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    Feb. 15, 2013
    Russia Meteor Crash
    A meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk on Friday. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring about 1,100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru)

    MOSCOW (AP) - A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring about 1,100 people.

    The spectacle deeply frightened many Russians, with some elderly women declaring that the world was coming to an end. Many of the injured were cut by flying glass as they flocked to windows, curious about what had produced such a blinding flash of light.

    The meteor - estimated to be about 10 tons - entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered into pieces about 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

    VIDEOS ON SKYE: Watch the Meteor Explode Over Russia and the Ensuing Panic

    Amateur video showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 a.m. local time, just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash.

    "There was panic. People had no idea what was happening," said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, a city of 1 million about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow.

    "We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud, thundering sound," he told The Associated Press by telephone.

    The meteor hit less than a day before Asteroid 2012 DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to the Earth - about 17,150 miles (28,000 kilometers). But the European Space Agency said its experts had determined there was no connection - just cosmic coincidence.

    The meteor released several kilotons of energy above the region, the Russian science academy said. According to NASA, it was about 15 meters (49 feet) wide before it hit the atmosphere, about one-quarter the size of the passing asteroid.

    Some meteorite fragments fell in a reservoir outside the town of Chebarkul. The crash left an eight-meter (26-foot) -wide crater in the ice.

    The shock wave blew in an estimated 100,000 square meters (more than 1 million square feet) of glass, according to city officials, who said 3,000 buildings in the city were damaged. At one zinc factory, part of the roof collapsed.

    The Interior Ministry said about 1,100 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 48 of them were hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, officials said.

    There was no immediate word on any deaths or anyone struck by space fragments.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Bitter Cold Nights Follow Russian Meteorite Crash

    Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are traveling so much faster than the speed of sound. Injuries on the scale reported Friday, however, are extraordinarily rare.

    "I went to see what that flash in the sky was about," recalled resident Marat Lobkovsky. "And then the window glass shattered, bouncing back on me. My beard was cut open, but not deep. They patched me up. It's OK now."

    Another resident, Valya Kazakov, said some elderly women in his neighborhood started crying out that the world was ending.

    Russian-language hashtags for the meteorite quickly shot up into Twitter's top trends.

    Lessons had just started at Chelyabinsk schools when the meteor exploded, and officials said 258 schoolchildren were among those injured. Amateur video footage showed a teacher speaking to her class as a powerful shockwave hit the room.

    Yekaterina Melikhova, a high school student whose nose was bloody and whose upper lip was covered with a bandage, said she was in her geography class when a bright light flashed outside.

    "After the flash, nothing happened for about three minutes. Then we rushed outdoors. I was not alone, I was there with Katya. The door was made of glass, a shock wave made it hit us," she said.

    Russian television ran footage of athletes at a city sports arena who were showered by shards of glass from huge windows. Some of them were still bleeding.

    Other videos showed a long shard of glass slamming into the floor close to a factory worker and massive doors blown away by the shock wave.

    The vast implosion of glass windows exposed many residents to the bitter cold as temperatures in the city were expected to plummet to minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) overnight.

    The regional governor immediately urged any worker who can pane windows to rush to the area to help out.

    Meteroids are small pieces of space debris - usually parts of comets or asteroids - that are on a collision course with the Earth. They become meteors when they enter the Earth's atmosphere. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth they are called meteorites.

    The site of Friday's spectacular show is about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) west of Tunguska, which in 1908 was the site of the largest recorded explosion of a space object plunging to Earth. That blast, attributed to a comet or asteroid fragment, is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons; it leveled some 80 million trees.

    Scientists believe that a far larger meteorite strike on what today is Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula may have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. According to that theory, the impact would have thrown up vast amounts of dust that blanketed the sky for decades and altered the climate on Earth.

    The meteor could have produced much more serious problems. Chelyabinsk is an industrial town long held to be one of the world's most polluted areas, and the area around it hosts nuclear and chemical weapons disposal facilities.

    Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia said the Russian government has underestimated potential risks of the region. He noted that the meteor struck only 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Mayak nuclear storage and disposal facility, which holds dozens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium.

    A chemical weapons disposal facility at Shchuchye also contains some 6,000 tons (5,460 metric tons) of nerve agents, including sarin and VX, about 14 percent of the chemical weapons that Russia is committed to destroy.

    The panic and confusion that followed Friday's meteorite crash quickly gave way to typical Russian black humor and entrepreneurial instincts.

