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    Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013
    This Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 photo provided by searcher Lucia Gonzalez shows the vehicle belonging to a family who went missing after a trip to play in the snow near Lovelock, Nev. James Glanton, his girlfriend Christina McIntee, their two children and a niece and nephew of Christina McIntee, were missing since Sunday and were found by searchers on Tuesday. Their vehicle had overturned and they were stranded in weather that saw temperatures dip to 16 below zero. (AP Photo/Lucia Gonzalez)
    This Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, photo provided by searcher Lucia Gonzalez shows the vehicle belonging to a family who went missing after a trip to play in the snow near Lovelock, Nev. (AP Photo/Lucia Gonzalez)

    LAS VEGAS (AP) - More than 200 rescuers feared for the worst when a couple and four children vanished this week in the bitterly cold Nevada wilderness. But two days after their ill-fated trip to play in the snow Sunday, the family was found in good condition. By Wednesday, the mother and a child were released from the hospital.

    Authorities said the family survived temperatures of 16 degrees below zero with warm clothes and ingenuity - they started a campfire and warmed rocks to capture heat.

    Experts offer advice on avoiding similar situations, and how to respond when the unexpected happens.

    What should I do first if I get stranded?

    "Food helps, but it's not the top priority," said Steve Howe, a wilderness guide based in southern Utah. "In most winter survival situations, clothing and shelter are the most important things."

    The lost family hunkered inside their overturned Jeep, even though the heater wasn't working. If you don't have a car, huddling near a tree or digging a snow cave can provide a shield from the elements.

    AAA suggests tying a brightly colored cloth to an antenna to make the vehicle easier to spot.

    Should I go for help?

    The group in Nevada stayed in place, knowing crews would be looking. Rescuers said that was key to their safety and is recommended in almost all cases.

    "Continuing to move makes it very difficult for people to find you," said Bill Romberg of Alaska Mountain Rescue.

    If you feel you must venture out, consider whether you're prepared. Walking even a short distance in temperatures of 15 to 20 degrees below zero can lead to frostbite and amputations.

    What should I do with my cellphone?

    If you have service, send text messages to reliable friends to share your plight.

    Rescuers in Nevada were able to use cell tower data from the lost woman's phone to narrow the search area.

    But Howe cautions against relying on cellphones in the wilderness. While triangulation can help guide a search, the data probably won't provide the lost person's precise location because rural cell towers are so few and far between.

    "It's not a five-ounce rescue package at all, period," Howe said. "You're better off with a BIC lighter."

    What can I do today to avoid the situation?

    The Nevada family was wearing snow clothes - something that travelers should keep on hand.

    "It's a really good idea to keep extra clothing and insulation in your trunk. Even on an interstate drive through the northern Midwest, it's entirely possible you could be stranded overnight," Howe said.

    He recommends bringing a shovel that's rugged enough to dig out a vehicle, a cigarette lighter and blankets. Pack water, granola bars or other high-protein snacks in the car. A small bottle of lantern fuel also could help start a campfire.

    Should I even take the trip?

    AAA recommends delaying trips if bad weather is in the forecast. If that's not possible, let others know your route, and be cautious about the road less traveled. Even though the family drove a Jeep, it flipped in soft snow and stopped running.

    "Consider how remote some of these places are - consider the vehicle you're in and what can happen," said Howe.

    If a road looks sketchy, retrace your steps instead of forging onward.

    "When things start going sideways, retreat to a position of safety," Howe said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: How to Drive in Any Weather Condition

     

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    Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013

    The International Space Station (NASA)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - NASA said Wednesday it was looking into a problem with a malfunctioning cooling pump on the International Space Station, but there was no immediate danger to the six crewmen on board.

    A valve on a pump on one of the station's two external cooling loops shut down because it was too cool Wednesday afternoon, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said. He said that at no time was the crew at risk. But some non-critical equipment of the massive orbital outpost were powered down.

    "It could be a serious problem, but it's not an emergency," Johnson Space Center spokesman Kelly Humphries said.

    Engineers suspect a valve inside the pump was faulty and ground controllers moved electrical power supplies to the other cooling loop, Jacobs said. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep equipment inside and outside cool.

    "The station wasn't ever in any danger," Jacobs said.

    Jacobs said the crew of two American astronauts, three Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut were preparing to go to bed as normal, while engineers on the ground tried to troubleshoot the problem. The faulty pump and cooling loop did start up again, he said.

    Humphries said it was too early to speculate whether a spacewalk would be needed to fix the problem.

    The station commander is cosmonaut Oleg Kotov. Americans Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins, Russians Mikhail Tyurin and Sergey Ryazanaskiy, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata are aboard. The orbital outpost, the size of a football field and weighing nearly 1 million pounds, has been in orbit more than 220 miles above Earth since 1998.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Amazing Photos of the International Space Station
    International Space Station, Shuttle

     

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    Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013

    Pedestrians brave the cold weather as they make their way down the street during the start of the evening rush hour on December 11, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Another blast of arctic air continues to roll over the Midwest and the Northeast Thursday. The frigid air will continue to trigger heavy lake-effect snow.

    Arctic Blast

    The air will be the coldest of the season so far from 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 produced RealFeel(R) temperatures well below zero over the northern Plains and much of the Midwest, brings near zero wind chills in parts of the I-95 region.



    According to the National Weather Service, the air has already delivered the lowest temperatures for so early in the season since 1978 in Chicago and Rockford, Ill. The temperature Tuesday morning plunged to minus 6 F and minus 9 F respectively.

    The worst of the cold was reaching across the Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes through Wednesday night. It will reach the Atlantic Seaboard through Thursday night.

