Geoengineering: a bad idea whose time may come

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:46 PM GMT on December 19, 2008

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Yesterday, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), climate change scientists discussed the risks and benefits of deliberately altering Earth's climate through "geoengineering". One measure of the concern scientists have about Earth's climate could be gauged by the standing-room only crowd of 200 that packed the presentation room. The eleven speakers at the session laid out some radical and dangerous ideas for deliberately altering Earth's climate. They uniformly cautioned that the uncertainties and dangers of implementing any of these schemes was high, but that geoengineering may be necessary if efforts to control greenhouse gases fail and the climate begins to undergo rapid and destructive changes.

David Keith presented the results of a week-long workshop held earlier this year that brought together ten of the world's experts on geoengineering. He emphasized that even if we stopped emitting CO2 today, the possibility of dangerous climate change capable of causing a "climate emergency" may still be higher than 1%, thanks to the tremendous inertia of the heat stored in the oceans. Of course, we're not going to stop emitting CO2 today. Dealing with a future climate emergency is technically feasible, if we inject large quantities of sulfur into the tropical stratosphere via aircraft, artillery, or tethered balloons with hoses. Sulfur injection into the stratosphere is considered to be the leading candidate for geoengineering, since nature has done this many times via volcanic eruptions, and we have some idea of what to expect. As I reported in a blog post earlier this year, the idea is being championed by Nobel prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen.

One problem with injecting sulfur into the stratosphere is that it tends to settle back to the surface in about ten months. A. V. Eliseev explained that in order to keep global temperatures under control in a world with ever-increasing CO2 emissions, we would have to inject an ever increasing amount of sulfur into the atmosphere. His computer model results showed that if a funding lapse occurred in, say, the year 2075, the atmosphere would rapidly warm by 5-9°F (3-5°C) over most of North America, Europe, and Asia, within a decade of cessation of the geoengineering efforts. The resulting shock to ecosystems would be extremely dangerous to civilization.

Richard Turco of UCLA estimated that injecting enough sulfur in the stratosphere to properly geoengineer the climate would require 3000 aircraft sorties per day, and cost $50-$100 billion per year. Model results he presented showed a large amount of uncertainty as to what might happen, and he cautioned that there was "no guarantee of success, and failure would be catastrophic".

A. Robrock of Rutgers disagreed with Dr. Turco, and estimated that the cost of injecting the required amount of sulfur into the stratosphere would by less that $5 billion per year, provided the U.S. military would let scientists use 167 of the existing fleet of 522 F15C Eagle jets to do the job. After all, he reasoned, why wouldn't the military want to use their aircraft to confront our enemy (global warming?) High-altitude fighter jets would be required to do the job, since ordinary jetliners cannot fly high enough to penetrate into the stratosphere. He cautioned that such a fleet of aircraft would have to fly three missions per day, and their exhaust gases would probably cause significant destruction of Earth's protective ozone layer. Furthermore, modeling studies show that we don't know what size particles to make, where to put the sulfur, and what uneven effects the efforts might have on Earth's climate. He concluded, "there are many reasons not to do geoengineering".

A more ecological approach to geoengineering was presented by Phil Rasch of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and by Jim Haywood of Britain's Met Office Hadley Center. They proposed building a fleet of wind-powered ships known as Fletter vessels (Figure 1) that would spray large amounts of sea salt into the air in regions where there are existing stratocumulus clouds. The sea salt would act as nuclei around which moisture could condense, making the clouds more reflective. A fleet of approximately 66 of these vessels would be required to seed the clouds over 30% of the globe, to balance a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, they cautioned that while this solution would be relatively cheap, the technology to implement this scheme would be difficult. Furthermore, studies performed with climate models showed that the resulting climate shift would not be uniform, and many areas would experience drought. In particular, Dr. Haywood showed the possibility of severe drought in the Amazon rain forest and in the Southwest U.S.