    Several people smashed in the windows of their houses in the hopes of receiving compensation, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

    Others quickly took to the Internet and put what they said were meteorite fragments up for sale.

    One of the most popular jokes was that the meteorite was supposed to fall on Dec. 21 last year - when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world - but was delivered late by Russia's notoriously inefficient postal service.

    The dramatic event prompted an array of reactions from prominent Russians.

    Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said the meteor could be a symbol for the forum, showing that "not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet."

    Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist leader noted for his vehement statements, blamed the Americans.

    "It's not meteors falling. It's the test of a new weapon by the Americans," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

    Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.

    "At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies" to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

    Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science, called the back-to-back celestial events an amazing display.

    "This is indeed very rare and it is historic," he said on NASA TV. "These fireballs happen about once a day or so, but we just don't see them because many of them fall over the ocean or in remote areas. "

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Jaw-Dropping Meteor Explosion

     

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    Feb. 15, 2013


    A meteor streaked across the sky over Russia's Ural Mountains Friday morning. Its powerful sonic blasts shattered countless windows, causing nearly 1,000 injuries. Numerous "dash cams" - cameras mounted on dashboards - captured the event. This video comes from Russia Today.

    Hear the blasts here:



    Watch people react:



    View damage:



    See windows being blown out of an office building:




    Read more about the crash here.

     

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    Asteroid 2012 DA14 is seen by Gingin Observatory, West Gingin, Australia, as the space rock made its closest approach to Earth on Feb. 15, 2013. The asteroid appears as a streak because of its high speed.

    An asteroid half the size of a football field buzzed Earth in a historic flyby today (Feb. 15), barely missing our planet just hours after a much smaller object exploded above Russia, injuring over 1,000 people.

    The 150-foot-wide near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 cruised within 17,200 miles of Earth at 2:24 p.m. EST today, coming closer than many communications satellites circling our planet.

    The flyby marked the closest approach by such a large asteroid that astronomers have ever known about in advance. But it wasn't even the most dramatic space-rock event of the day.

    That distinction goes to a brilliant fireball that exploded early this morning in the skies over Russia's Chelyabinsk region, which is about 930 miles east of Moscow. The blast damaged hundreds of buildings and wounded perhaps 1,000 people, according to media reports. [Fireball Explodes Over Russia (Video)]

    Scientists think the Russian fireball was caused by a object that was about 50 feet wide and weighed about 7,000 tons before it hit Earth's atmosphere. For comparison, 2012 DA14 tips the scales at 140,000 tons or so. The two space rocks are completely unrelated, NASA researchers say, making the dual events a spooky cosmic coincidence.

    Scientific treat

    Astronomers had been looking forward to 2012 DA14's flyby for a while, since it gave them the rare chance to study a decent-size asteroid up close.

    "We're going to use our radars to bounce radio waves off this asteroid, watch it spin, look at the reflections and understand its size, its shape and perhaps even a little bit about what it's made of," Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division, said in a video released by the space agency Thursday (Feb. 14).

    Indeed, researchers around the world trained instruments on 2012 DA14, tracking the space rock as it cruised toward Earth, gave our planet a historically close shave and then slipped silently off into the depths of space once again.

    Cosmic shooting gallery

    There are lessons to be taken from today's asteroid flyby and fireball blast, researchers said.

    "Today's events, both with 2012 DA14 and the Russian meteorite, are a reminder that our solar system is a crowded place," Chris Lewicki, president of asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources, wrote in a blog post today.

    Our planet has indeed been pummeled by asteroids many times over its history - perhaps most famously 65 million years ago, when a 6-mile-wide (10 km) behemoth wiped out the dinosaurs - and it will continue to be struck in the future.

    The good news is that we probably don't have to worry about a potential civilization-ending strike anytime soon. NASA researchers have mapped out the orbits of 90 percent of the biggest and most dangerous near-Earth asteroids, and none of them seem to be on a collision course with Earth in the foreseeable future.

    But there are a lot of smaller space rocks out there waiting to be discovered and mapped. Researchers have identified just 9,600 near-Earth asteroids to date, but they think a million or more are likely to be out there. (2012 DA14 itself was just discovered in February 2012.)

    Spotting the most threatening of these space rocks may require lofting dedicated asteroid-hunting space telescopes, researchers say. The nonprofit B612 foundation plans to do just that; in 2017 or 2018, it aims to launch an instrument called the Sentinel Space Telescope, which would scan Earth's neighborhood from a Venus-like orbit, freeing it from having to contend with the glare of the sun.

