Reported by Hal Blondell
Comments by gary d. goodwin
Jan. 21, 2000 Spain Ice
Blamed on Weird Weather
Associated Press ; 6:02 p.m. EST MADRID,
Spain Scientists who spent days studying chunks of ice that have been dropping on Spain said Friday that most were practical jokes but some were the result of a freak weather phenomenon miles above the Earth.
Much of Spain has been captivated by the phenomenon, which began Jan. 8 when the first of some 30 projectiles, some the size of basketballs, came crashing down in southern Seville province. Since then, ice chunks have been found all over the country. The enigma grew to acquire front-page status for virtually every newspaper, with varying degrees of tongue-in-cheek coverage. Hypotheses as to the origin of the ice ranged from comets to human urine expelled from airplanes.
At least a preliminary verdict came Friday at a packed news conference led by Jesus Martinez Frias, the head of the group of scientists assembled to come up with an explanation.
While many chunks were most likely planted in the streets by pranksters, Martinez said at least some of the ice pieces had probably been formed through sudden temperature drops in the stratosphere, which begins about seven miles above Earth and extends to about 30 miles.
Martinez said similar cases had been reported in China and Brazil in 1995, with even bigger pieces of ice up to 440 pounds. Still, he called the phenomenon "very unusual." The researchers said that while this was the most likely explanation, they were still unsure and would continue their study.
In previous days, chemists at the University of Valencia had ruled out the possibility the chunks were frozen human waste from airplanes because there was no evidence of microorganisms that would be present in urine.
Still, questions remained. Fernando Lopez, a professor at Madrid's Autonomous University questioned how ice could form in the stratosphere because that layer has very little moisture.
And, he added, once a piece
starts forming, how does it remain suspended long enough to grow to weigh nearly
9 pounds, as some of the Spanish chunks did?
It's nice that others around the world are asking questions too. Could these pieces of ice be the fallout from a comet that recently passed thru the solar system?
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