Incredible Photos of Volcanic Eruptions
    Volcanic Lightning

     

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    Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013

    A webcam perched atop Lady Liberty's torch captured this stunning view of the snow-covered statue earlier today. While visitors haven't been allowed to climb to the Statue of Liberty's torch balcony since 1916, the EarthCam provides real-time footage from the incredible vantage point.

    Share this on Facebook?

    RELATED ON SKYE: Lightning Strikes 10 Famous Landmarks

     

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    Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
    Commuters wait on a train during a winter snowstorm Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in Philadelphia. Accumulations of 3 to 6 inches were expected as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Eastern Seaboard, including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
    Commuters wait on a train during a winter snowstorm Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    The punches just keep on coming from Old Man Winter with a new storm poised to impact parts of the South, Midwest and Northeast this weekend, threatening to bring travel delays and disruptions to outdoor activities.

    While this will be a warmer storm for many areas from Texas and Arkansas to the I-95 corridor of the mid-Atlantic, compared to recent storms, it will bring snow or a wintry mix for a time in some locations and an an all-out snowstorm to areas farther north and west.

    Snow is forecast to fall during part of the storm from Louisville, Ky., and Cincinnati to New York City and Boston.

    The storm will affect the Central states Friday night into Saturday and much of the East Saturday into Sunday.

    A stripe of heavy snow is most likely to fall over parts of northern Indiana, Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania, upstate New York, northern New England and neighboring Canada.

    Cities that could be hit with an all-out snowstorm include Cleveland, Syracuse, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt.

    Most cities in the I-95 corridor of the Northeast will have a brief period of snow or a wintry mix at the onset, followed by rain at the height of the storm.

    There is a chance that a wintry mix will move into Philadelphia Saturday afternoon before the conclusion of the Army-Navy Classic. A change to plain rain is forecast in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. However, it could snow hard prior to a change to rain in part of the coastal Northeast, raising concerns for a period of slippery travel.

    According to AccuWeather.com expert senior meteorologist Bernie Rayno, "For many areas in the Midwest and Northeast, this will be the third snowfall or wintry mix in a week counting the storm last weekend and the storm Monday night and Tuesday."

    Some cities in the mid-Atlantic have already received more snow this winter, compared to all of last winter, including Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del.

    The storms are creating major headaches for travelers and have states, cities and townships going through a great deal of ice melting compounds and spending a sizable amount of the winter budget early in the season.

    In the South, enough rain can fall in some locations to cause flooding in urban and poor drainage areas. Rain and low ceilings could impact flights at Atlanta and Charlotte.

    The storm will come together over the Deep South Friday and head toward a cold high pressure system moving across the Northeast.

    "The storm will be preceded by the coldest air of the season so far in parts of the Midwest and Northeast," Rayno said, "The storm itself will attack the cold air, removing much of it, but squeezing out heavy precipitation in the process."

    RELATED:
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    In the wake of the storm this weekend, a mixture of Arctic and Pacific air is forecast to come in, so it may not feel quite as cold as recent days from the Midwest to the East and part of the South.

    "The milder air starting next week will allow a break from the wintry precipitation in some areas hit hard, but not everywhere." According to AccuWeather.com long-range expert Jack Boston, "Just enough cold air will linger in the northern tier states to allow more storms with snow and wintry mix as the the month progresses."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Icy Storm Hits US, Affecting Many States

     

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    Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
    A man walks on a snowy road in Towson, Md., Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Residents along the East Coast and in the Appalachians woke up to snow Tuesday and government workers and students in the Washington region were told to stay home as the area saw a round of snow that came just a few days after some parts already got several inches. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
    A man walks on a snowy road in Towson, Md., Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The storm that iced over Dallas, buried Philadelphia in snow and stranded drivers and air travelers everywhere in between at last plodded out of New England, exiting in muted fashion after days of foul weather.

    Snow caused messy travel conditions and widespread school and government closures along the Eastern seaboard Tuesday, but turned out to be more nuisance than menace following heavy snows on the unsuspecting Mid-Atlantic region over the weekend.

    Hundreds of transportation crews treated and cleared highways in New England, where up to 3 inches of snow fell in places. State police in Connecticut reported scores of vehicle crashes and at least eight minor injuries.

    Public schools were closed in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and parts of Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some schools in Connecticut were closed, while a few districts in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts canceled afternoon activities.