    Astronomers estimate that asteroids the size of 2012 DA14 buzz Earth this closely every 40 years and hit our planet once every 1,200 years or so. If 2012 DA14 did hit us, it would probably cause severe destruction on a local scale. In 1908, a space rock thought to be of similar size exploded over Siberia, flattening about 825 square miles (2,137 square km) of forest.

    Follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

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

     

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    A motorist captured this video driving south on Interstate 280 in the Bay Area and posted it to YouTube.

    It's really starting to look like the sky is falling.

    According to media reports, a fireball streaked through the skies above California's Bay Area Friday evening, just hours after another bright meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk and a 150-foot-wide asteroid gave Earth a historically close shave.

    The Bay Area fireball blazed up around 7:45 p.m. local time Friday, NBC Bay Area reported. The meteor apparently had a bluish tinge and was visible over a wide swath of the region, from Fairfield north of San Francisco Bay down to Gilroy, which is south of San Jose.

    There were no immediate reports of injuries, which distinguished the California fireball from its Russian counterpart. The Chelyabinsk blast generated a powerful shock wave that damaged hundreds of buildings and wounded more than 1,000 people.

    Friday's Russian fireball was the largest such explosion since a 1908 airburst leveled 825 square miles of forest in the Tunguska region of Siberia, NASA scientists said.

    The flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14, which also took place Friday, didn't generate such pyrotechnics in the atmosphere, but it was dramatic enough in its own right. The space rock cruised to within 17,200 miles of Earth at one point, coming closer than the ring of geosynchronous satellites circling the planet.

    The flyby marked the closest approach of such a large asteroid that astronomers had ever known about in advance. The space rock that generated the Chelyabinsk fireball had nothing to do with asteroid 2012 DA14, NASA researchers stressed. Little is known about where the Bay Area meteor came from at the moment, but it may turn out to be unrelated as well, making Friday a day of truly improbable cosmic coincidences.

    Follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

  • Meteor Hits Central Russia, 900+ Hurt | Video
  • Meteor Blast Over Russia Feb. 15: Complete Coverage
  • Asteroid 2012 DA14 Earth Flyby of Feb. 15: Complete Coverage

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

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Jaw-Dropping Meteor Explosion

     

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    Breaking Weather: Southeast Snowflakes Expected

    New York City is expected to get an inch or less of snow Saturday night, with Boston getting an inch or two. The snowstorm will intensify on Sunday and New England can expect heavy snow.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Massive Blizzard Wallops Northeast

     

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    Breaking Weather: A Snowy End to the Weekend

    BOSTON (AP) - Up to 10 inches of snow and strong winds were forecast Sunday for parts of the Northeast that were blanketed by up to 3 feet of snow during last week's mammoth storm.

    A winter storm warning was in effect for the Boston area, where the National Weather Service said 4 to 8 inches of snow was expected by Sunday night, though most of it was forecast to fall by 1 p.m. Snow up to 10 inches also was forecast for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

    Strong winds were expected to accompany the snow, gusting up to 55 mph. The weather service said that by evening, temperatures with the wind chill could feel like minus 1.

    The storm wasn't expected to be on the scale of last week's, which knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. But officials said the storm will be plenty bad enough at its peak to keep residents indoors.

    In New York, a high-wind warning was issued for the Tappan Zee Bridge in the Hudson Valley, reducing the speed limit to 35 mph and prohibiting empty trailers and motorcycles on the bridge. All trucks, trailers, and buses were advised to consider an alternate route.

    Farther north, a blizzard watch was in effect for parts of Maine, where 10 inches of snow was forecast to fall through Sunday night. Whiteout conditions were likely with near-zero visibility because of blowing, drifting snow, the weather service warned.

    Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said crews pretreated roads Saturday and plows were working through the night, but travel could still be treacherous on Sunday morning.

    "I'm asking residents to use common sense, and stay off the roads while snowfall is heaviest," he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Massive Blizzard Wallops Northeast

     

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    Hellen Chmiel, 57, sits in front of the remains of her home in Hattiesburg, Miss., Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, following a Sunday afternoon tornado that caused much damage throughout the South Mississippi college town. Chmiel, who was out of her house when the tornado struck, said the large pine tree in the front yard completely destroyed her bedroom. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis.