    Lake-Effect Snow

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

    Areas likely to be hardest hit by lake-effect snow include New York state's Tug Hill region and areas south of Buffalo and the eastern shores of Lake Michigan and part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, south of Lake Superior. The snowiest spots within these areas are likely to receive between 3 and 4 feet of snow through Friday.

    As of Wednesday morning, parts of upstate New York have received a couple of feet of snow. Redfield, N.Y., received 44 inches of snow as of Wednesday evening, while Glenwood, N.Y., received 24.0 inches.

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    A bit of snow was occurring over the Midwest away from lake-effect areas due to a weak Alberta Clipper storm riding along the leading edge of the arctic air. Along the East Coast, the air will follow a couple of days behind a storm that brought accumulating snow Tuesday.

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

     

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    Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013


    A storm will drop heavy snow and disrupt travel from parts of the Midwest to a large part of the Northeast by Sunday.

    The snowstorm will reach span more than 1,000 miles and affect tens of millions of people.

    Thanks to recent Arctic air making roads and sidewalks much colder compared to previous storms, enough snow to shovel and plow is in store from parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey to much of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

    Not only will the storm make roads and sidewalks slippery, raising the risk for slip-and-fall incidents and auto accidents, but it is likely to cause many flight delays and cancellations. The visibility will be poor, runways will become snow covered and aircraft will need to be de-iced.

    The storm will spread across the Midwest late Friday into Friday night and over the Northeast Saturday and Saturday night.

    A mixture of snow, sleet and rain will mitigate accumulations across central Missouri and eastward along the Ohio River. However, enough wintry mix will fall to make roads slippery.

    Long stretches of along the I-70, I-75, I-80 and I-90 corridors may be snow covered in the Midwest.

    RELATED:
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    You've Never Seen a Snowflake in This Much Detail
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    A quick change to plain rain is likely from Roanoke, Va., to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with little or no accumulation to up to an inch or so. Some roads may be slippery.

    However, farther to the northeast along the I-95 corridor, the change to rain following snow and/or a wintry mix will take longer, leading to 1 to 3 inches accumulation and more widespread slippery travel.

    Snow and a wintry mix are likely to impact play during the Army-Navy Classic Saturday afternoon and evening at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. This wintry game will occur just less than a week after heavy snow fell during the Eagles-Lions game. Snow buried the field and had players sliding and shoveling snow with their feet during last Sunday's game.

    Farther to the north over the Midwest and from western and northern Pennsylvania to northern New England, where the cold air hangs on longer or lingers through the duration of the storm, heavy snow will fall with some communities receiving 6 inches of snow. Roads will be slushy to snow covered over much of the I-80, I-81, I-87, I-88, I-90 and I-95 corridors.

    A general swath of 6- to 10-inch snowfall with local amounts near 1 foot is likely to reach from part of northeastern Pennsylvania through the Catskills and Berkshires into southern Vermont, southeastern New Hampshire and southern Maine.

    In much of New England, the storm will linger into Sunday with ongoing travel disruptions. While flurries will occur over the central and southern Appalachians and downwind of the Great Lakes over the Midwest, the storm will be over across the Ohio Valley and coastal mid-Atlantic, and travel conditions will improve.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
    Meteor Shower
    (AP Photo/Kevin Clifford)​

    One of the most active celestial events of the year, the Geminid meteor shower, will peak Friday, Dec. 13, until dawn on Saturday.

    During the peak, this dense and bright meteor shower is known to produce up to 80-120 meteors per hour. The shower can even produce fireballs, or brighter-than-average and longer-lasting shooting stars.

    Unfortunately, cloudy skies over much of the country will inhibit viewing conditions for many.

    The best places to view the Geminids will be across the Southwest in California, Arizona and New Mexico into parts of Nevada and northwestern Texas.

    Due to a disturbance moving through the northern and central Rockies that will create some clouds over the area, those in Salt Lake City, Utah, Yellowstone National Park and areas of Montana will be unable to see the show.

    For most of the region east of the Mississippi River, cloudy skies will inhibit the display for stargazers from Pennsylvania westward through Chicago and southwestward to the Gulf.

    In addition, the Northwest corner of the nation, including Seattle towards Spokane, Wash., and parts of Oregon, will not catch the performance either due to cloud coverage.

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    However, northern New England will catch a break from the rest of the Northeast's cloudy conditions. Much of Maine, northern Vermont and northern New Hampshire will be able to catch a glimpse of the action.

    Due to the brightness of the moon on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, the best time to view the shower may be before sunrise on Saturday, after the moon has set until the light of dawn, according to AccuWeather astronomy expert Gregg McCambley.

    However, Gemini will rise above the eastern horizon around 8 p.m. EST Friday, so stargazers should be able to see meteors easily by 9 p.m. EST.

    If you're attempting to see the Geminid meteor shower, look toward the northeast in the sky.

    While viewing conditions for the peak of the Geminids will not be prime for much of the country, the meteor shower is already underway and will continue past Dec. 13 and 14. As a result, the meteor shower can be viewed as long as skies are clear.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets

     

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    Updated Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, 6:12 p.m. ET
    Storm

    Heavy snow and travel disruptions will spread from St. Louis to Pittsburgh Friday night, then to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston Saturday.

    The snowstorm will span more than 1,000 miles.

    Thanks to recent Arctic air making roads and sidewalks much colder compared to previous storms, enough snow to shovel and plow is in store from parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey to much of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

    Not only will the storm make roads and sidewalks slippery, raising the risk for slip-and-fall incidents and auto accidents, but it is likely to cause many flight delays and cancellations. The visibility will be poor, runways will become snow covered and aircraft will need to be de-iced.

    Snow will fall on and impact every major city and rural area from St. Louis to Boston, including Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City. The area encompasses about 110 million people.

    The storm will spread across the Midwest late Friday into Friday night and over the Northeast Saturday and Saturday night.

