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The bomb cyclone turned Nantucket waves into Slurpee slush

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, cold weather created a rare phenomenon on the beach in Nantucket, Massachusetts, when last week's bomb cyclone pummeled the East Coast. The NewsHour's Nsikan Akpan explains why some brave souls got a glimpse of waves that moved more like a Slurpee than salt water.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Finally tonight, to a NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you too.

    Last week’s weather phenomenon, called a bomb cyclone, pummelled the American East Coast.

    But as science producer Nsikan Akpan explains, on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts, the cold weather created a magical phenomenon, Slurpee waves.

  • Man:

    Oh, it’s cold.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    Despite the frigid temperatures, the surf was up on January 2 in Nantucket, when photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh caught a special sight, Slurpee waves.

  • Jonathan Nimerfroh:

    A friend of mine me left me a voice-mail saying he was going go surfing and the waves were really good. So I quickly grabbed my camera and drove to the beach. And I pull up and I saw these little frozen waves breaking.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    Because of its saltiness, seawater freezes around 29 degrees Fahrenheit, about three degrees lower than normal water, so when the air gets colder than this point, it can freeze the top most layers of ocean water and tosses slush on to shore.

  • Jonathan Nimerfroh:

    The first time I saw the Slurpee waves was in 2015. And that was just a rare occurrence. The weather was just record-breaking cold for over a week.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    The cool part is, the Slurpee waves behave like an actual Slurpee.

  • Jonathan Nimerfroh:

    Normal waves are just breaking really fast, and they make a distinct sound, like waves crashing along the beach. You can always feel them.

    The Slurpee waves are totally different. They’re just slow-moving and they don’t make any noise at all. They’re just so icy that they just break almost silently.

  • Nsikan Akpan:

    Jonathan said the waves were not only rare, but fleeting. The Slurpee waves lasted about three hours that morning, though he, his wife and his friends only braved the cold for about 60 minutes.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nsikan Akpan.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you, Nsikan.

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