Figure 1. A conceptual picture of Flettner spray vessel with Thom fences. These wind-driven vessels have vertical spinning cylinders that use the Magnus effect to produce forces perpendicular to the wind direction. Anton Flettner built a ship using this technology that crossed the Atlantic in 1926. The proposed geoengineering Flettner vessels would sail over ocean regions covered with stratocumulus clouds and make the existing clouds whiter by spraying small salt particles into the air. Image is copyright J. MacNeill 2006. For more information on these vessels, see Salter at al., 2008, "Sea-going hardware for the cloud albedo method of reversing global warming", Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A, 366, Number 1882, pp3989-4006, 13 November 2008.

Katharine Ricke of Carnagie Mellon University cautioned that the foreign policy community has virtually no awareness of geoengineering issues, and would be totally unprepared for the possibility of some country deciding to unilaterally attempt a geoengineering program on their own. She suggested that an effort needs to be made to promote international agreements on geoengineering, perhaps including binding treaties.

Jeff Masters

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Mornin' Vort. How's things on your side of the pond?
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting Cotillion:
Is it safe to come out yet? ;p


Come on out..looks like everyone is tired out!!!

Here in Wilmington NC it is 60F with a forecast of rain showers!
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Is it safe to come out yet? ;p
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
278. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Outlook
Western Australia 110E 125E
2:00 pm WDT December 20 2008
===========================================

A cyclone advice is current for Tropical Cyclone Billy, located over the north Kimberley, outside the region. It is expected to move off the northwest Kimberley coast into the region on Sunday or Monday and then re-develop into a tropical cyclone.

Please refer to the latest cyclone advice.

Tropical Cyclone Formation Potential
====================================
Sunday: Moderate
Monday: High
Tuesday: High

Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 46175
277. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Darwin Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number TWENTY-ONE
EX-TROPICAL CYCLONE BILLY
5:00 PM ACST December 20 2008
=====================================

At 3:30 pm CST, Ex-Tropical Cyclone Billy [998 hPa] located at 15.1S 127.3E or 100 kms west northwest of Wyndham and 175 kms east southeast of Mitchell Plateau has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving west southwest at 6 knots.

TROPICAL CYCLONE Billy has weakened into a Tropical Low. Winds near the centre have eased below gale force. The Tropical Low is expected to cross the north Kimberley region and move off the west Kimberley coast early Monday. A TROPICAL CYCLONE may redevelop later on Monday causing GALES between KALUMBURU and COCKATOO ISLAND.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
==================================
A Cyclone WARNING continues for Kalumburu to Mitchell Plateau and has been declared for coastal and island areas from Mitchell Plateau to Cockatoo Island.

A Cyclone WATCH is now current for coastal and island areas from Broome to Cockatoo Island.

The Cyclone WARNING from Mitchell Plateau to WA/NT Border has been cancelled.

Tropical Cyclone Technical Bulletin - FINAL (reason below tropical cyclone status)
==================================
12 HRS: 15.5S 126.2E - 25 knots (TROPICAL LOW)
24 HRS: 15.5S 125.1E - 30 knots (TROPICAL LOW)
48 HRS: 15.8S 123.2E - 40 knots (CAT 1)
72 HRS: 16.9S 120.9E - 55 knots (CAT 2)

REMARKS:
Tropical Cyclone 'Billy' has weakened into a Tropical Low over the north Kimberley. The Tropical Low is moving slowly west southwest, and may cross the west Kimberley coast on Monday, where it may re-develop into a Tropical Cyclone.

Dvorak analysis at 0600 UTC based on PT=2.5.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 46175
When will people stop trying to tame Mother Nature? She has her ways and they are for a reason. It never ceases to amaze me that throughout history man keeps forgetting the lessons of the past. There is never one thing which can be solved without it interacting or reacting to something else. Stop hurricanes or lessen them dramatically and we face worse problems elsewhere.