    A mixture of snow, sleet and rain will mitigate accumulations across central Missouri and eastward along the Ohio River. However, enough wintry mix will fall to make roads slippery.

    Long stretches of along the I-70, I-75, I-80 and I-90 corridors may be snow covered in the Midwest.

    A quick change to plain rain is likely from Roanoke, Va., to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with little or no accumulation to up to an inch or so. Some roads may be slippery.



    However, farther northeast along the I-95 corridor, the change to rain following snow and/or a wintry mix will take longer, leading to several inches accumulation and more widespread slippery travel.

    Snow and a wintry mix are likely to impact play during the Army-Navy Classic Saturday afternoon and evening at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. This wintry game will occur just less than a week after heavy snow fell during the Eagles-Lions game. Snow buried the field and had players sliding and shoveling snow with their feet during last Sunday's game.

    RELATED:
    Who Has the Best Chance for a White Christmas?
    You've Never Seen a Snowflake in This Much Detail
    Winter Weather Center


    Farther north over the Midwest and into western and northern Pennsylvania to western New York, where the cold air hangs on longer or lingers through the duration of the storm, heavy snow will fall with some communities receiving 6 inches of snow. Roads will be slushy to snow covered over much of the I-80, I-81, I-87, I-88, I-90 and I-95 corridors.

    A general swath of 6- to 12-inch snowfall is likely to reach from part of central Pennsylvania through the Pocono and Catskill mountains and into much of the Hudson Valley of New York, northern Connecticut, central and western Massachusetts,Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Locally higher amounts to 18 inches are possible in central New England.

    In much of New England, the storm will linger into Sunday with ongoing travel disruptions. While flurries will occur over the central and southern Appalachians and downwind of the Great Lakes over the Midwest, the storm will be over across the Ohio Valley and coastal mid-Atlantic, and travel conditions will improve.

    Areas made wet and slushy from melting during the day Sunday will freeze Sunday night, producing patches of black ice.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
    Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, some of the holiest sites for for Jews and Muslims, are covered in snow in Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Early snow has surprised many Israelis and Palestinians as a blustery storm, dubbed Alexa, brought gusty winds, torrential rains and heavy snowfall to parts of the Middle East. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
    Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, some of the holiest sites for for Jews and Muslims, are covered in snow in Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

    JERUSALEM (AP) - A powerful winter storm left Jerusalem covered in snow on Friday, forcing police to block access to and from the city as a cold snap drove some Israelis to seek treatment from emergency medics.

    Rare snow also fell in Cairo's suburbs and the port city of Alexandria while a blanket of white covered St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai.


    In Syria's contested northern city of Aleppo, soldiers and rebels took a break from fighting as a thick layer of snow blanketed deserted streets, cars and buildings and temperatures hovered around zero.

    An anti-government activist said it has been quieter than it has been in more than a year, since the storm began late Tuesday.

    "All the fighters are cold and hiding," the activist who uses the pseudonym Abu Raed said.

    He said residents in the city were relying on diesel or wood heaters although some had only blankets. Snow also fell in Damascus, but was quickly washed away by the rain.

    The weather also delayed for the second day an airlift of urgently needed food aid from Erbil, Iraq, to Qamishli in northeast Syria for displaced families, according to United Nations food agency. As soon as the Qamishli airport opens, WFP will start airlifting over 400 tons of food on two aircraft with 12 return flights between Iraq and Syria, it said.

    Humanitarian agencies opted for air route because roads leading to Syria's northern Hassakeh province have not been safe for convoy due to fighting in the area, the agency added.

    The cold weather was part of a storm, dubbed Alexa, which has been pounding much of Lebanon and parts of northern Syria since Wednesday, pushing temperatures below zero in mountainous areas and dumping snow and heavy rains. The snow has heaped another layer of misery on the already grim existence of many of the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled the civil war raging in their homeland.

    In Lebanon, snow fell on northern and eastern regions where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are staying, many of them in flimsy plastic tents.

    A Lebanese security official said a three-month-old Syrian baby died Friday in the northern town of Akroum. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the newborn had respiratory problems and the cold spell may have aggravated his condition.

    Syrian refugees struggled to keep tents in place and were seen gathering sticks of wood from nearby fields to use them for heating. Families crammed into damp, muddy tents struggled to keep warm. In some cases, Syrian children came out of their tents to play with the snow.

    Israelis were told over media and public broadcasts on Friday not to enter or leave Jerusalem and some 1,500 people were evacuated from stranded vehicles overnight, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

    Three emergency centers were set up and medics treated 350 people for cold-related symptoms, Rosenfeld said. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he asked the military for assistance. The airport also stopped flights briefly and several highways and main roads around Jerusalem were closed.

    The weather even featured in talks between visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he was briefed on the emergency measures.

    Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator, said the snow made him feel "at home."

    "I have heard of making guests welcome and feeling at home. This is about as far as I've ever seen anything go ... giving me a New England snowstorm," Kerry said as he viewed a snow-covered Old City of Jerusalem with Netanyahu.

    In the West Bank and Gaza, U.N. relief teams offered emergency services to the worst-hit communities.

    In Gaza, which was experiencing its first snow in a decade, more than 500 people were evacuated from their homes, according to Hamas spokesman Ihab Ghussein.

    Egypt's state MENA news agency said the country's two Mediterranean ports near the city of Alexandria and two ports on the Red Sea remained closed for the third consecutive day Friday.



