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SKYE on AOL

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    Homes severely damaged last October by Superstorm Sandy are seen along the beach Thursday, April 25, 2013, in Mantoloking, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    HIGHLANDS, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that President Barack Obama "has kept every promise he's made" about helping the state recover from Superstorm Sandy.

    Speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on the 6-month anniversary of the deadly storm, the Republican governor said presidential politics were the last thing on his mind as he toured storm-devastated areas with Obama last fall.

    "The president has kept every promise he's made," said Christie, widely considered a potential candidate for the republican presidential nomination in 2016. "I think he's done a good job. He kept his word."

    Christie's warm embrace of Obama after the storm angered some Republicans, who said it helped tip a close presidential election to the Democrat and away from Mitt Romney, who Christie endorsed, and for whom he campaigned last fall.

    Christie says he and Obama have fundamentally different views on governing. But he said the two men did what needed to be done for a devastated region.

    "I've got a job to do," he said. "You wake up and 7 million of your 8.8 million citizens are out of power, you're not thinking about presidential politics. Put yourself in my shoes: If you're a responsible political official, you'll do nothing differently.

    "I have a 95 percent level of disagreement with Barack Obama," Christie said. "We saw suffering together. Everything the president promised me they'd do, they've done. I don't have any complaint this morning on the issue of disaster relief."

    Sandy destroyed about 360,000 homes or apartment units in New Jersey, and some areas along the shore are still devastated.

    Later Monday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan is to appear with Christie at a press conference, where it is expected the secretary will announce federal approval of New Jersey's plans to spend more than $1.8 billion in federal grants on storm rebuilding and recovery.

    "We'll start to see that aid start flowing this week," Christie said on the show. "We still have tens of thousands of families who aren't back in their homes. Job One is to get the grant program going."

    Congress approved more than $60 billion in Sandy relief funds, most of it for New Jersey and New York, despite opposition from many Congressional Republicans who wanted to spend less.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    Kate Pieroudis, of London, England, dances during the performance by Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on a rainy Sunday, April 28, 2013, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, Kathleen Flynn)

    NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A steady, sometimes heavy rain pelted fans Sunday at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, but the music flowed on.

    A soaked Dave Matthews and his band played through a strong downpour at the tail end of the closing weekend, much to the fans' delight as they danced along with him and cheered him through the bad weather.

    Matthews ended his performance just before a flash of lightning and strong thunder echoed his goodbyes to the crowd, which stretched to the back track and beyond despite the weather, as is usual for that stage.

    Umbrellas, rain boots and plastic ponchos were out in abundance early as fans stood among the puddles and water-soaked grass, awaiting clearer skies. The rain had stopped for a time in the afternoon, but came back in time to drench the evening crowd.

    Paul Rother, of Venice Beach, Calif., said he and his friend, Mark Sender, of Hollywood, drove 2,300 miles to attend this year's festival, and a little rain wasn't going to make them stay inside.

    "The bands go on, rain or shine. I was at Woodstock. It rained there, too," he said, laughing.

    Rother, a first-timer to the festival, said he decided to attend after Sender spoke so highly of the city and the event.

    "New Orleans is the best city in America," Sender said. "And since Katrina, I've wanted to contribute to the economy as much as I can."

    As Steven and Jessica Kennedy pushed their 2-½-year-old daughter, Miriam, in a stroller, the New Orleans residents said weather wouldn't deter them from getting out to hear the likes of the Nevilles, the Dave Matthews Band and B.B. King.

    "She wanted to come more than we did," Jessica Kennedy said of the toddler. "We're prepared. We have a lot of rain gear."

    "There are 600 bands here," added Steven Kennedy. "You can't beat the price of the ticket for that kind of talent and you get a good mix of national and local artists."

    A torrential downpour blew through about 5 p.m. CDT, shortly before the day's final artists would take the stage, sending fans inside any shelter they could find, including covered tents, such as the one where jazz songstress Dianne Reeves entertained a standing-room-only crowd. Reeves canceled last year's scheduled appearance after her mother died.

    Fans enthusiastically embraced her when she took the stage and sang her rendition of Lena Horne's "Stormy Weather" and Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."

    "It's such a pleasure and honor to be here with you tonight," Reeves told the crowd, who cheered in response. "We made it through the rain and storm clouds now sit back and relax and enjoy the music."

    Calvin Cherry, of Newport News, Va., said when he saw Reeves was on this year's lineup, he knew instantly that he'd be in the house. Cherry, a professional dancer, said Reeves' voice is like "poetry in motion."

    "It's so mysterious, so haunting and has such a deep and guttural quality that it's just phenomenal. There are spaces in her voice that just resonate with me and for me to use my body to interpret her music, it's just kismet," he said.

