Birkel cited in BDN article on Maine’s chances of getting another ice storm
Sean Birkel, Maine’s state climatologist and a research assistant professor at the University of Maine’s School of Earth and Climate Sciences and Climate Change Institute, spoke with the Bangor Daily News for the article, “Repeat of ice storm of ’98 unlikely, not impossible.” The BDN reported that the ice storm that devastated Maine 20 years ago was caused by an unusual mix of weather conditions, but experts say that, though a repeat is unlikely, it could happen again. No one knows when Maine will experience another fierce ice storm, but global warming is not expected to make such storms less likely, according Birkel. The world’s oceans naturally go through warming and cooling periods, the best-known example of which occurs in the tropical Pacific, the BDN reported. The phenomenon known as El Nino, in which surface waters are warmer than average, irregularly alternates every two to seven years with a cooling period known as La Nina, the article states. In 1997 and 1998, the warmer-than-average El Nino effect was particularly strong, Birkel said. Around the same time, waters in the northern Atlantic Ocean also experienced periodic warming, which suggests that ice storms like the one in 1998 are not incompatible with the warming of the oceans that is caused by climate change, he said.