    The report quoted the head of the Alexandria port authority, Adel Yassin Hammad, as saying the decision was taken to avoid possible accidents.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
    In this photo provided by Olympictorch2014.com torch bearer Luisa Noskova skis with an Olympic torch on the embankment of the Tura River during the Olympic torch relay in Tyumen, western Siberia, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. The 65,000-kilometer (40,389 mile) Sochi torch relay, which started on Oct. 7, is the longest in Olympic history. The torch has traveled to the North Pole on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker and has even been flown into space. (AP Photo/Olympictorch2014.com)
    Torch bearer Luisa Noskova skis with an Olympic torch on the embankment of the Tura River during the Olympic torch relay in Tyumen, western Siberia, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Olympictorch2014.com)

    MOSCOW (AP) - Sochi will have enough snow for the Winter Olympics in February, Russia's chief weather forecaster vowed Friday.

    Concerns about a snowless Olympics were raised after two test events in Sochi had to be cancelled last February because of a lack of snow or rainy weather. The resort city on the Black Sea is the only sub-tropical region of Russia.

    Organizers, however, worked out a Plan B, which included storing 450,000 cubic meters of last year's snow on the slopes through summer and installing what they described as Europe's biggest snow-making system.

    But Roman Vilfand, director of the Russian Meteorological Office, said Friday the organizers will probably not need the extra snow because data shows that Sochi will have enough natural snow.

    The snow cover now in the mountains above Sochi is already 20 inches, unusually high for this time of year, Vilfand told the Itar-TASS news agency.

    He insisted the snow base will stay even if January is warm and rainy.

    "For the snow cover this deep, this isn't a problem," he said.

    The 2014 Winter Olympics, which runs Feb. 7-23, will hold indoor events like skating and ice hockey in the coastal city of Sochi while outdoor sports such as skiing will be held in the mountains dozens of kilometers (miles) away from the coast.

     

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    Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
    This handout photo provided by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Arctic sea ice earlier this year. Scientists spent three weeks in the region analyzing conditions, as recent reductions in sea ice extent in the autumn months impacts weather patterns regionally and perhaps farther afield. The Arctic took a bit of a break from its rapid melting this year. But a federal Arctic report card says global warming is still massively altering the top of the world, reducing the number of reindeer, shrinking snow and ice and yet increasing certain fish and the growing season. (AP Photo/NOAA)
    This handout photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Arctic sea ice earlier this year. (AP Photo/NOAA)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - The rapid melting in the Arctic eased up this year. But the government says global warming is still dramatically altering the top of the world, reducing the number of reindeer and shrinking snow and ice, while increasing certain fish and extending the growing season.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its report card for the Arctic on Thursday, portraying 2013 as moderate compared with the roasting 2012.

    Overall Arctic temperatures didn't soar quite as high, and Greenland ice sheets and summer sea ice didn't melt as much.

    "The Arctic caught a break, if you will, in 2013, but one year doesn't change the long-term trend toward a warmer Arctic," said report card editor Martin Jeffries, a University of Alaska geophysicist who is the science adviser to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

    "The Arctic has shifted to a new normal," Jeffries said at the American Geophysical Union scientific conference in San Francisco, where the 136-page report card was released.

    While 2013 looks a tad cool compared with the last six years, it is unusually warm compared with the 20th century, he said.

    Central Alaska's summer was one of the warmest on record, coming months after its coldest April since 1924, NOAA said. Fairbanks experienced a record 36 days of more than 80 degrees. And snow cover in May and June was near record low levels in North America and broke a record for the least snow in Eurasia.

    But one of the biggest climate change indicators, summer sea ice, wasn't as bad as expected. Sea ice in 2013 reached its sixth-lowest level in the three decades that NOAA has been keeping track. That's up from the lowest ever in 2012.

    But the seven lowest levels have all occurred in the last seven years.

    The 2013 figure "is simply natural variability," said National Snow and Ice Data Center director Mark Serreze, who wasn't part of the NOAA report but praised it. "There is nothing about the year 2013 that provides any evidence that the Arctic is starting a path toward recovery."

    He added: "Looking back 20 years from now, the world will be warmer and we'll have much less sea ice than today. We'll see that 2013 was just a temporary respite."

    More ominous are long-term trends, NOAA's report card said.

    Average Arctic temperatures have increased 3.6 degrees since the 1960s, rising twice as fast as the rest of the world. The growing season has lengthened by nearly a month since 1982.

    Fish species are moving north, permafrost is melting, and shrubs are greening in ways that weren't seen before.

    While some fish and muskox are doing better, other animals associated with Arctic, like polar bears and walruses, are not. The report cited severe declines in the size of reindeer herds.

    "Many of the herds at the overall level are at all-time lows," said study co-author Michael Svoboda of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

    Jeffries and University of Virginia environmental scientist Howard Epstein, another study co-author, warned that changes in the Arctic reverberate around the globe.

    White ice reflects solar energy, but because it is melting away, the oceans and the land are warming up more, Jeffries said.

    He also cited a relatively new and evolving theory that is still dividing meteorologists. It says the loss of sea ice makes the jet stream meander and kink more, triggering more extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

    "The Arctic is not like Vegas," Epstein said. "What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 U.S. Cities Most at Risk from Rising Sea Levels

     

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    Aurora Borealis Captured on Transatlantic Flight


    It could arguably be the best example of in-flight entertainment, ever: London-based programmer Paul Williams was traveling on a transatlantic flight from New York to London when he captured this stunning timelapse video of the Aurora Borealis shimmering in the sky.

    Aurorae borealis occur when solar storms eject charged, colliding particles into the Earth's atmosphere, a phenomenon that peaks roughly every 11 years during what's called solar maximum.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Dazzling Photos of the Northern Lights

     

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    Updated Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 9:57 p.m. ET

    A man runs across the Brooklyn Bridge during the season's first snow storm on December 10, 2013 in New York City; this weekend's new storm will add to the snow levels in the northeast. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    A fast-moving storm expected to drop a foot of snow or more in the Northeast over the weekend moved into the region Saturday as road crews went on high alert and airlines began canceling flights.

