Wednesday, April 12, 2006

UFOs - U.nlikely F.alling O.bjects Baffle Scientists

altercate
Cold case: Why did the iceman cometh?

Conflicting theories abound to explain chunks such as the one that landed in an Oakland park

By Paul T. Rosynsky
Inside Bay Area

     OAKLAND — Ice falling from the sky might seem unusual, but some Spanish and American scientists say it is becoming a frequent occurrence throughout the world.

Like the estimated 200-plus-pound chunk that fell Saturday on Bushrod Park, clear ice from the sky has been reported around the world. Big and small ice-falls have happened in China, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Scotland, Hungary, England, India and more than half of the United States — often in summer and some recorded before aircraft were invented, scientists say.

And in each case, no one knows why.

"None of us have been able to come up with a process to determine how it is happening," said David Travis, a climatologist at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. "We're really baffled as to what is going on here."

Travis and Madrid-based scientist Jesus Martinez-Frias have studied the phenomenon since at least 2000, when they began scouring the Internet for news stories about the incidents. They found 37 instances in which a large chunk of ice fell from clear skies. Each year, they find more reports of it happening.

The Oakland ice cube was clear and free of debris, ruling out any chance it came from an airplane bathroom, the experts said. But its large size makes it hard to believe the ice is a product of nature.

So conflicting theories abound.

Martinez-Frias speculates it is a natural phenomenon caused by global warming. According to his studies, every time such an incident occurs, it is precipitated by an unusual atmosphere in which higher altitudes are turbulent and cold. The cold helps create the ice. The turbulence helps keep it together in the sky.

As global warming continues to heat the earth, his theory goes, upper atmospheric temperatures become cooler, opening more opportunities for the ice to form. Charles Knight, a leading hail expert at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, told an interviewer in 2002 the "meteorological explanations just don't make sense to me" for creating giant ice balls way up in the dry stratosphere.

"I don't like to claim that anything is absolutely impossible, but this comes awfully close," Knight told Science magazine.

While Travis said he understands the global warming theory, he thinks gravity is too strong to keep that big a piece of ice in the sky.

Instead, Travis believes the ice forms on the underbelly of an airplane, maybe near the landing gear.

More . . .

See Also: "The UFO That Crashed in Bushrod Park Along Shattuck Avenue Turned Out To Be a Giant Chunk of Ice"

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