    The downpour stopped the music shortly on at least one stage, as crews rushed to cover equipment at the height of the storm. But the sweet sounds of the Gipsy Kings - a group from Arles and Montpellier in the south of France who perform in Spanish - quickly returned when the rain slowed to a drizzle.

    Just before 7 p.m., another line of severe weather dumped rain on the remaining fans, who stuck it out with Matthews until the end of his set.

    Festival producer Quint Davis thanked Matthews for his effort and encouraged fans to return on Thursday when the festival resumes.

    New Orleans artists Khris Royal & Dark Matter played the Gentilly Stage early Sunday as pockets of fest-faithfuls grooved and danced to his funky saxophone opening instrumental. Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band also enticed fans to the front of the nearby Fais Do-Do stage, where couples rocked a two-step to the band's steady beat.

    The Nevilles, without brother Aaron, performed just before the Dave Matthews Band, which closed the fest's first weekend and largest stage.

    "We almost didn't come," said Sandy Diaz, of Ocean Springs, Miss., after singing along and dancing with the Nevilles on "Meet de Boys on the Battlefront."

    "It's a little disappointing that Aaron's not up there with him, but I'm excited about seeing Trombone Shorty next weekend," she said.

    Trombone Shorty, whose real name is Troy Andrews, will close the largest stage May 5, the final day of the festival, which is held over two weekends annually.

     

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    People walk on a narrow strip of land between the flooded Woodlawn Park, background, and the rising Red River, foreground, Sunday, April 28, 2013, in Moorhead. (AP Photo/The Forum, Dave Wallis)

    Rapid snowmelt began in earnest on Saturday across the Red River basin. Temperatures across much of North Dakota and Minnesota reached well into the 60s, 70s and 80s, effectively unlocking nearly half-a-year's worth of water stored in lingering winter snowpack.

    Snowmelt from April 20, 2013, to April 27, 2013, has been on the order of 10 to 20 inches across parts of the basin, with most of the melting occurring in only the latter two days.

    This has resulted in what amounts to a two-day rainfall of 2.00 to as much as 8.00 inches, and rapid, dangerous rises on the Red River.

    This map, courtesy of the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, shows how much water was trapped inside snowfall on April 20th.

    The Red River at Grand Forks was at 37.33 feet Sunday afternoon, or about 9.33 feet above flood stage. The river will continue to rise to near 46 feet, or 18 feet above flood stage by Thursday night, May 3rd.

    The Red River at Grand Forks will crest late next week at 45 feet.

    Farther to the south, the Red River at Fargo was at 29.24 feet Sunday afternoon, or 11.24 feet above flood stage. The river will continue to rise to near 37 feet by Tuesday night, which is only 3.8 feet below the record of 40.8 feet.

    Dangerous flooding of low-lying areas will be the first impacts, and this has already been seen across many areas along the river.

    As the river continues to rise, the impacts will begin to pose more of a risk to life and property.

    The Red River at Grand Forks on April 27, 2013, was swollen and filled with melting snow and ice. Photo by Matt Eckhoff, a graduate student and meteorologist at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

    According to the Associated Press, preparations have been underway to protect the cities of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., to a river level of 41 feet.

    This includes sandbagging and ensuring that levees are in good shape. Temporary dikes will also need to be constructed during the coming days in order to protect the Hjemkomst Center.

    Flood waters will force many roadways to close, and travel to the region by early to late next week is not advised.

    The Red River at Fargo will crest next week around 37 feet.

    Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said earlier last week, "Spring flooding is not uncommon for the river which flows across a vast plain. There are no steep hillsides to contain the river. During a flooding event, when left unchecked, the river can stretch for hundreds of square miles beyond its banks."

    Sosnowski went on to say, "The river also flows from south to north, from a warmer climate to a colder climate, which can amplify flooding in certain situations, such as from ice jams or heavy rain in one part combined with heavy snow in another."

    This will be a prolonged flooding event. As hinted, the waters will not even crest until the middle or end of next week, and the waters will be very slow to come down, perhaps not receding below flood stage until the second or third week of May.

    RELATED:
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    Normally with late-season snowstorms, a thaw occurs in between. This allows the ground to warm up and absorb some of the melting snow.

    However this season, the weather has remained very cold between the storms, so the ground has not thawed as it normally would at this point in April.

    The frozen ground increases the runoff potential into the river system.

    A look at the expected flood stages on the Red River for Monday.

    Record flooding occurred in Fargo during 2009, when waters reached a level of 40.84 feet on March 28th. The 2009 flood was the fourth highest on record at Grand Forks, N.D., with a level of 49.33 feet on April 1st.