    Utilities braced for power outages, airports prepared for delays and local officials readied for slick roads while shoppers headed out to stores to tackle gift lists during a shorter-than-normal holiday shopping season.

    The National Weather Service has said 6 to 12 inches of snow was expected in New England, with as much as 14 inches possible along the Maine coast. Areas north and west of New York City and central Pennsylvania could get 8 inches or more. About half a foot was forecast in parts of Ohio, where snow began falling overnight.

    Hours before kickoff Saturday at the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, accountant Kathy Porter hovered under layers of clothing in the stands, trying to keep warm amid low temperatures she doesn't get much of back home in Charlotte, N.C.

    "We're just hoping for snow and not rain - I think we can handle the snow," Porter said. "I think we'll be OK. A little frozen but OK."

    Airlines have canceled about 940 flights because of the storm, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Almost 350 flights into and out of Newark, N.J., have been canceled, and 172 at Chicago's O'Hare airport have been called off. ExpressJet and United have canceled the most flights so far.

    "It's a pretty bad day for Newark," said Mark Duell, a spokesman for FlightAware, a website that tracks commercial airlines. About 40 percent of Newark's 900 flights have been cut, he said.

    If the weather gets much worse, American Airlines and Delta may be forced to cancel more flights in New York and Chicago, Duell said. Chicago was forecast to get 3 to 6 inches of snow by late Saturday afternoon, while several towns in central Illinois had already received 8 inches.

    But some areas, including resorts and ski towns in Northern New England, welcomed the snow and were eager to see the winter season get started.

    "We have been watching (the forecast) since people first started talking about it on Monday or Tuesday," said Ethan Austin, spokesman for the Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. "Right now it's setting up pretty well for us, so we're pretty psyched."

    Meteorologist Paul Head with the National Weather Service in State College, Pa., said winds will pick up into Sunday, presenting hazardous blowing snow for motorists.

    Temperatures in Connecticut dropped into the teens as snow began to fall there Saturday, and officials worried about road conditions since a saltwater solution normally applied before storms would freeze. But they were grateful the bad weather wouldn't affect workday commutes.

    "The timing is pretty good coming on a weekend," said Kevin Nursick, spokesman at the state Department of Transportation.

    Not so for retailers, facing the prospect of a snow-dampened shopping weekend less than two weeks before Christmas.

    Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said consumers likely will shop online. And the weekend before Christmas gives retailers and shoppers another opportunity after this weekend.

    "If a big storm hits around the 21st, 22nd, it will be a completely different story," Grannis said.

    Caroline Pretyman, a spokeswoman for Northeast Utilities, which serves electric and gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, said extra crews would be available beginning overnight Saturday to respond to outages.

    In southern New England, light snow began falling by midday Saturday. It was expected to become heavy overnight and continue into early Sunday. Forecasters predicted that that the precipitation would then change into sleet and rain across most of the interior, with rainfall on the coast.

    New York City's Office of Emergency Management asked drivers to stay off the roads and, if they do drive, they should go slowly and stick to major streets or highways.

    In Pennsylvania, two state high school football championship games were moved from Saturday to Sunday because of a predicted 5 to 8 inches of snow.

    John Wallace, a spokesman at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., said airport officials were meeting with vendors and airlines to assess the impact of the storm. But he said he wasn't worried.

    "It's New England. It's the wintertime," he said. "I think we're pretty well ready for whatever is headed our way."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: December 2013 Snowstorm

     

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    Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013

    Shown above is an artist's rendering of the Chang'e 3 lunar lander and moon rover. (Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering)

    China's Chang'e 3 moon lander and its Yutu rover touched down on the moon Saturday (Dec. 14) at about 8:11 a.m. EST (1311 GMT), though it was late Saturday night local time at the mission's control center in Beijing during the landing. It is the first soft-landing on the moon by any spacecraft in 37 years.

    Chang'e 3 launched toward the moon on Dec. 2 Beijing time to begin its two-week trek to the lunar surface. The spacecraft arrived in lunar orbit about five days after launch, and then began preparing for landing. A camera on the spacecraft snapped 59 photos of the moon during the descent, including a view straight from the lunar surface just after touchdown. [See photos from China's Chang'e 3 moon rover mission]

    Following a lengthy engine burn Saturday, the mooncraft lowered itself to the lunar surface on autopilot, making what appeared to be a smooth touchdown on the Bay of Rainbows in the moon's northern hemisphere. The descent from lunar orbit to the moon's surface took about 12 minutes.

    Shortly after landing, Chang'e 3 deployed its vital solar arrays, which were folded for the landing, to begin generating power for its lunar surface mission. The lander is now expected to unleash the instrument-laden Yutu rover, built to trundle across the dusty, time-weathered terrain for months.


    The first photo of the moon by China's Chang'e 3 lunar lander is shown here in this still from a broadcast by the country's state-run CNTV news channel on Dec. 14, 2013. Chang'e 3 delivered the Yutu rover to the moon with its successful landing. (CNTV)

    China's Chang'e 3 lunar arrival is the first soft-landing on the moon since 1976. Not since the former Soviet Union's Luna 24 sample-return mission has a spacecraft made a controlled, soft touchdown on the lunar surface. The last soft-landing on the moon by NASA was in 1972 during the Apollo 17 manned lunar landing mission.

    The Yutu rover (its name means "Jade Rabbit") is named after the pet rabbit that travels with the goddess Chang'e to the moon in Chinese legends. Chang'e 3 is China's third lunar mission to carry the name, but the first to soft-land on the moon. The first two Chinese lunar missions were built to orbit the moon.

    The six-wheeled Yutu rover is a solar-powered vehicle equipped with cameras, a robotic arm tipped with science gear and a radar system attached to its underbelly.

