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Did global warming cause Sandy? Boulder scientist says ‘not entirely’

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DENVER -- Why do we only see storms like Sandy once every couple of decades? Does global warming have anything to do with the Superstorm? Is this a "perfect storm?"

Those were all questions FOX31 meteorologist Jennifer Broome asked Jeff Weber, a scientist and meteorologist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, on Good Day Colorado this morning.

Broome began by the interview by touching on the irregularities of this storm, and Weber explained how Sandy behaved differently than most seen by the East Coast this time of year.

“It’s very common to see these storms brush along the East Coast and then curve back into the Atlantic Ocean,” Weber said. “This time, this storm had nowhere to go because of a big high-pressure system from Canada filled with cold air. It brought everything that was headed east back to the west.

"That sent it crashing into the Jersey Shore."

What amazed Weber the most about Sandy was just how many times it morphed into something different.

“The hurricane got north of the jet stream, started interacting with some very cold air, became extra tropical and went from a hurricane to an extra-tropical cyclone,” Weber said. “It then got extremely large. It’s a truly remarkable storm.”

Hearing that description, Broome referenced the fact that this past Sunday was the anniversary of the “Perfect Storm” of 1991. That cyclone ripped through the East Coast and caused 13 deaths over the course of one week.

Though Sandy is already responsible for 16 deaths over two days, Weber called Sandy short of a “perfect storm.” But by not much.

“All of the elements didn't quite come together the way it would in a truly perfect storm,” Weber said. “But quite a few of them did come together to create this super-strong storm.”

Broome asked if global warming could have been one of those elements. To say that might be a stretch, Weber said.

“We’re going to have to study this for a long time,” Weber said. “Global warming could have factored into this, but there are a lot more factors in play – the atmosphere and ground cover, to name a few.”

Whatever the case, Weber said there is no denying that 2012 is the year of “ wacky weather.”

With that being the case, what does he think Colorado can expect out of this year’s winter?

This will be music to a lot of Colorado ears: Coming out of a summer of drought and wildfires, Weber expects we're about to see slightly more snowfall than normal.

“We do have a slight El Niño out in the Pacific,” Weber said. “The Atlantic is kind of staying blocked. That recipe will make for a favorable snow year for Colorado.”