    Flights were delayed in Philadelphia and New York City airports.

    In Washington, snow was falling at daybreak, but traffic problems failed to materialize as many workers stayed home. Non-emergency federal employees were granted excused absences, and others were told to telecommute, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said.

    The snow ended before the evening commute in Philadelphia, which was socked by a surprise 8-inch snowfall on Sunday; the new storm brought about 2 inches.

    In Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the snow persisted throughout the day, with some flakes falling during the evening drive, making for slick road conditions.

    In central and southwest Ohio, overnight snowfall made the morning commute slow and messy.

    Outside Washington, traffic was light Tuesday morning. With temperatures hovering around freezing, highways that had been plowed and treated were passable, but conditions began to deteriorate after 8 a.m. as the pace of the snowfall increased.

    "I wish it was like this all the time - minus the snow," said Maelin Traylor, of Springfield. "The traffic was wonderful."

    Rick Hemphill, a retired deputy court clerk, had a busy Tuesday morning ferrying family members to and from their jobs in rural Washington County, Md., through several inches of fresh snow. He said he grew up driving in snow in mountainous western Maryland.

    "Snow is snow," Hemphill said as he refueled his four-wheel-drive vehicle near his Hagerstown-area home. "The closer you get to the city, it gets worse because they get it less often."

    Tuesday's storm offered up a sense of levity and fun for Rachel Ezekiel-Fishbein compared with Sunday's squall, which hampered her travel plans to Baltimore for a wedding. Schools in her hometown of Cheltenham, just north of Philadelphia, were closed.

    "Got the call from school at 5 a.m., rolled over and went back to sleep till 9," she said. "Kids are out sledding, and I'm working and making a pot of soup. Yep, I'm loving this snow day!"

    Forecasters said more wintry weather could be on the way for the region this weekend.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Icy Storm Hits US, Affecting Many States

     

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    Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
    In this photo provided by Joseph Campanelli, the first in a sequence of three images, a skier triggers an avalanche as she turns into a steep ravine in Grizzly Gulch, just outside the Alta ski area east of Salt Lake City, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The woman survived because she deployed a special air bag and other skiers were able to quickly dig her out. It was the first time this season that a person has been caught in an avalanche in the state. Authorities say she could've been trapped longer under much deeper snow without the air bag. (AP Photo/Joseph Campanelli)
    In this photo provided by Joseph Campanelli, the first in a sequence of three images, a skier triggers an avalanche as she turns into a steep ravine in Grizzly Gulch, just outside the Alta ski area east of Salt Lake City, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Joseph Campanelli)

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - An avalanche that was caught on video dragged a backcountry skier into a Utah ravine and buried her in snow, but the woman survived because she deployed a special air bag and other skiers were able to quickly dig her out, witnesses said Tuesday.

    Joe Campanelli was using his iPhone to record the sun-splayed Wasatch mountains Monday when the skier descended into a steep gully filled with loose snow in Grizzly Gulch, a short distance from the Alta ski area east of Salt Lake City.

    "That is not a good slope to ski," Campanelli says while recording. Moments later, the slope breaks, and he says, "You're in a slide, bud!"

    The woman pulled a ripcord on an air bag-equipped backpack - a European-style safety device that is becoming more common in the Rocky Mountain backcountry.

    Campanelli abruptly stopped recording to help rescue the skier. His friend, Aaron Rice, told The Associated Press he used an avalanche beacon and a probe to find her location, then shoveled her out with help from others. She was buried in several feet (meters) of snow.

    "She was breathing, talking," Rice said Tuesday. "She said, 'Thank you. I can't believe you got here so quickly.' She was completely shaken up."

    The woman was swept about 100 feet down the gully at an angle approaching 40 degrees, according to a report on the Utah Avalanche Center's website.

    The woman is lucky to be alive and uninjured, said Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center. He said Utah averages about four avalanche fatalities a year.

    "It's a crapshoot - a game of Russian roulette," Tremper said. "People may perceive a slope to be safe, but there are booby traps all around."

    The skier's descent into the gully was so steep and short that her air bag had little time to work at keeping her above the roiling snow. Still, it might have kept her from getting buried longer, and under much deeper snow, officials said.

    The skier didn't immediately return a message relayed by the AP through officials who declined to provide her name or phone number.