    The stationary lander itself also is geared to observe Earth, astronomically eye other celestial objects from the moon, as well as watch the Yutu rover wheel across the lunar terrain.

    Visit SPACE.com for the latest news on China's space missions and the Chang'e 3 moon landing.

    Editor's Note:This story will be updated today to include news on the rover deployment and comments from Chinese space agency officials.

    Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and is co-author of Buzz Aldrin's new book "Mission to Mars -- My Vision for Space Exploration" published by National Geographic. 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.

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    Saturday, Dec. 14, 2014

    A Palestinian boy stands in a flooded area following heavy rains in Gaza City, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Hundreds of houses were flooded following a rain storm in Gaza. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Rescue workers evacuated more than 5,000 Gaza Strip residents from homes flooded by four days of heavy rain, using fishing boats and heavy construction equipment to pluck some of those trapped from upper floors, an official said Saturday.

    The ongoing downpour is part of a storm that has covered Jerusalem and some of the West Bank with a thick blanket of snow. Even parts of Gaza, a coastal territory with a milder climate, saw some snow, the first in years.

    In Israel, 35,000 homes remained without power Saturday, one-third of them in Jerusalem, police said.

    In the low-lying areas of Gaza, water has been rising since heavy rains began late Wednesday, flooding streets and homes.

    One of the hardest hit areas was Nafak Street in Gaza City's Sheik Radwan neighborhood, close to a rainwater reservoir.

    Said Halawa, an area resident, said the reservoir overflowed Wednesday evening. By Thursday, water had poured into the ground floor of his two-story home where he and he and 41 other members of his extended family live, Halawa said.

    The family called for help and was evacuated by boat from the upper floor. Halawa said he and his family were taken to a makeshift shelter in a neighborhood school. "We got some assistance, some blankets and some food, but I didn't save any of my belongings," said the 52-year-old taxi driver.

    Elsewhere on Nafak Street, local TV showed a rescuer standing on the shoulders of another man in a boat as they tried to reach people in a third-floor apartment.

    In all, about 5,250 people were evacuated from flooded homes, said Mohammed al-Madaina of Gaza's Civil Defense Department.

    Another hard-hit area was the refugee camp of Jebaliya in northern Gaza.

    "Large swathes of northern Gaza are a disaster area with water as far as the eye can see," Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the main U.N. aid agency for Gaza refugees, wrote in an email to reporters.

    The U.N. agency evacuated hundreds of families to U.N. facilities and distributed 5,000 liters of fuel to local pumping stations, he said.

    The storm hit Gaza at a time when it is buckling under widespread fuel shortages and rolling power cuts as a result of a tightened border closure by neighboring Egypt.

    Both Israel and Egypt have restricted access to Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized the territory in 2007. Over the summer, Egypt's military intensified the blockade after ousting Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, a Hamas ally.

    Gunness wrote that once the storm is over, "the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza."

    Gaza residents "must be freed from these man-made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this," he added.

    Israel sent emergency aid to Gaza at the request of the United Nations, said Maj. Guy Inbar, a military official. This included four water pumps and diesel fuel for heating, he said, adding that Israel was ready to meet additional requests if made.

    Jerusalem, meanwhile, was crippled by snow for a third day Saturday.

    Highways leading in and out of the city were shut, and residents were advised to stay off the roads. "We are in an exceptional event that Jerusalem has never seen," said Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

    Sietvanit Tzirnishki was in a crowded train headed from Jerusalem to snow-free Tel Aviv, Israel's coastal metropolis.

    "I've been stuck here in Jerusalem for two days at my sister's apartment that did not have electricity," she said. "We have been going from one apartment to the other to get some heat and some food and I'm glad to get back to Tel Aviv now."

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    Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013

    Snow falls upon revelers dressed as elves on December 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

    Heavy snow and travel disruptions will spread from the Midwest and into the Northeast as the day progresses on Saturday.

    The snowstorm will span more than 1,000 miles. Snow will fall on and impact every major city and rural area from St. Louis to Boston, including Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City. The area encompasses about 110 million people.

    Track the storm Live on AccuWeather.com.

    Thanks to recent Arctic air making roads and sidewalks much colder compared to previous storms, enough snow to shovel and plow is in store from parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey to much of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

    Not only will the storm make roads and sidewalks slippery, raising the risk for slip-and-fall incidents and auto accidents, but it is likely to cause many flight delays and cancellations. The visibility will be poor, runways will become snow covered and aircraft will need to be de-iced.

    The storm could cause shipping delays and force Christmas shoppers to change their plans for the weekend.

    The recent cold weather, this storm, and others will translate to plenty of snow on the ski slopes.

    Areas made wet and slushy from melting during the day on Sunday will freeze on Sunday night, producing patches of black ice.

    Midwest

    Long stretches of the I-70, I-75, I-80 and I-90 corridors may be snow covered in the Midwest, especially since the snow may come down at the rate of an inch per hour in some areas.

    Many areas between I-70 and I-80 in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio will receive 3 to 6 inches from the storm with local amounts to 10 inches. This includes St. Louis, Champaign, Ill., Lafayette, Ind., and Findlay, Ohio.

    A mixture of snow, sleet and rain will mitigate accumulations along the Ohio River. However, enough wintry mix will fall to make roads slippery for a time.

    Rain will mix in at Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, during the height of the storm putting a halt to accumulating snow. The wintry mix or rain will turn back to snow in these areas.

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    Mid-Atlantic, Central Appalachians

    A quick change to plain rain is likely from Roanoke, Va., to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with little or no accumulation to up to an inch or so. Some roads may be slippery from northern Virginia to northern Maryland.

    However, farther northeast along the I-95 corridor, from northern Delaware to around New York City, the change to rain following snow and/or a wintry mix will take longer, leading to several inches accumulation and more widespread slippery travel.