    FLOWOOD, Miss. (AP) - New technology allowed regional forecasters to quickly confirm the large tornado that tore through Hattiesburg last week and to alert the public, possibly saving lives in the process, officials say.

    The Dual-polarization Doppler technology allowed forecasters to see the shape and size of debris inside the tornado. In the past, forecasters have generally relied on visual reports of tornadoes, which are difficult to get at night. The new technology allowed them to issue warnings confirming the tornado and to give residents sufficient time to get to safety.

    Dozens of injuries were reported as a result of the tornados that struck south Mississippi Feb. 10, but no fatalities.

    Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham says he believed the Dual-polarization technology was to thank for the lack of deaths.

    "There is no other logical explanation as to why we didn't have fatalities in that area," Latham said.

    U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., spoke at a news conference Friday announcing the new Doppler system. He said the conference had been organized before the tornados.

    "This represents government at its best: professionals, scientists who are on the front line, getting information to us in the best way possible and the quickest way possible to protect property and save lives," Wicker said.

    Wicker said he has relatives in Hattiesburg, and that they were able to get to a secure area of their house thanks to an early warning.

    Alan Gerard, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Flowood, said that while forecasters could see heavy winds and rain with the old Doppler technology, they couldn't tell if those storms amounted to tornados touching down on the ground. Storm chasers were often the best sources of confirmation. The new Dual-polarization technology allows forecasters to see the debris inside of the tornado, confirming that it's touching ground and picking up objects as it plows through an area.

    National Weather Service offices throughout the country are being updated with the new technology.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Tornado Rips Through Hattiesburg, Miss.

     

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    Rescuers search for the victims of a landslide in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo)

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Landslides and floods triggered by torrential rain in northern Indonesia have killed at least 10 people and sent hundreds fleeing for safe ground.

    Disaster official Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says mud and rocks cascaded down hills Sunday in seven sub-districts of Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province, while more than 1,000 houses were flooded after downpours caused a river to burst its banks.

    He says nine bodies were pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes and another from water. About 1,200 people fled to temporary shelters.

    Rescuers are searching for those who may still be buried beneath mud and rocks.

    Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

     

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    Eleven infrasound stations around the world recorded the meteor blast above Russian on Friday. (Credit: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization)

    Referring to the Russia meteor explosion, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly reminded us this Sunday morning on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the "universe is a crowded place."

    "We have stuff entering the atmosphere all the time," Kelly told moderator David Gregory. "It's interesting when you're on the space station and you're looking at the shooting stars, the meteorites, entering the atmosphere. You're seeing those beneath you. It's a little bit disconcerting because they're all flying by you."

    The Russian meteor blast over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Friday (Feb. 15) injured more than 1,000 people, mostly from the glass from shattered windows.

    "It was a big rock," Kelly said. Indeed, NASA scientists estimated the space rock was about 55 feet in diameter and sent off a blast equivalent of 500 kilotons of energy.

    The shock wave from the blast sent subsonic waves through the atmosphere halfway around the world, according to sensors in Greenland, Africa, Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula and other far-flung regions that detected the Russian meteor blast's infrasound, or low-frequency sound waves.

    Kelly noted that with so many space rocks entering the atmosphere, "there is certainly a risk out there," adding that luckily the meteor didn't hit the ground in the middle of a town in Russia.

    Kelly is a veteran of four space shuttle flights. He commanded two shuttle missions, including NASA's last flight of the space shuttle Endeavour in May 2011, before retiring from NASA's astronaut corps. Kelly's identical twin brother Scott Kelly is also a NASA astronaut and veteran of two shuttle flights and an International Space Station mission.

    Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

    Images: Russian Meteor Explosion
    Russian Meteor Track and Detonation Seen From Space | Video
    7 Notable Space Shuttle Astronauts

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


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Jaw-Dropping Meteor Explosion

     

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    This video screenshot shows the fireball from a meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. (Credit: Russia Today)

    The Russian fireball and the close flyby of the asteroid 2012 DA14 on Friday (Feb. 15) came at a moment in time when the United Nations is discussing international response to the near-Earth object impact concern.

    Detailed discussions about the Russian meteor explosion and Earth's encounter with asteroid 2012 DA14 were high on the Feb. 15 agenda of Action Team-14 during the 50th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), being held from Feb. 11 to 22 at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna.

    The multi-year work of Action Team-14 (AT-14) is focused on pushing forward on an international response to the impact threat of asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs).