    The most recent flood on the Red River occurred during the middle of April in 2011. At Grand Forks, waters crested at 49.33 feet. During this flood, the forth highest crest on record occurred at Fargo with a state record of 38.81 feet.

    The record crest at Grand Forks was 54.35 feet during the April 22, 1997, flood. The 1997 flood brought the second highest crest on record at Fargo with 38.72 feet on April 18.

    Other recent significant floods occurred along the Red River in March 2010, April 2006, April 2001, April 1999 and April 1996.

    In addition to the melting snowpack, rain is on the way for the Red River Valley.

    Rain will fall on part of the area later Monday into Tuesday, as a storm system moves into the northern Plains from the Canadian Rockies.

    "Fortunately, not enough rain will fall from this particular system to greatly impact water levels on the Red River," Sosnowski said, "Since the bulk of the snow melt occurred without rainfall, crests on the river are likely to fall short of record levels."

    "However, even with the lack of heavy rainfall, the level on the river will reach major flood stage at many locations, which will send water into unprotected areas," Sosnowski added.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Flooding Continues Across Midwest

     

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    A strong surge of cold air will dive through the Plains early this week, helping to spark a round of severe weather on Wednesday, while bringing more snow to the Denver area.

    This surge of cold air and its associated cold front is currently tracking into western British Columbia.

    The leading edge of the cold air will move into the northern Rockies on Monday, bringing a round of significant wind to central Montana.

    Wind gusts of greater than 65 mph are possible on Monday from Cut Bank to Great Falls and Butte, which can create hazardous travel conditions for drivers of high-profile vehicles.

    The cold air will continue tracking southward into Tuesday, causing temperatures to drop between 15 and 20 degrees across the Dakotas, Wyoming and Minnesota compared to Monday's highs.

    Some rain will accompany this drop in temperatures for areas that don't need it along the Red River Basin. Though average rain amounts Monday afternoon into Monday night or Fargo and Grand Forks will only average 1/4 to 1/2 inch, any additional rain falling will only lead to further rises in the river.

    Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani discusses the acceleration of the Red River flooding due to substantial snow melt.

    More Snow For Denver?

    As AccuWeather.com meteorologist Erik Pindrock stated earlier this weekend, "If everything comes together, the mountains to the west of Denver could receive a foot or more of snow on Wednesday, while the city picks up several inches."

    It begins to get a bit more complicated in Denver where AccuWeather.com meteorologists are forecasting near-record-high temperatures on Monday. The forecasted high of 82 degrees would be just shy of the record of 83 from the year 1948.

    While enjoying the near-record warmth, residents will find it hard to believe that they may need the snow shovel within 48 hours. As residents know, almost anything can happen in Denver during the Spring and the airport actually averages 1.1 inches of snow during the month of May, which makes this snow forecast hardly uncommon.

    In fact, Denver's snowiest May in history occurred in 1898 when 15.5 inches of snow fell. While we aren't expecting anything like that with the Wednesday storm, there can certainly be a couple of inches of accumulation.

    As the surge of cold air continues to dive southward, it will move into Denver and the Front Range, causing temperatures to drop into the 30s by Wednesday morning.

    The cold air combined with an easterly wind flowing up the mountains will lead to the development of the aforementioned snow.

    Severe Weather Threat Farther South?

    While still several days away, the expected clash of cold air against warmer air in the southern Plains could lead to a round of severe weather for several big cities.

    As temperatures drop into the 40s in Wichita on Wednesday, it will still be in the middle 80s in Dallas. That difference in temperature over a short distance screams the potential for severe weather.

    Right now, AccuWeather.com meteorologists are pinpointing a zone from near Oklahoma City, Okla., to Wichita Falls, Abilene, and near Dallas, Texas, for the best chance for severe thunderstorms.

    The timing right now looks like Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday night for the greatest concentration of severe thunderstorms.

    Check back with AccuWeather.com over the coming days as we continue to monitor this volatile weather situation taking aim on the Plains. Head over to the AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Center for the latest watches and warnings.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are

     

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    After many residents from Portland to Boston and NYC enjoyed a beautiful-weather weekend, in the back of their minds some are wondering if the nice weather is here to stay. Perhaps, are there any big cool downs on the way? AccuWeather.com long range meteorologist Mark Paquette shares his prediction for the upcoming weeks.

    With 70-degree temperatures being found from NYC to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. this past weekend, residents will continue to gear up for barbecues and outdoor activities over the coming months.

    However, AccuWeather.com long range meteorologist Mark Paquette warns that a cooler, moist and damp pattern will set up multiple times over the next month.

    In fact, Paquette is seeing signs that any warm weather the first part of May could be concentrated over parts of Canada rather than the eastern U.S.

