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How global warming may lessen chance of another superstorm Sandy

Global warming could further lower the likelihood of the atmospheric conditions that last year shoved superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey, a new study says. But stronger storms will worsen with global warming, the study found, and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by the study's computer models.

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Two heavily damaged homes are seen on the beach in Mantoloking, N.J., in February. Man-made global warming may decrease the likelihood of the already unusual steering currents that pushed superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey in a freak 1-in-700 year path, researchers report.

Mel Evans/AP/File

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Man-made global warming may further lessen the likelihood of the freak atmospheric steering currents that last year shoved Superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey, a new study says.

But don't celebrate a rare beneficial climate change prediction just yet. The study's authors said the once-in-700-years path was only one factor in the massive $50 billion killer storm. They said other variables such as sea level rise and stronger storms will worsen with global warming and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by the study's computer models.

"Sandy was an extremely unusual storm in several respects and pretty freaky. And some of those things that make it more freaky may happen less in the future," said Columbia University atmospheric scientist Adam Sobel, co-author of a new study on Sandy. But Sobel quickly added, "There's nothing to get complacent about coming out of this research."

The study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looks at the giant atmospheric steering currents, such as the jet stream. A spate of recent and controversial studies has highlighted unusual kinks and meanders in the jet stream, linking those to extreme weather and loss of sea ice in the Arctic. This new study looks only at the future and sees a lessening of some of that problematic jet stream swerving, clashing with the other studies in a scientific debate that continues.

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