    Up for discussion at the Vienna gathering is the report: "Near-Earth Objects, 2011-2012, Recommendations of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects for an International Response to the Near-Earth Object Impact Threat." [See video of the Russian meteor explosion]

    Future threatening asteroids

    "This event in Russia and the pass of the larger asteroid 2012 DA14 are good reminders that many thousands of objects like it pass near Earth daily," said Ray Williamson, a senior advisor to the Secure World Foundation and a participant in the Vienna gathering.

    Secure World Foundation is a private operating foundation dedicated to the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples.

    Williamson said that some objects will be larger and cause considerable damage if they strike Earth. Furthermore, it is critical that efforts continue to identify and track asteroids in order to counter the largest ones before they do serious damage to population centers.

    "Work is continuing within the United Nations on developing international responses to future threatening asteroids. Given the uncertainties concerning where such asteroids might strike Earth and how much damage they might do, international responses will be critical," Williamson told SPACE.com.

    Also taking part in the UN NEO working group is space scientist, Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency's European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

    "The day before we thought it is great timing that 2012 DA14 flies by in the evening ... and were shocked when in the morning we learned about the Russia event," Koschny told SPACE.com. "What a coincidence. Was this a cosmic warning shot? It makes you think."

    Timely warnings

    For its part, the UN Action Team-14 has been deliberating over the years regarding the makeup and focus of an Information, Analysis and Warning Network (IAWN), designed to gather and analyze NEO data and provide timely warnings to national authorities should a potentially hazardous NEO threaten Earth.

    That report and its findings are being shouldered by Sergio Camacho who chairs the Action Team on NEOs - a group that was established in 2001.

    But gluing together a planetary defense strategy is not easy and includes a number of components: from finding potentially hazardous objects, predicting their future locations, and providing warning about future impacts with the Earth.

    Furthermore, such a strategy also involves missions to deflect impacting asteroids by changing their orbit, as well as disaster preparedness management and, in the event of a NEO strike, shaping a mitigation and recovery plan to counteract consequences.

    The need for an IAWN had been identified in the September 2008 report: "Asteroid Threats: A Call for a Global Response," a document prepared by an expert panel convened by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) to assist the work of AT-14.

    Here is an excerpt of the 2008 asteroid threat report.

    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 a past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazine, and has written for SPACE.com since 1999.Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

    Meteor Blast Over Russia Feb. 15: Complete Coverage
    NEOs: Near Earth Objects - The Video Show
    Huge Russian Meteor Blast is Biggest Since 1908 (Infographic)

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

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Jaw-Dropping Meteor Explosion

     

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    A storm quickly following on the heels of the weekend's New England snowstorm is set to return snow to the Great Lakes and Northeast Monday through Tuesday.

    The upcoming storm for these two regions will pale in comparison to the Blizzard of 2013 and the weekend's New England snowstorm, but will still be a nuisance for travelers and residents.

    After pushing through the far northern Plains and northern Ontario tonight, the heaviest snow will head into central Ontario on Monday-remaining north of U.S., soil.

    RELATED:
    AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
    Photos: Taste of Winter for the Carolinas


    However, a bit of snow and freezing drizzle will spread through the Upper Midwest on Monday as a band of rain and thunderstorms develop in the milder air from around Lake Michigan to the western Gulf Coast.

    The rain will press eastward toward the East Coast through Tuesday, passing through Chicago Monday afternoon and evening and Detroit Monday night and opening the door for a blast of noticeably colder air and blustery winds to follow.

    The colder air will arrive fast enough to cause the rain to end as wet snow in these two cities and many other communities across most of the Great Lakes-areas around Lake Superior will be the exception as the storm will remain an all-snow event.

    Little, if any, of the snow will accumulate in Chicago, but the cold winds will ignite a new round of lake-effect snow that will renew the danger of slippery roads across most of lower Michigan, including Detroit, for Tuesday.

    Across the Northeast, AccuWeather.com meteorologists are actually concerned for snow to create slick travel as the rain arrives, not departs.

    Enough stubborn cold air will be in place for the rain to fall as snow, either at its onset or throughout the entirety of the storm Monday night through Tuesday. That would occur inland from the I-95 corridor from Boston to New York City to Washington, D.C., where only plain rain is expected.