I'm off to start my own pyramid scheme and live in my 10 million dollar mansion. Call me when the Earth is safe. LOL
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273. KEEPEROFTHEGATE 11:32 PM CST ...thats the funny thing with nature its normally big when it happens

Yeah, but it's a natural thing. It's happened many times through the earth's history. And, man's role has been and still is insignificant comparatively.

ACO2 or whether we were here or not at all even, the Earth would still keep on doing what it's been doing in its cycles and maturation for 1000's of years. Man is just simply along for the ride as long as it lasts.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
Yup, the teacher vid was great.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
Quoting KoritheMan:


I whole-heartedly agree with you on cutting the global population down -- overpopulation is one of the biggest issues in this world today. If we don't kill ourselves first, nature sure as hell will.
thats the funny thing with nature its normally big when it happens
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Is anyone working on harnessing the power of lightning?
#267 Great post...Thanks
message from mother earth ... --- ...

just like you there is only one of me
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#264 Unfortunately you are probably right. Can we do anything to help prevent this is the big question? Will reduction of emissions and other pollutants help slow the inevitable water rise we face? Can we supply enough resources to the world to prevent wars, famine, plagues? After all, these are the primary questions that many scientists ask when laboring over climate change and other similar issues.
School employees surprised with $10,000 bonus
Friday, December 19, 2008...left click to see video....



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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i don't mean everyone kor man but maybe a mass died off as a result of altering weather patterns disruptions in food supplies mass starvation sickness with outbreaks cull down global population to 50 or 100 million these things have happen in the past they will happen into our future it's not a matter of if just when and all we got is time


I whole-heartedly agree with you on cutting the global population down -- overpopulation is one of the biggest issues in this world today. If we don't kill ourselves first, nature sure as hell will.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 597 Comments: 21112
#264
I remember some guy by the name of Jim Jones doing his best to help things along about 20 years ago!!!
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i don't mean everyone kor man but maybe a mass died off as a result of altering weather patterns disruptions in food supplies mass starvation sickness with outbreaks cull down global population to 50 or 100 million these things have happen in the past they will happen into our future it's not a matter of if just when and all we got is time
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
only way to ensure the planets survival is to ensure we don't


lol

QFT :)
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 597 Comments: 21112
262. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Darwin Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number TWENTY
TROPICAL CYCLONE BILLY
2:00 PM ACST December 20 2008
=====================================

Immediate Tropical Cyclone Advice

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal and island areas from Mitchell Plateau to WA/NT Border.

A Cyclone WATCH is current for coastal and island areas from Beagle Bay to Mitchell Plateau, NOT including Derby.

At 12:30 pm CST, Tropical Cyclone Billy, Category One [992 hPa] located at 15.0S 127.6E or 75 kilometres northwest of Wyndham and 205 kilometres east of Mitchell Plateau has 10 minute sustained winds of 40 knots with gusts of 55 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west-southwest at 4 knots.

GALES with gusts to 100 kilometres per hour currently being experienced between KALUMBURU to the NT/WA BORDER are expected to persist for the next few hours then GRADUALLY EASE.

The cyclone is expected to weaken into a Tropical Low this afternoon as it continues to move inland, but may redevelop into a Tropical Cyclone on Monday if it moves off the west Kimberley coast, causing gales between KALUMBURU and BEAGLE BAY [NOT including DERBY]
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 46175
only way to ensure the planets survival is to ensure we don't
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Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site
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#257 Do you feel that we should curtail our use of fossil fuel and petroleum products?
I'm sure STL will disagree with it, but if no one did we would have no debate. Without debate we can never truly understand. Question everything is my motto.

Link
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Quoting Skyepony:
TheSheperd~ I could have worded that better. The larger AG areas in FL, our black gold, is mostly very low seas level lands of SFL around Lake O. Much is already protected by dikes & leeves. The east coast citrus sits low too.

I think sea level is where the numbers are one of the scetchiest. The ice wasn't expected to melt so quick. It already looks like the IPCC was wrong on it's 100 year projections they put out last year, as in too low. Unforchanately one of the most important effects is one of the hardest to forecast.