    After the weekend warmth across the East, the weather will cool off early next week as a storm approaches from the west.

    Monday and Tuesday look to be damp, dreary, cloudy and cool with rain and drizzle at times from New York City through Washington D.C., Richmond, Va. and Raleigh, N.C.

    Clouds and a few showers could even linger into Wednesday.

    Paquette states that "temperatures should come up a few degrees next Thursday and Friday across the East, but another storm system approaching from the West will bring a quick end to any warmth."

    An upper level storm is forecasted to develop over the Plains or Mississippi River Valley later next week. Residents underneath this cold pool will experience cloudy, cool and rainy conditions with temperatures well below normal for this time of year.

    This upper storm will move into the East by next weekend and the early part of the first full week of May, leading to cool and wet conditions for millions.

    "The moral of the story is that we don't forsee any extended warmth across the East over the coming weeks. In fact, our forecast tools are showing that this cool and moist pattern across much of the East through at least the third week of May," stated Paquette.

    Paquette did warn that "there is always the danger of an upper-level storm taking a different track. For instance, if it were to move into the Southeast states, then New England and the mid-Atlantic could turn out nice. So there are certainly a lot of factors to keep an eye on over the coming weeks, but one thing we don't see is extended warmth."

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    Virgin Galactic's private SpaceShipTwo spacecraft sits on the tarmac at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

    MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) - A spaceship bankrolled by British tycoon Sir Richard Branson made its first powered flight Monday in a test that moves Virgin Galactic toward its goal of flying into space later this year.

    While SpaceShipTwo did not break out of the atmosphere during the test flight, it marked a significant milestone for Virgin Galactic, which intends to take passengers on suborbital joyrides.

    During the early morning flight, SpaceShipTwo, strapped beneath a twin-fuselage jet, took off from an airport runway in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. The jet released SpaceShipTwo, which ignited its engine for 16 seconds, then glided to a safe landing.

    Until now, SpaceShipTwo has only performed unpowered glide flights. Several powered flights are planned this summer, culminating with a dash into space targeted toward the end of the year.

    SpaceShipTwo is the commercial version of SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first private manned rocket to reach space. Since the historic flight, more than 500 aspiring space tourists have paid $200,000 or plunked down deposits, patiently waiting for a chance to float in weightlessness and view the Earth's curvature from 62 miles up.

    Branson initially predicted commercial flights would begin in 2007, but a deadly explosion during ground testing and longer-than-expected test flights pushed the deadline back.

    No date has been set for the first commercial flight from a custom-designed spaceport in New Mexico, but Virgin Galactic executives have said it will come after testing is complete and it secures approval from the government. Branson previously said the maiden passenger flight will carry his family.

     

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    Monday, April 29, 2013

    This might look like a red rose, but it's actually a false-color image of the eye of the hurricane swirling over Saturn's north pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

    NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sent back stunning new images of a powerful hurricane swirling over Saturn's north pole.

    Experts say the hurricane is packing 330 mph winds and has an eye extending some 1,250 miles across, which makes the storm about 20 times larger than a typical hurricane on Earth. Scientists believe the storm has been active for years.

    The images, two of which are false-color, represent some of the first sunlit images taken by Cassini of the planet's north pole.

    Interestingly, unlike hurricanes on Earth, this storm isn't churning over water.

    "We did a double take when we saw this vortex because it looks so much like a hurricane on Earth," said Cassini imaging team member Andrew Ingersoll. "But there it is at Saturn, on a much larger scale, and it is somehow getting by on the small amounts of water vapor in Saturn's hydrogen atmosphere."

    Scientists plan to study the storm to gain insight into how hurricanes work on Earth.


    False-color image of hurricane swirling over Saturn's north pole. The eye of the storm is in red. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)


    Color image of the hurricane churning over Saturn's north pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

    This video offers more insight into the new photos:

     

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    The Red River flows over a traffic sign on the north side of Fargo, N.D., on Monday, April 29, 2013, on its way to an expected crest of about 17 feet over flood stage. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)

    FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Preparations for a major Red River flood may be all for naught.

    The National Weather Service on Monday lowered the expected crest forecast in Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., to 35.5 feet on Wednesday. That's down from the 37-foot prediction issued Sunday.

    A 35.5-foot crest would be the ninth-highest, but would cause little damage after recent efforts to build permanent levees and buy out homes in low-lying areas.

    Residents have spent the last week building clay levees and sandbag dikes to protect Fargo to 40 feet after an earlier weather service prediction took into account the possibility of rapid snowmelt and steady precipitation. Instead, forecasters say the conditions are ideal for a gradual melt cycle.