    The snow could accumulate a quick 1 to 3 inches in Burlington, Vt., Syracuse and Binghamton, N.Y., and Williamsport and State College, Pa., potentially slowing down motorists and causing flight delays.

    As this storm heads into Atlantic Canada Tuesday night, attention will turn toward a major winter storm set to take shape over the Plains at midweek.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    A storm system set to emerge from the Rockies on Thursday will wreak havoc across the central part of the nation through the end of the week.

    While the storm will affect a vast area from Texas to the Dakotas, the worst of the weather will be focused in three areas.

    The first trouble spot will be across the northern Plains from northeast Colorado into northern Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa.

    Howling winds and driving snow will bring blizzard conditions to places from Goodland, Kan. to Grand Island, Neb.; Omaha, Neb.; Sioux Falls, S.D. and Des Moines, Iowa.

    RELATED:
    AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
    Photos: Taste of Winter for the Carolinas


    Roadways and airports across the region will likely need to be shut as white-out conditions take visibility down to near zero. In some spots, it might not be possible to see across the street, let alone the vehicle in front of you.

    Further to the east, areas such as Kansas City, Mo.; Saint Louis, Mo. and even Chicago, Ill. will see an icy mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow.

    Significant icing could potentially take down tree limbs and lead to scattered power outages across this area, along with plenty of long delays on the roads or flying in or out of O'Hare.

    The third area of concern from this storm will be found across the South from eastern Texas into Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.

    Strong, unseasonably warm and moist southerly winds screaming north from the Gulf of Mexico will be met by much colder and drier air blasting in from the west. The result will be a twisting motion in the lower part of the atmosphere.

    Any thunderstorms that can tap into this low-level swirling will likely spawn tornados, some of which could be long-lived and strong.

    The cities with the greatest potential for severe weather include Tyler, Texas; Shreveport, La.; Little Rock, Ark. and New Orleans, La.

    Be sure to stay with AccuWeather.com as our meteorologists continue to unravel all the details.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    January was both warmer and wetter than average for the contiguous United States this year, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    The January average this year was 32 degree F, 1.6 degrees F above the 20th century average. This temperature tied with 1958, making January 2013 the 39th warmest January on record.

    In addition to being warm, January saw above average precipitation. The nationally averaged precipitation total for the month capped off at 2.36 inches, placing it 0.14 inches above the long-term average.

    Wetter-than-average conditions stretched from the Southern Plains to the mid-Atlantic, according to NOAA.

    RELATED:
    AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
    Accuweather.com Global Climate Change Center


    Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Michigan and Virginia each placed January 2013 among their 10 wettest Januarys on record.

    Most areas suffering from extreme drought, however, such as the central and southeastern United States, did not receive much relief.

    States that received below-average precipitation totals included California, Connecticut and Florida.

    Meanwhile, drier-than-average conditions occurred along the West Coast, the central Rockies and parts of the Northern Plains, southeast and northeast.

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.

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    In this Jan. 5, 2012, file photo, man-made snow coats a ski run next to barren ground under a chairlift at Shawnee Peak ski area in Bridgton, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit.

    Then, when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming.

    How can that be? It's been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction.

    But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that's likely to continue with manmade global warming.

    Consider:

    - The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation - both rain and snow - in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center.

    - Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the past 45 years.

    - And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study's author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 percent and 70 percent by the end of the century.

    "Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch," Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. "That's the new world we live in."

    Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink the snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.

    "Strong snowstorms thrive on the ragged edge of temperature - warm enough for the air to hold lots of moisture, meaning lots of precipitation, but just cold enough for it to fall as snow," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "Increasingly, it seems that we're on that ragged edge."

    Just look at the last few years in the Northeast. Or take Chicago, which until late January had 335 days without more than an inch of snow. Both have been hit with historic storms in recent years.

    Scientists won't blame a specific event or even a specific seasonal change on global warming without doing intricate and time-consuming studies. And they say they are just now getting a better picture of the complex intersection of manmade climate change and extreme snowfall.

    But when Serreze, Oppenheimer and others look at the last few years of less snow overall, punctuated by big storms, they say this is what they are expecting in the future.

    "It fits the pattern that we expect to unfold," Oppenheimer said.

    The world is warming so precipitation that would normally fall as snow in the future will probably fall as rain once it gets above the freezing point, said Princeton researcher Sarah Kapnick.