     

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    Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
    This image provided by NASA and taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Nov. 28, 2013, shows the sun, but no sign of comet ISON. During a meeting of the American Geophysical Union meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, scientists said the comet broke apart on Thanksgiving after coming close to the sun. (AP Photo/NASA)
    This image provided by NASA and taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Nov. 28, 2013, shows the sun, but no sign of comet ISON. (AP Photo/NASA)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Comet ISON, once optimistically called the comet of the century, is dead, the victim of a way-too-close brush with the sun. It was barely a year old.

    The comet, which excited astronomers and the media as it zipped within 730,000 miles of the sun on Thanksgiving Day, was pronounced dead at a scientific conference Tuesday. Astronomers who had followed the ice ball mourned the loss of the sky show that once promised to light up during December.

    Naval Research Lab astronomer Karl Battams, who headed the observing campaign for the comet, said ISON (EYE'-sahn) was stretched and pulled by the sun's powerful gravity. It was also hit with solar radiation. And the icy snowball just fell apart.

    "At this point it seems like there is nothing left," Battams said at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. "Sorry, everyone, Comet ISON is dead. But its memory will live on."

    Astronomers had hoped it would survive because some - but not most - comets make it past close approaches with the sun. Last year, Comet Lovejoy did.

    Had ISON survived it would have provided good naked-eye viewing in early December for the Northern Hemisphere, astronomers said. NASA had aimed several telescopes and spacecraft at the comet to watch its close brush with the sun, only to find it missing after the encounter.

    Comets are balls of dust and ice from the formation of the solar system billions of years ago. ISON was on its first trip after leaving the Oort cloud on the distant fringes of the solar system. Unlike comets that are "hardened" by several trips around the sun, ISON just couldn't survive its maiden voyage, Battams said.

    ISON, about half a mile wide, was tiny and probably smaller than originally estimated, Battams said.

    As the comet neared its closest approach to the sun, astronomers had a sense of loss. Battams called watching it in those final hours "a process of heartbreak."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets

     

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    Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013

    NASA's Juno spacecraft captured an amazing "starship-like view" of Earth and the moon as it made a speedy fly-by past our planet on its way to Jupiter in October.

    "If Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise said, 'Take us home, Scotty,' this is what the crew would see," Scott Bolton, the principal investigator for Juno at the Southwest Research Institute, said in a statement from NASA. "In the movie, you ride aboard Juno as it approaches Earth and then soars off into the blackness of space. No previous view of our world has ever captured the heavenly waltz of Earth and moon."

    NASA unveiled the video of Earth and the moon by Juno Tuesday (Dec. 10) during the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The low-resolution video shows the Earth spinning and growing larger in the frame as Jupiter-bound Juno makes its closest approach during the Oct. 9 Earth flyby. The images were captured using four special cameras aboard Juno that are designed to track faint stars. [See more iconic photos of Earth from space]

    Earth and the moon first came into Juno's view when the spacecraft was about 600,000 miles (966,000 kilometers) away, NASA officials said. Since Juno itself was spinning, the images had to be taken from the same Earth-facing angle each time.

    "Everything we humans are and everything we do is represented in that view," John Jørgensen of the Danish Technical University, said in a statement.

    The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011, riding an Atlas 5 rocket into space from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft only had enough power to reach the asteroid belt before the sun's gravity pulled it back toward the inner solar system. As such, mission planners had to chart a circuitous route for Juno to get it to its destination.

    The spacecraft flew past Earth two months ago as a "gravity assist" to increase the spacecraft's velocity relative to the sun. This slingshot around our planet boosted Juno from a speed of 78,000 mph (126,000 km/h) relative to the sun to a speed of 87,000 mph (140,000 km/h).

    As it zipped past the planet, the spacecraft's JunoCam also captured a stunning picture of Earth with a higher resolution than the newly released images.

    Additionally, ham radio operators from around the world had a chance to say "HI" to Juno during the flyby by coordinating radio transmissions with a Morse-coded message. The radio signals were recorded by Juno's Waves instrument, which eventually will measure radio and plasma waves in Jupiter's magnetosphere, according to NASA.

    Mission officials say Juno is now on course to arrive in a polar orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The spacecraft is supposed to circle the planet 33 times, using its instruments to peer beneath the dense cloud cover that hides our solar system's largest planet.