    The river topped the 30-foot mark Sunday night.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Flooding Continues Across Midwest

     

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    Strawberry Swamp at Hobcaw Barony just outside Georgetown, S.C., is seen in this April 12, 2013, photograph. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

    GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) - Living in a coastal town or city with seawalls and docks on the waterfront, it can be difficult to notice the sea level rise by increments each year. But effects of higher sea level are very clear down a winding dirt road in Georgetown County where acres of what was once a forested wetland have morphed into a salt marsh of dead trees jutting toward the sky.

    "When you go into the field, you really see a lot of trees dying. That's the first thing that catches your eye," said Alex Chow, who teaches biosystems engineering at Clemson University's Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science located at Hobcaw Barony, a 17,500-acre wildlife refuge northeast of Georgetown.

    Chow and two other colleagues at the institute used aerial photos to map how the salt water has advanced into freshwater Strawberry Swamp from nearby Winyah Bay.

    Their study found that over the past six decades, the amount of salt marsh in the area has increased from about 4 acres to more than 16 acres. The study was published in December in "Wetland Science and Practice," the quarterly journal of the international Society of Wetland Scientists.

    "Over long periods - and what we looked at is over 60 years - the maritime forest retreats at approximately the same rate sea level rises," said Tom Williams, a professor emeritus of forestry and natural resources who is a co-author.

    He's not ready to say the all the change over six decades is the work of global warming.

    "Sea level rises and falls based on earthquakes and changes in a great number of things. I'm not the expert to say how much sea level rise in the last 20 years is climate change and how much is other things," he said.

    Bo Song, and assistant professor of forestry and natural resources also contributed to the study.

    The study notes that along the state's north coast, the sea level rise has average 3 to 4 millimeters a year during the past century or so.

    William Conner, a professor of forestry and natural resources at the institute, said that what is happening in Strawberry Swamp is similar to what is happening throughout the Southeast where the shorelines tend to be flattened. The dead trees along the Cape Fear River in Wilmington are an example, he said. In areas where rivers are dredged for shipping, it also makes it easier for salt water to impinge on freshwater areas.

    "It's been a little more dramatic in recent years," he said.

    "Based on the calculations in this study, you can see it's happening much faster in the past two decades," Chow said.

    In natural areas sea level rise will mean a lost habitat for animals and birds that inhabit freshwater swamps. Salt marshes are also an abundant area for various species. But it can take years for the salt marshes created out of other land to become productive as a spawning ground for shrimp and other creatures.

    "I call it a degraded swamp," Chow said. "It will take some time for that to happen."

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

     

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    This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of Comet ISON was taken on April 10, 2013, when the comet was slightly closer than Jupiter's orbit at a distance of 386 million miles from the sun. (NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team)

    An incoming comet that may well turn out to be the "comet of the century" could create an unusual kind of meteor shower, scientists say.

    When Comet ISON passes by the Earth this year, it is possible that the dust sloughed off by the comet's tail will create an odd meteor shower when the planet passes through the stream of tiny particles that once were a part of the comet's tail.

    "Instead of burning up in a flash of light, they [the particles] will drift gently down to the Earth below," University of Western Ontario meteor scientist Paul Wiegert said in a statement. [See Photos of Comet ISON]

    The specks of dust will be travelling at a speed of 125,000 mph (201,168 km/h), but once they hit the Earth's atmosphere, they will slow to a halt, according to Wiegert's computer models.

    Because of this, observers on the ground probably won't be able to see the meteors as they fall through the atmosphere in January 2014, Wiegert added.

    "Don't expect to notice," NASA officials said of the shower in a press release. "The invisible rain of comet dust, if it occurs, would be very slow. It can take months or even years for fine dust to settle out of the high atmosphere."

    All hope for a brilliant show might not be lost, however. The dust from ISON could create "noctilucent clouds" - icy night-shining clouds above the Earth's poles that glow blue.

    "Electric-blue ripples over Earth's polar regions might be the only visible sign that a shower is underway," NASA officials said.

    ISON is on a course through the solar system, on its way toward the sun. At its closest pass, the comet will be within 730,000 miles (nearly 1.2 million kilometers) of the solar surface on Nov. 28.

    NASA's Swift spacecraft caught sight of the speeding comet in January when the ball of ice and dirt was discharging more than 112,000 pounds (50,802 kilograms) of dust every minute as it passed Jupiter. Wiegert made his calculations by using that data to understand where the dust might end up on Earth's orbit.

    It's possible that the comet will fizzle out before becoming visible from the Earth, burning up in the intense heat of the sun, or the heat from the star could make the comet shine even more brightly.

    Predicting the comet's behavior is particularly difficult because astronomers believe that this is the first time ISON has made it into the inner solar system from the Oort cloud - a distant mass of icy bodies that encircles the solar system.