    Snow and a wintry mix are likely to impact play during the Army-Navy Classic on Saturday afternoon and evening at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. This wintry game will occur just less than a week after heavy snow fell during the Eagles-Lions game. Snow buried the field and had players sliding and shoveling snow with their feet during last Sunday's game.

    Farther north over the Midwest and into western and northern Pennsylvania to western New York, where the cold air hangs on longer or lingers through the duration of the storm, heavy snow will fall with some communities receiving 6 inches of snow. Roads will be slushy to snow covered over much of the I-80, I-81, I-87, I-88, I-90 and I-95 corridors.

    In part of the Northeast the snowfall rate will increase to 1 to 3 inches per hour during the height of the storm. Snowfall rates this intense can overwhelm road crews and a heavy dose of ice melting compounds. The only thing that will prevent this storm from delivering a large swath of 2 to 3 feet of snow will be its relatively fast movement.

    Northern Appalachians, New England

    A general swath of 6- to 12-inch snowfall is likely to reach from part of central Pennsylvania through the Pocono and Catskill mountains and into much of the Hudson Valley of New York, northern Connecticut, central and western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. However, some locations from upstate New York into northern New England and neighboring Canada can receive between 12 and 18 inches (30 and 46 centimeters) from this storm.


    In much of New England, the storm will linger into Sunday with ongoing travel disruptions. While flurries will occur over the central and southern Appalachians and downwind of the Great Lakes over the Midwest, the storm will be over across the Ohio Valley and coastal mid-Atlantic, and travel conditions will improve.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: December 2013 Snowstorm

     

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    Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013

    A person wearing an Elmo outfit holds an umbrella for a woman as she searches for money to give to the character after posing for a photo together at Times Square, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    At this rate, the Northeast will be tired of winter before winter even arrives.

    Another shot of wintry weather moved through Ohio and Pennsylvania on Saturday as it headed into New England, hampering travel by car and airplane and complicating shoppers' plans less than two weeks before Christmas.

    Nearly a foot of snow was reported in parts of central Pennsylvania late Saturday as the sprawling storm moved into New England, where the National Weather Service warned Maine could see near-blizzard conditions Sunday due to heavy snow and strong winds before the storm moves out.

    Six to 12 inches of snow was expected in parts of Massachusetts, followed by sleet and freezing rain after daybreak. Four to 8 inches was possible in Boston.

    Multiple accidents were reported on roadways throughout the Midwest and Northeast, while airports reported about 1,000 flight cancellations because of Saturday's snow - a third round of wintry weather in a seven-day span, with a week still to go before winter's official arrival.

    Double-digit snow totals were reported Saturday in parts of northern Pennsylvania and southern New York, while New York City's Central Park got 5 inches. Parts of Connecticut got more than half a foot.

    Six days after another storm had buried Lincoln Financial Field under several inches of snow for a Philadelphia Eagles game, the Army-Navy game was played Saturday on the same field - although in less snowy conditions.

    Accountant Kathy Porter shivered under layers of clothing in the stands, trying to keep warm amid low temperatures she doesn't get much of back home in Charlotte, N.C.

    But snow was preferable to rain, Porter said. She was "a little frozen but OK," she said.

    Snow was also welcome news at resorts and ski towns in Northern New England.

    "We have been watching (the forecast) since people first started talking about it on Monday or Tuesday," said Ethan Austin, spokesman for the Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. "We're pretty psyched."

    The snow-dampened shopping weekend in mid-December was not such good news for retailers.

    Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said consumers would likely take their shopping online. She said the weekend before Christmas will give retailers and shoppers another bite at the apple.

    "If a big storm hits around the 21st, 22nd, it will be a completely different story," Grannis said.

    The weather contributed to four deadly crashes on Missouri roads on Friday and Saturday and drivers in states throughout the path of the storm were warned of slick road conditions from snow and ice.

    Snow fell at up to 2 inches per hour in northern Pennsylvania late in the afternoon, while the storm seemed to be skipping other areas entirely.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Elyse Colbert said snow had reached more than 3 inches in State College by dinnertime Saturday and provided a lovely winter scene.

    "Unless you have to drive in it," she said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: December 2013 Snowstorm

     

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    Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013

    Above is a magnificent image of the center the Orion nebula. It's is one of the biggest pictures ever assembled from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shots. (NASA)

    On winter evenings, the sky is filled with bright stars, more than at any other time of the year.

    Central in the southern sky is the constellation Orion the Hunter. Along with the Big Dipper, this is probably the most easily recognized constellation, and the starting place for a stargazing adventure.

    We apologize to our readers in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer. But even in the south, Orion dominates the sky right now. Turn the chart upside down, and everything we say will still apply. [Spectacular Night Sky Photos by Stargazers December 2013]

    Orion itself sits astride the celestial equator, half way between north and south celestial poles. This makes Orion an "equal opportunity" constellation, well seen everywhere on Earth except at the poles.

    The main figure of Orion is a large rectangle of four bright stars, including two of the brightest stars in the sky, Betelgeuse at upper left and Rigel at bottom right. These four stars represent the shoulders and knees of a mighty hunter.


    The above star map will help you to find Orion in the night sky. (Space.com)

    The thing that most people notice first is the diagonal line of bright stars right in the middle of the rectangle, which represent the giant's belt, worn at a jaunty angle. Hanging from his belt are three stars representing his sword.

    If you're located at a dark sky site, you will be able to see more details in Orion. His rather small, pointy head is represented by a triangle of stars. His right arm raises a club and his left arm raises something towards Taurus the Bull. Some legends have this as a lion's skin, others as a shield.

    I like to see Orion as a superhero beset by evildoers on all sides, but also with friends and allies.