    Her study used new computer models to simulate the climate in 60 years to 100 years as carbon dioxide levels soar. She found large reductions in snowfall throughout much of the world, especially parts of Canada and the Andes Mountains. In the United States, her models predict about a 50 percent or more drop in annual snowfall amounts along a giant swath of the nation from Maine to Texas and the Pacific Northwest and California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

    This is especially important out West, where large snowcaps are natural reservoirs for a region's water supply, Kapnick said. And already in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest and in much of California, the amount of snow still around on April 1 has been declining so that it's down about 20 percent compared with 80 years ago, said Philip Mote, who heads a climate change institute at Oregon State University.

    Kapnick says it is snowing about as much as ever in the heart of winter, such as February. But the snow season is getting much shorter, especially in spring and in the northernmost areas, said Rutgers' David Robinson, a co-author of the study on extreme weather that will be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

    The Rutgers snow lab says this January saw the sixth-widest snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere; the United States had an above average snow cover for the last few months. But that's a misleading statistic, Robinson said, because even though more ground is covered by snow, it's covered by less snow.

    And when those big storms finally hit, there is more than just added moisture in the air; there's extra moisture coming from the warm ocean, Robinson and Oppenheimer said. And the air is full of energy and is unstable, allowing storms to lift yet more moisture up to colder levels. That generates more intense rates of snowfall, Robinson said.

    "If you can tap that moisture and you have that fortuitous collision of moist air and below-freezing temperatures, you can pop some big storms," Robinson said.

    Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann points to the recent Northeast storm that dumped more than 30 inches in some places. He said it was the result of a perfect set of conditions for such an event: arctic air colliding with unusually warm oceans that produced extra large amounts of moisture and big temperature contrasts, which drive storms. Those all meant more energy, more moisture and thus more snow, he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    In this photo distributed by the Urals Federal University Press Service, pieces of a meteorite are seen in a laboratory in Yekaterinburg on Monday, Feb.18, 2013. (AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov)

    MOSCOW (AP) - Scientists have found more than 50 tiny fragments of a meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains, and preliminary tests are turning up information about its contents.

    However, local residents seem more interested in the black market value of the fragments. As they search for their own pieces of the meteor, sales offers already are filling the Internet, and police are warning all purchasers to prepare for possible fraud.

    The meteor - which injured nearly 1,500 people and caused widespread property damage in Chelyabinsk city on Friday - was the largest recorded space rock to hit Earth in more than a century. Health officials said 46 of the injured remain hospitalized.

    Viktor Grokhovsky, who led the expedition from Urals Federal University, said Monday that 53 fragments of the meteor have been plucked from the ice-covered Chebarkul Lake. He said they are less than half an inch in size, about 10 percent iron, and belong to the chondrite type, the most common variation of meteorites found on Earth.

    Friday's meteor left a 20-foot-wide hole in the ice covering the lake. Divers inspecting it have found nothing at the bottom, but Grokhovsky said a fragment as large as 20-24 inches could eventually be found there.

    Meanwhile, workers in the city remained busy replacing acres of windows shattered by a powerful shockwave caused by the meteor's strike, which NASA said released 500 kilotons of energy, the power equivalent to more than 30 Hiroshima bombs.

    The local governor estimated the damage at $33 million and said he hopes the federal government will provide at least half that amount.

    Lidiya Rykhlova, head of the astronomy department at the Moscow-based Institute for Space Research, said experts have drafted a program that envisages building new powerful telescopes, including space-based ones, to warn against potentially dangerous asteroids, comets and other threats. The 10-year program would cost $1.9 billion.

    That huge price tag has raised many eyebrows, drawing a sarcastic post from Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader and opposition leader. "You'd better fix roads in Chelyabinsk. Holes on them cause more damage than 100 meteorites," he said.

    Rykhklova, speaking to online Gazeta.ru, dismissed Navalny's sarcasm, saying the Chelyabinsk fireball highlighted the need for quick creation of such an early warning system.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Jaw-Dropping Meteor Explosion

     

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    Bathers play in the surf in Seaside Park, N.J. on June 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

    SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) - A popular contest to name New Jersey's best beach is taking a timeout this summer.

    The top 10 beaches contest will not have voting this year that pits one town against another for bragging rights.

    Rather, the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium says the program will focus on cooperation among regional tourism leaders as the shore recovers from Superstorm Sandy.

    The contest began in 2008 as a way to generate pride in and stewardship of New Jersey's beaches. People voted online for their favorite shore spot, and the results were unveiled at a pre-Memorial Day news conference.