    NASA is in the midst of a Comet ISON Observing Campaign. The space agency's initiative coordinates observatories in space and on the ground to track the comet as it makes its way toward the Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope and Swift are both part of this effort.

    ISON's official name is C/2012 S1 (ISON) and was discovered in September 2012 by amateur astronomers Artyom Novichonok and Vitali Nevski.

    Follow Miriam Kramer on Twitter and Google+. Follow us on Twitter, 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.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Examining the Japanese skiff that washed up near Crescent City, Calif., on April 7, 2013. This is the first verified item from the Japan tsunami to appear in California. (Redwood Coast Tsunami Working Group)

    A small skiff recently washed ashore near Crescent City, Calif. But this was no ordinary ship - it floated there all the way from Japan, dislodged from its native land more than 25 months ago by a monster tsunami, government scientists have confirmed.

    It's the first confirmed piece of debris to wash up in the state of California from the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    The Coast Guard and local sheriff's office removed the ship after it was spotted, and staff at Humboldt State University in northwestern California helped translate the Japanese writing on the boat. Officials then traced the boat to Takata High School, located in Japan's Iwate prefecture, an area devastated by the tsunami, NOAA reported.

    The 20-foot skiff was covered in gooseneck barnacles, a common type of filter feeder that makes itself at home on stuff that floats in the open ocean. It wasn't immediately clear whether this boat carried invasive species, which had been seen with other pieces of Japanese tsunami debris that have washed up on the West Coast.

    One ship that recently washed onto the shore in Long Beach, Wash., for example, contained an estimated 30 to 50 species of plants and animals, including potential invasive species. In a sealed compartment in the back of that ship, scientists found five live striped beakfish - "a species native to coral reefs mainly in Japanese waters [and] sometimes found in Hawaii, but certainly not in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest coast," NOAA reported.

    To date, 26 other pieces of Japanese debris have washed up in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska and British Columbia.

    The tsunami dragged some 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, according to Japanese government estimates. Much of it likely sunk shortly thereafter, but about 1.5 million tons floated away from Japan's coast, and this tsunami debris is still washing up far afield.

    Email Douglas Main or follow him @Douglas_Main. Follow us @OAPlanet, Facebook or Google+. Original article on LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

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


    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    Another blast of cold air will charge southward across the Plains this week, which will lead to more spring snow for Denver.

    Denver had a high of 80 degrees, just 3 degrees shy of the 1948 record high for the date, on Monday. Temperatures will plummet behind a potent cold front Tuesday night into Wednesday.

    The return of cold air, the right wind direction and a storm tracking just to the south will set up a snow situation for the Denver area late Tuesday into Wednesday.

    Enough snow can fall to make for slushy and difficult travel conditions along stretches of I-25, I-70 and I-80 in the region. However, there is the potential for enough snow to fall to shut down some sections of these highways.

    Temperatures will fall into 30s across the Denver area by early Wednesday morning. The cold air combined with an east wind flowing up the mountains will allow 3-6 inches of snow to fall in the city.

    "If everything comes together, the mountains to the west of Denver could receive a foot or more of snow on Wednesday," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Erik Pindrock said. "Denver averages about 1.3 inches of snow during the month of May, which means that snowfall this time of year isn't rare."

    RELATED:
    Snow, Sharp Cold to Reach Plains by Midweek
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    Severe Storm Risk Kansas to Wisconsin Through Tuesday


    A foot of snow could also fall well away from the mountains and foothills in the region. Just like snow is no stranger to Denver in May, often it will warm up quite a bit ahead of most snowstorms throughout the fall, winter and spring.

    Other cities in the region that will receive snow include Cheyenne and Casper, Wyo., Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colo., and North Platte and Scottsbluff, Neb.

    Possible Snowstorm for Omaha, Other Cities on the Plains

    As the storm rolls out from the Rockies, it may continue to produce a swath of heavy snow from portions of eastern Nebraska to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan. If all the right pieces were to fall into place, some communities over the central Plains that rarely get a foot of snow from a storm in January, may be digging out from a foot of snow by the end of the week.

    While such a storm is more common in Denver and the High Plains, such an event is increasingly more rare farther east and over lower elevations in the region. The storm would be hitting these areas on May 2 and 3.

    AccuWeather.com will continue to provide updates on the snowstorm, return of cold air to the Plains and any severe weather and flooding consequences farther to the east in the Central states.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are

     

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    More rain is in the forecast for later this week in parts of the Midwest that have been hit by flooding recently.

    A slow-moving storm will take shape over the Plains during the second half of the week. The circulation around that storm will draw some moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico.