    Taurus, to his upper right, is marked by a bright red star, Aldebaran, in the midst of the cluster of stars known as the Hyades. A bit higher is a second cluster, the Pleiades. Both clusters are easily seen with the naked eye. Orion is shielding himself from the Bull with his lion's skin.

    Below Taurus, to the right of Orion, is a meandering stream of stars that early astronomers saw as the river Eridanus. This river meanders below the southern horizon for most people in the United States, but those in southern Florida and Texas may catch a glimpse of its destination, the first magnitude star Achernar.

    Above the horns of Taurus is Auriga the Charioteer, marked by Capella, the sixth brightest star in the night sky. I see him as the cavalry riding to Orion's rescue.

    Above and to the left of Orion is the constellation Gemini, the Twins, with its two bright stars Castor and Pollux. The planet Jupiter is currently located in this area, outshining all the stars. So which is Castor and which is Pollux? I remember them because Castor is closest to Capella, both starting with a "C," while Pollux is closest to Procyon, both starting with a "P."

    Orion, like all good hunters, is accompanied by his two hunting dogs, big and small: Canis Major and Canis Minor. "Canis‚" means dog, "major" means large, and "minor" means small.

    Each dog contains one bright star: Procyon in Canis Minor and Sirius in Canis Major. There is only one brightish star besides Procyon in Canis Minor, making it more like a hot dog than a real dog. Canis Major is more like a real dog, sitting up with a head, body, and two hind feet. Sirius and Procyon are the first and eighth brightest stars in the night sky, and among the nearest to the sun at 8.6 and 11.4 light years distance respectively.

    Between the two dogs is a faint constellation with a long name: Monoceros. "Mono" means one and "ceros" means horn, so Monoceros is a unicorn. Although it lacks any bright stars, it is one of the richest constellations in deep sky objects, because an arm of the Milky Way lies in this direction.

    What is beneath Orion's feet? Usually called Lepus the Hare, I like to think of this as Monty Python's Killer Rabbit, yet another foe for our hero to vanquish.

    Everything described above can be seen with the unaided eye, even in fairly light polluted skies. If you have binoculars or a small telescope, there are incredible riches to be discovered, such as the clouds of glowing gas in Orion and Monoceros, the star clusters of Taurus, Auriga, Monoceros, and Canis Major, and the galaxies of Eridanus.

    This article was provided to SPACE.com by Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu. 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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    Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013

    The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, two of the holiest sites for Jews and Muslims, are shown covered in snow in Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

    A powerful winter storm left Jerusalem covered in snow on Friday, forcing police to block access to and from the city as a cold snap drove some Israelis to seek treatment from emergency medics.

    Rare snow also fell in Cairo's suburbs and the port city of Alexandria while a blanket of white covered St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai.

    In Syria's contested northern city of Aleppo, soldiers and rebels took a break from fighting as a thick layer of snow blanketed deserted streets, cars and buildings and temperatures hovered around zero.

    An anti-government activist said it has been quieter than it has been in more than a year, since the storm began late Tuesday.

    "All the fighters are cold and hiding," the activist who uses the pseudonym Abu Raed said.

    He said residents in the city were relying on diesel or wood heaters although some had only blankets. Snow also fell in Damascus, but was quickly washed away by the rain.

    The weather also delayed for the second day an airlift of urgently needed food aid from Erbil, Iraq, to Qamishli in northeast Syria for displaced families, according to United Nations food agency. As soon as the Qamishli airport opens, WFP will start airlifting over 400 tons of food on two aircraft with 12 return flights between Iraq and Syria, it said.

    Humanitarian agencies opted for air route because roads leading to Syria's northern Hassakeh province have not been safe for convoy due to fighting in the area, the agency added.

    The cold weather was part of a storm, dubbed Alexa, which has been pounding much of Lebanon and parts of northern Syria since Wednesday, pushing temperatures below zero in mountainous areas and dumping snow and heavy rains. The snow has heaped another layer of misery on the already grim existence of many of the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled the civil war raging in their homeland.

    In Lebanon, snow fell on northern and eastern regions where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are staying, many of them in flimsy plastic tents.

    A Lebanese security official said a three-month-old Syrian baby died Friday in the northern town of Akroum. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the newborn had respiratory problems and the cold spell may have aggravated his condition.

    Syrian refugees struggled to keep tents in place and were seen gathering sticks of wood from nearby fields to use them for heating. Families crammed into damp, muddy tents struggled to keep warm. In some cases, Syrian children came out of their tents to play with the snow.

    Israelis were told over media and public broadcasts on Friday not to enter or leave Jerusalem and some 1,500 people were evacuated from stranded vehicles overnight, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

    Three emergency centers were set up and medics treated 350 people for cold-related symptoms, Rosenfeld said. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he asked the military for assistance. The airport also stopped flights briefly and several highways and main roads around Jerusalem were closed.

    The weather even featured in talks between visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he was briefed on the emergency measures.

    Kerry, a former Massachusetts senator, said the snow made him feel "at home."

    "I have heard of making guests welcome and feeling at home. This is about as far as I've ever seen anything go ... giving me a New England snowstorm," Kerry said as he viewed a snow-covered Old City of Jerusalem with Netanyahu.

    In the West Bank and Gaza, U.N. relief teams offered emergency services to the worst-hit communities.

    In Gaza, which was experiencing its first snow in a decade, more than 500 people were evacuated from their homes, according to Hamas spokesman Ihab Ghussein.

    Egypt's state MENA news agency said the country's two Mediterranean ports near the city of Alexandria and two ports on the Red Sea remained closed for the third consecutive day Friday.

    The report quoted the head of the Alexandria port authority, Adel Yassin Hammad, as saying the decision was taken to avoid possible accidents.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: December 2013 Snowstorm

     

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