Here is a link for you. It makes me feel better ;-)

Link
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Here's the link

Link
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Quoting surfmom:
Michael - 100 percent agreement in regard to the fuels -- dirty is dirty and we humans are gross with our dirty habits -- any pollution that hurts the web of life should be reevaluated and changed -- we are all interconnected. There are many other energy means -- but Corporatacy and the Banksters have done a fine job curtailing these advances.

Also a small disagree - fossil fuels. According to some, Charles Walters of ACRES USA magazine (along with other scientists) and believes that oil is always being produced - basically hydro carbons under heat and pressure... that would challenge the idea that we are running out. what we do know is using the earth's blood makes her sick... we need another way. I will try and find the science article I read this in.....buried somewhere


I disagree with STL, but I agree with you on the possible Abiogenic petroleum origin.
Call me a conspericy theorist if you would like.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin
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I have created a short blog on Gulf of Mexico Surf(Panhandle region)and surfing in general. Comments welcome.......... aggressive localism not allowed. How might climate change affect the surf in my/your area?

There is no way that its strengthening on land
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251. weatherbro
3:52 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
If the models are correct, Florida's gonna have one heck of a RFW day on tap for Monday as dewpoints could crash into the single digits with a high of around 60 under breezy conditions. Nice and brisky for the holidays though.

As for Christmas, models are as divergent as night and day. A frontal passage is certain(since the pattern is progressive). However, if it will be cold or not is up in the air. Right now I'm leaning towards cold. Hopefully the models will have it all straightened out by morning.
Member Since: May 26, 2007 Posts: 47 Comments: 1362
250. paratomic
3:11 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
We can say that it's arrogant to geoengineer, but if this climate really does unhinge and do what some of the chicken littles say it'll do, geoengineering won't look like such a bad idea.

Besides, it might be that we've been in the process of doing this for almost a century. What if GHGs are pumped into the atmosphere for this explicit reason = to geoengineer. Why? I don't know, but it helps to explain why it's being done on gigantic levels without hesitation. They must know something we don't.
Member Since: September 17, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 182
249. conchygirl
2:33 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
Thanks SJ - now he feels better and I definitely do! One of those Mom's who couldn't stand the sad sound of cying. LOL
Member Since: June 11, 2008 Posts: 24 Comments: 5910
248. conchygirl
2:31 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
Quoting StormJunkie:
Sorry for the interruption...Baby cam for anyone interested!
Pick him up Dad, he is crying and wants love....
Member Since: June 11, 2008 Posts: 24 Comments: 5910
247. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
2:21 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
Darwin Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number NINETEEN
TROPICAL CYCLONE BILLY
11:18 AM ACST December 20 2008
=====================================

At 9:30 am Australia CST, Tropical Cyclone Billy, Category One [990 hPa] located at 14.9S 127.9E or 70 kms north northwest of Wyndham and 235 kms east of Mitchell Plateau has 10 minute sustained winds of 45 knots with gusts of 65 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west at 2 knots.

GALES with gusts to 100 kilometres per hour are currently being experienced between KALUMBURU to the NT/WA BORDER, they are expected to persist for the next 6 hours then GRADUALLY EASE.

The cyclone is expected to weaken into a tropical low later today as it continues to move inland, but may redevelop into a tropical cyclone on Monday if it moves off the west Kimberley coast, causing gales between KALUMBURU and BEAGLE BAY [NOT including DERBY].

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
=================================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal and island areas from Mitchell Plateau to Western Australia/Northern Territory border.

A Cyclone WATCH is current for coastal and island areas from Beagle Bay to Mitchell Plateau, NOT including Derby.

The Cyclone WARNING for coastal and island areas from PORT KEATS to the Western Australia/Northern Territory border has been cancelled.

