The sky’s falling? All anyone knows is, it’s ice

23/ 10/ 2009 en 7:54 | Publicado en Casuística, Hielo azul | Comentarios desactivados en The sky’s falling? All anyone knows is, it’s ice

Union Leader Correspondent

BETHLEHEM – Friday was one of those nice fall days — clear and sunny, with a cloud or two poking around the sky.

It was a good day for yard work and that’s what Brad Chapman and groundskeeper Trevor Houston were doing, down by the stone wall, just before 12:30 p.m.

“All of a sudden, we heard a whoosh — it was like a two-second whoosh — and it was kind of eerie,” Chapman said. “And then we heard a thump and we looked around and saw this ball of ice, 30, 40 feet away, tops.” Goodness, gracious.

“It was eerie, that whoosh,” said Chapman, innkeeper at Adair Country Inn. “I looked around to see if someone was throwing snowballs — that was my first thought. And then I thought, ‘That’s a big snowball.'”

Ice chunk

This photo was snapped a few minutes after a chunk of ice crashed into the ground a few feet from the Adair Country Inn in Bethlehem. (COURTESY)

The chunk of ice, which was mostly a grayish white with a tinge of pale pink, burrowed a couple of inches into the ground and smashed into pieces. The ones that didn’t break up were about the size of a fist and Chapman gathered them into a bowl, put it in the freezer and began pondering what it was.

A search of the sky found four contrails from passing jets above.

“Those were really high,” he said.

A search of the Internet found that other people have reported chunks of ice falling out of the sky, notably in Oakland, Calif., in 2006 and in Dubuque, Iowa, in 2007. Blue ice, it was noted, was likely disinfectant from an airplane’s waste system.

Chapman, his wife, Ilja, and inn owner Nick Young were intrigued by online discussions about megacryometeors, described as the phenomena of ice falling from the sky.

But several meteorologists, who examined e-mail photos of the ice over the weekend, said the chunk was likely from a passing airplane.

James Koermer, professor of meteorology at Plymouth State University, said a check of radar maps Friday “were not showing anything in the area,” nor was there any significant weather or cloud cover.

“The chunks also do not have any of the characteristics of natural hail and there were no storms in the area to produce hail,” he said. “I also checked for aircraft icing reports and there was some light rime icing reported in the Northeast, but nothing significant was mentioned. I would think that a pilot with an ice buildup this large would have noticed and reported it, but I can’t totally rule out that possibility.”

The ice chunks were intriguing to Mount Washington Observatory meteorologist Brian Clark, who was on duty this weekend.

“A plane seems very unlikely, mostly because that amount of ice on a plane would likely be detrimental to its ability to keep, well, flying,” he said. “Ice forming on planes is a very bad thing and that’s why planes often get deiced with a special fluid before takeoff in the winter time.”

Rime ice, or frozen fog, is a constant on Mount Washington and Clark said that with its color and texture, it didn’t look like what they see on the summit.

“It doesn’t look like any ice that I’ve ever seen in general, which makes me wonder if it’s actually water ice,” he said. “It has a very strange crystalline structure and texture for water ice, and the color is puzzling to me as well. If it is water ice, it is likely mixed with other substances.”

He suggested melting some of the pieces to see what the liquid looks, and smells, like.

State climatologist Mary Stampone said she doubts the ice was meteorological.

“It definitely was not hail, and I cannot think of anything else that weather-wise that would produce large chunks of ice to fall from the sky, especially something of that size and consistency,” she said.

For now, the ice chunks are in the inn’s freezer, available to anyone who wants to study it. Young placed a call late Friday to the Federal Aviation Administration, waiting to leave a message at the prompt for “strange occurrences.” He had not heard back from the agency this weekend.

“I figured they might want to know if that size of a chunk of ice came off an airplane,” he said.

The Chapmans are thankful, given how close it came to the inn and to where Brad Chapman was working, that it landed harmlessly.

“Out of the 30 acres we have here, it hit there,” Ilja Chapman said.



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