    States at risk for enough rain to cause flash and urban flooding problems spanning Wednesday to Saturday include Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arkansas and Tennessee.

    While part of the region has had a few days of rain-free weather, enough rain could fall over a several-day stretch to bring renewed poor drainage area and small stream flooding. There is also the potential for new rises on rivers that have crested or are receding during the first part of this week, including the Illinois, Wabash and upper Mississippi rivers.

    Most of the rain later this week is projected to fall south of the Red River of the North Basin. However, flooding from melting snow has already set that river on a path for moderate to major flooding.

    RELATED:
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    Flood Watches and Warnings
    Severe Storm Risk Kansas to Wisconsin Through Tuesday


    Most stream and river systems in the area would be able to handle between 2 and 4 inches of rain spread over as many days. However, there is the potential for this sort of rainfall in less than half this time in some locations.

    Snowstorm potential: If all the right pieces were to fall into place, some communities over the central Plains that rarely get a foot of snow from a storm in January may be digging out from a foot of snow by the end of the week.

    While such a storm is more common in Denver and the High Plains, such an event is increasingly more rare farther east and over lower elevations in the region. The storm would be hitting some areas from eastern Nebraska to northwestern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin on May 2 and 3.

    AccuWeather.com will continue to provide updates on the snowstorm, the return of cold air to the Plains and any severe weather and flooding consequences farther east in the Central states.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Flooding Continues Across Midwest

     

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    With temperatures in Minnesota soaring near 80 degrees, it may have felt like spring this week, but it sure didn't look like like it. Recent late season snowfalls combined with dramatic temperature swings have created some unusual weather conditions, like ice needles forming on Medicine Lake, seen in this video submitted to local news station KARE.

    Spiky needles of ice can be seen spewing out of the lake, a phenomenon that occurs when warm winds blow sheets of thin ice on the lake toward the shoreline, causing the ice to splinter into millions of ice needles, according to KARE's weather report.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Captivating Photos of Snowflakes

     

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    (AP Photo)

    Superstorm Sandy released 11 billion gallons of sewage from East Coast treatment plants into bodies of water from Washington, D.C., to Connecticut, according to a report released Tuesday by a science journalism group.

    Princeton, N.J.-based Climate Central said that future sewage leaks are a major risk because rising sea levels can make coastal flooding more severe.

    The group, which compiled data from state agencies and treatment plant operators, did not look at the specific environmental or public health impact of the sewage overflows after Sandy, which struck in late October. But it said that bacteria in sewage can spread water-borne illnesses and have a particularly bad effect on shellfish.

    In New Jersey, officials spent months monitoring shellfish beds for contamination and reopened the last of them in mid-April, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

    The collective overflows - almost all in New York and New Jersey and due to storm surges - would be enough to cover New York City's Central Park with a pile of sewage 41 feet high, Climate Central said.

    About one-third of the sewage was not treated at all and the rest was not completely treated.

    The group said the estimated cost of repairing damage to sewage treatment plants after Sandy is nearly $2 billion in New York and $2.7 billion in New Jersey.

    Alyson Kenward, the lead author of the report, said that treatment facilities should raise power generators and other critical components to minimize future overflows. She also said separating sewage lines from storm water overflow pipes can also help, though that's an expensive undertaking.

    "These facilities do by design have to be relatively close to the water," she said. "They are always going to be vulnerable to coastal flooding."

    Kenward said quick work of treatment plants saved billions more gallons of untreated sewage from entering waterways.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    AccuWeather issues a summer outlook for the U.S. every year, focusing on the major highlights of the season.

    Most areas from the Mississippi Valley to the mid-Atlantic coast will have more days with rain and near-normal temperatures this summer, while heat and drought build over much of the West.

    Many areas in the Eastern states will have good growing conditions with lower cooling bills for the Midwest. Lower temperatures in much of the Mississippi Valley and the east should result in a lower-than-average number of tornadoes for the year. The weather conditions in the West will be ripe for wildfires and a lack of water could become a serious concern for agriculture and some communities.

    Weather Pattern in Brief
    An atmospheric road block will allow a southward dip in the jet stream centered over the eastern half of the nation and a compensating northward bulge in the jet in the western half during much of the summer. (The jet stream is a ribbon of strong winds high in the atmosphere that guides weather systems along. During the summer it often marks the dividing line between hot air and relatively cooler air).

    Conditions will change over time in parts of the nation.

    Below are some of the highlights of the summer grouped into weather regimes.

    Abundant Sunshine for New England, New York State
    During the first part of the summer, a path frequently taken by thunderstorms is likely to set up from the Great Lakes to the lower mid-Atlantic. This will leave a zone of largely storm-free conditions and warmth by way of plentiful sunny days farther north.