    Scientists hope the $1.1 million mission will help answer longstanding questions about Jupiter - such as whether or not it has a core - and that it will shed light on the planet's origins, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

    Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @SPACEdotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Stunning Photos of the Moon

     

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    Wednesday Dec. 11, 2013
    Californian Captures Rare Epic Meteor
    A huge meteor hurtles to earth during the annual Geminid meteor shower on Dec. 14, 2009, in this photo taken from the Mojave Desert area near Victorville, Calif. (Wally Pacholka/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

    The Geminid meteor shower -- one of the most spectacular meteor displays of the year -- may hit its peak this weekend, but some stargazers in Arizona got a sneak preview of the celestial light show Tuesday night (Dec. 10).

    A meteor exploded over Arizona, rattling windows and producing at least one loud boom, according to press reports, but the meteor explosion itself was not part of the Geminid meteor shower, a meteor expert says.

    "It [the meteor explosion] was picked up by two of our meteor cameras in New Mexico as well as cameras in Arizona and the preliminary trajectory shows that it was definitely not a Geminid," NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told reporters today. "It was moving way too slow and coming from the wrong direction." [See photos of the 2012 Geminid meteor shower]

    The Geminid meteor shower -- so named for it radiant point in the constellation Gemini -- is set to peak in the overnight hours from Dec. 13 to 14. At its height, skywatchers in dark areas should be able to see anywhere from 90 to 120 meteors per hour, weather permitting, according to some forecasts.

    Observers will have the best chance to see the so-called "shooting stars" after 4 a.m. local time when the waxing moon sets. Under usual circumstances, it's better to catch the Geminids a little after midnight local time, however, this year, the moon could get in the way, making the 4 a.m. hour a better bet.

    Geminid meteors can be slow and bright with a yellowish hue, but sometimes the shower produces bright fireballs.

    "The best thing to do to observe meteors is to lie flat on your back and look straight up," Cooke said. "You don't want to look at Gemini, you just want to look straight up and take in as much of the sky as possible because meteors can appear anywhere in the sky and the more sky you see, the better you chance of seeing a meteor."

    The Geminids are created each year when Earth passes through dust left behind by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The shower was first documented in the 1800s when there were only 10 to 20 meteors per hour at peak, however, the intensity of the shower has increased over the years.

    Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.
    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

     

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    Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013
    Wintry Weather
    A worker clears snow from a sidewalk in view of Independence Hall during a winter snowstorm Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Those hoping for a white Christmas this year could be in luck, even in a few areas where Dec. 25 snowfall would normally be nothing more than wishful thinking.

    As of Dec. 11, measurable snow covered 62.1 percent of the United States, compared to 31.4 percent on the date last year.

    "Last year was a little bit below normal and this year is a little bit above normal, so it looks pretty dramatic in comparison to each other," AccuWeather.com expert senior meteorologist Mark Paquette said.

    Overall, the current snowpack marks the most extensive coverage for the date in the past five years.

    The extensive snow coverage is due largely in part to surges of Arctic air that have settled over the United States.

    "Basically the flow of air has been due north with very little westerly component," Paquette said. "The Arctic air just keeps getting replenished. As long as it stays north and not west, it will keep coming down in waves."

    The cold air allowed early wintry precipitation to occur last week in some unusual areas, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The swath eventually stretched farther east into the mid-Atlantic.

    RELATED:
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    The storm, which began early on Dec. 5, is responsible for a significant percentage of the nation's coverage.

    Over the course of five days, from Dec. 5-9, the snow cover increased by 29 percent, from 37.9 percent to 66.9 percent.

    The percentage of U.S. snow cover for Dec. 11, 2013, trumps even last year's coverage of 51.1 percent for Christmas Day, two weeks farther into the season than the current date.

    Snow Coverage Percentages on Dec. 11

    Year
    Percentage Covered
    2013
    62.1%
    2012
    31.4%
    2011
    27.7%
    2010
    33.1%
    2009
    50.8%
    2008
    29.5%

    Another storm arriving this weekend will bring snow to the Ohio Valley and Northeast, bolstering the region's snowpack. Meanwhile, snow, rain or a wintry mix is forecast along the I-95 corridor of the mid-Atlantic.

    Despite this, a sudden warmup at the start of the Christmas week could threaten the odds of a white Christmas for portions of the South and East.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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