    This year's voting will involve a calendar photo contest. People will be encouraged to share their favorite shore memories at www.toptenbeaches.org starting Wednesday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    Feb. 19, 2013

    The cruise ship Carnival Triumph is moored at a dock in Mobile, Ala., Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

    ATLANTA (AP) - Investigators say a fuel oil leak caused the engine-room fire that paralyzed a Carnival cruise ship at sea for five days. Now they want to know why the ship was disabled for so long.

    The Carnival Triumph left 4,200 people without power or working toilets for five days as it drifted in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Cmdr. Teresa Hatfield of the U.S. Coast Guard addressed the finding in a conference call Monday with reporters. She estimated the investigation of the disabled ship would take six months.

    Passengers interviewed after the cruise complained about confusion in the immediate aftermath of the fire about whether to evacuate their rooms as well as poor communication about what was happening.

    Hatfield said the Bahamas - where the ship is registered, or flagged - is leading the investigation, with the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board representing U.S. interests in the probe. The vessel was in international waters at the time.

    Investigators have been with the massive 14-story ship since it arrived Thursday in Mobile, Ala. They have interviewed passengers and crew, and done a forensic analysis on the ship.

    She said the crew responded appropriately to the fire. "They did a very good job," she said.

    In an email after Monday's conference call, Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz described the oil return line that leaked as stretching from the ship's No. 6 engine to the fuel tank.

    Cruise industry expert Andrew Coggins, a former Navy commander who is now a professor at Pace University in New York, said the fire could potentially have been serious.

    "The problem is the oil's under pressure," he said. "What happens in the case of a fuel oil leak where you have a fire like that is it leaks in such a way that it sprays out in a mist. In the engine room you have many hot surfaces, so once the mist hits a hot surface it will flash into flame."

    If the crew hadn't reacted quickly and the fire suppression system hadn't worked properly, he said, "the fire from the engine room would have eventually burned through to other parts of the ship."

    Engine room fires that can't be suppressed generally result in the loss of the entire ship, he said.

    The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day trip to Mexico. The fire paralyzed the ship early Feb. 10, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico until tugboats towed it to Mobile. Passengers described harsh conditions on board: overflowing toilets, long lines for food, foul odors and tent cities for sleeping on deck.

    Hatfield said investigators from the Coast Guard and the NTSB would stay with the ship until the end of the week.

    Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized to passengers late last week.

     

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    Feb. 19, 2013

    A storm quickly following on the heels of the weekend's New England snowstorm is set to bring more flakes to the Great Lakes and Northeast through Tuesday.

    The upcoming storm for these two regions will pale in comparison to the Blizzard of 2013 and the weekend's New England snowstorm, but will still be a nuisance for travelers and residents.

    After pushing through the far northern Plains and northern Ontario Sunday, the heaviest snow fell across central Ontario on Monday, remaining north of U.S. soil.

    RELATED:
    AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
    Thursday Blizzard From Omaha to Des Moines


    Rain will press eastward toward the East Coast through Tuesday, passing through Chicago Monday afternoon and evening and Detroit Monday night and opening the door for a blast of noticeably colder air and blustery winds to follow.

    The colder air will arrive fast enough to cause the rain to end as wet snow in these two cities and many other communities across most of the Great Lakes-areas. A rapid freeze-up will occur as a result, so treacherous travel is possible Tuesday morning. Around Lake Superior, the storm remained an all-snow event.

    The cold winds will ignite a new round of lake-effect snow that will renew the danger of slippery roads across most of lower Michigan, including Detroit, for Tuesday.

    Across the Northeast, AccuWeather.com meteorologists are concerned for snow to create slick travel as the rain arrives, not departs.

    Enough stubborn cold air will be in place for the rain to fall as snow, sleet, freezing rain or a combination thereof, either at its onset or throughout the entirety of the storm Monday night through Tuesday. That would occur inland from the I-95 corridor from Boston to New York City to Washington, D.C., where only plain rain is expected.

    The snow could accumulate a quick 1 to 3 inches in Burlington, Vt., Syracuse and Binghamton, N.Y., and Williamsport, Pa., potentially making for slippery travel and causing delays to daily activities. Even a coating to an inch of wintry mix farther south in part of the central Appalachians can lead to icy travel for a time.

    As this storm heads into Atlantic Canada Tuesday night, attention will turn toward a major winter storm set to take shape over the Plains at midweek.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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