    The warmest and driest part of the summer from upstate New York to interior New England is likely to be June into part of July.

    According to Paul Pastelok, head of the AccuWeather.com Long Range Forecast Department, "This will not finish as a top-ten summer for heat in the Northeast, but there can be a few episodes of heat."

    In the end, temperatures are expected to average only slightly above normal for the three-month period spanning June, July and August.

    During the second half of the summer, the pattern will begin to change. Moisture from the Gulf and the Atlantic are likely to come into play allowing two things. One would be more liberally spread shower and thunderstorm activity, which would limit temperature extremes. The second would open the door for impact from one or more tropical systems.

    AccuWeather.com will release its 2013 Hurricane Season Forecast on May 15.

    Frequent Rain from the Great Lakes to the South
    With the exception of the Florida Peninsula, no widespread areas of drought are anticipated from the Upper Midwest to the South, including the lower part of the mid-Atlantic.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists expect a higher frequency of showers and thunderstorms from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to Louisiana, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which in turn will keep seasonal temperature averages close to normal, rather than much above normal.

    Crops in most areas should have plenty of moisture, but in some cases conditions could be less than ideal due to persistent wetness. Flooding problems that developed in part of the area during the spring could continue or expand to new locations into the first part of the summer. Parts of the middle-Atlantic coast that were teetering on abnormally dry conditions from the spring are likely to trend wetter.

    A prevailing northwest flow associated with the jet stream will raise the risk of complexes of severe thunderstorms. Sometimes these will swing from the Upper Midwest to the mid-Atlantic and other occasions the complexes could turn more toward the Ohio and Tennessee valleys and into the Deep South. The greatest threats would be from damaging wind gusts, hail and flash flooding.

    A slight pattern change is likely later in the season. Somewhat less frequent rainfall is likely during the second half of the summer over the Midwest, but not to the point of returning widespread drought.

    Rainfall during part of the spring over the Florida Peninsula will only help in the very short-term. Until the pattern shifts a bit later on, drought conditions continuing over the Peninsula will result in an elevated brush fire threat and concerns for agriculture ranging from citrus crops and vegetables to livestock grazing lands through much of June.

    In the Southern states, it is possible the northwest flow of air could be disrupted long enough during the first part of the summer for impact from a tropical system.

    Later in the summer, the frequency of storms from the northwest will diminish with a more typical flow of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic setting up over the South. Not only would this bring rainfall to the Florida Peninsula and continue thunderstorm activity in the South in general, but it would increase the chance for direct impact from one or more tropical systems from the central Gulf Coast through the Atlantic Coast.

    Drought Worsens, Expands in the West
    As much of the eastern half of the nation has cooler and wetter conditions relative to last summer, the West will bear the brunt of this summer's drought and heat.

    "The core of drought and heat will build west of the Continental Divide to California during the first part of the summer, then will expand northward as the season progresses," Pastelok said.

    A lack of snowfall this past winter and a lack of rain this summer, could lead to serious water resource problems.

    While drought, heat and wildfire issues are expected to be far-reaching in the West as the summer progresses, the heavily populated and major agricultural state of California could be at the center of drought-related issues ranging from water problems to wildfires. Some water for agriculture use was already being cut back to start the spring.

    The monsoon is forecast to become active from West Texas to the California and southern Nevada deserts beginning during the middle and latter part of the summer. However, farther north, the moisture supply will be very limited.

    Many of the thunderstorms will have little or no rainfall, especially farther away from the flow of tropical moisture from Mexico. When combined with the expected heat and dryness, an above-average wildfire season is likely. Fires could be just as much of a problem in Washington, Idaho and Montana as they are in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

    "The Northwest will trend drier and warmer much faster, when compared to last summer," Pastelok said.

    Great Plains, Texas Caught in the Middle
    A very challenging area to forecast for this summer is the swath from Texas to North Dakota.

    Late-winter and early spring storms have delivered moisture from the northern and central Rockies to part of the southern Plains.

    Early this summer, like an echoing effect from the spring, rounds of showers and thunderstorms are projected to be more frequent than last summer from the Dakotas to eastern parts of the southern Plains and perhaps part of northeastern Texas.

    However, heat and dryness could build eastward later in the summer throughout the Plains.

    "If there is going to be impact in Texas from a tropical system during June, July and August, it would probably be June rather than August," Pastelok said.

    A large area of high pressure is likely to get so strong in the West that its influence would tend to keep tropical systems away from the northwestern shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

    The weather patterns suggested in this article represent a greatly simplified version of what is expected to unfold. Effects at the local level are beyond the scope of this analysis. Regional and sub-regional impact stories will follow on AccuWeather.com.

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