A smaller ice pack off Antarctica means winds blow over more ocean. Meanwhile, tropical air from the north mixing into the developing storm cycle is creating stronger winds, which generate bigger waves.
"When it's winter Down Under, the ice pack [builds] off Antarctica and the wind blowing over the ice will not generate waves. It's like blowing over concrete," explained Sean Collins, the forecasting guru for Surfline.com.
The phenomenon is not that unusual, Collins said. What is unusual is a relative lack of strong westerly winds recently in the Eastern Pacific, enabling a rapid warming of sea surface temperatures. This is expected to result in less coastal fog locally and more hurricanes off Mexico, which should produce more big waves this summer.
"We could have one of those really good years we get every now and then," Collins said.
Forget slinging sacks of grub over a branch. Bears in Yosemite National Park are wily, rangers say, and only bearproof containers can keep their paws out of your dinner.
Last week, the park enlarged the zones where bear canisters are mandatory, including within seven miles of roads instead of four. (For a map:
The park rents canisters for $5 a night; they retail for about $60. Although the canisters are bulky and hinder packing, says Bill Schneider, author of two books about bears and hiking, they're "kind of like seat belts. Some people don't like wearing them, but they save lives."
Ranger Deb Schweizer says the move is a response to more hikers in Yosemite's less-populated areas. Researchers also suspect bears may learn how to swipe chow in the backcountry. The pickpockets then edge closer to the roads and become full-fledged food robbers.
Mile-high skiing times 3
Mexican tourism officials have proposed a ski resort on Mexico's 17,343-foot Iztaccíhuatl volcano. The project, roughly midway between Mexico City and Puebla, would apparently be the world's highest ski resort, served by the world's highest and longest lift.
In an account of the proposal, the Mexican newspaper La Universal reported it would rely heavily on Japanese investors and fall within Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl National Park, requiring many federal permits.
The project involves the construction of a cable car departing from outside the city of Amecameca, about 8,000 feet above sea level, in the state of Mexico. Initial plans call for carrying skiers as far as 11 miles up to the ski slopes.