Tropical Cyclone Technical Bulletin
==================================
12 HRS: 15.0S 127.4E - 30 knots (TROPICAL LOW)
24 HRS: 15.3S 126.6E - 25 knots (TROPICAL LOW)
48 HRS: 15.6S 124.7E - 30 knots (TROPICAL LOW)
72 HRS: 16.5S 121.5E - 50 knots (CAT 2)

Tropical Cyclone 'Billy' has moved slowly W during the past 3-6 hours and is now moving inland over the north Kimberley. Wyndham radar indicates a weakening system, with increasing difficulty locating the LLCC. The central cold cover cloud pattern indicates weakening due to interaction with land

Dvorak analysis at 0000 UTC based on PT=3.0. A consensus of NWP forecasts indicates continued W or WSW movement across the Kimberley region. There is the possibility of redevelopment off the west Kimberley coast after 48 and 72 hours, if the system maintains a generally WSW track.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 46175
246. StormJunkie
2:18 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
Sorry for the interruption...Baby cam for anyone interested!
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
245. barryweather
2:14 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
If my reading serves. No matter what you believe, it seems that we all agree that using these types of technologies will not help us at best, and may be horribly detrimental to the Earth as we know it.
242. barryweather
2:04 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
Back for a minute before I wire nana's X-mas tree to the wall due to my wild 2 year old trying to climb it. Gamma and others who have been attacked and been defending... please don't let people trying to pick fights get you down. Us atheists aren't all bad. I am 29 and work with the extension service in NWFL. My first posts are today's but I have been lurking for a while. Finally had to create an account because we recently got our weather station online at the Santa Rosa County Extension Office.

My primary function is to try to protect the local environment by teaching people on a personal basis how to best manage their use of water, pesticides, and fertilizers. Pangean, it can't change anybody by attacking or insulting them. Most people in here have an interest in helping the world in whatever way they can. Please help us to do this as well. I can tell you are a mentally intelligent person. Gaining an emotional intelligence to go along with it would serve you very well in life. Same goes to others who blatantly disrespect anyones opinions.

If our biased politicians and media outlets could stop purposely trying to polarize us perhaps we wouldn't be having this debates because scientists wouldn't need to think of such outlandish last-straw measures to stop on of the world's most dire possible problems.


240. Skyepony (Mod)
1:42 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
The citrus industry moslty sits along the coast where freezes are later & less if at all. I'm in the heary of Indian River Citrus country in east central FL It goes way beyond sugar. Weather is sweet, most my fruits & veggies are coming from my garden right now. Other than Fay it's been good all year. Everything from Plant City strawberrys to south FL's small seedless watermelon is in right now. Your right about the ag land I describe looking more like condos from above. That's why if we don't pave it over 1st was in there. There was real recent stuff on sea rise out, wish I had more time.

Did notice a blob pulling it together in the east ATL. Looked way worse on the Goes-east, which is still goes 13 (12 broke)


than the met 9.


Looks like the monsoon season not over yet, sorry Trinidad.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 193 Comments: 38688
239. conchygirl
1:33 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
Whoa, just jumped on and see the POOF is necessary for Pangean....no wonder most hang out on RobDaHood's Blog lately - fun there and this stuff doesn't happen.
Member Since: June 11, 2008 Posts: 24 Comments: 5910
238. norcalengineer
1:28 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
God help us when we humans grow such an ego that we start forcibly changing Earth's climate! Regardless of what we think, we are only able to truly study a tiny fraction of the Earth's atmospheric history. We have no business trying to force it one way or another. How do we know the Earth isn't supposed to warm up?
237. moonlightcowboy
1:27 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
I'd venture to speculate that there's been ebb and flow of land mass for millions of years - and likely to continue for many more. The declarative is more contrived in man's significance on the planet than is really actual. It'll all change again and again with or without man's pitiful, and really inconsequential impacts.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
236. theshepherd
1:16 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
Quoting Skyepony:
TheSheperd~ I could have worded that better. The larger AG areas in FL, our black gold, is mostly very low seas level lands of SFL around Lake O. Much is already protected by dikes & leeves. The east coast citrus sits low too.

I think sea level is where the numbers are one of the scetchiest. The ice wasn't expected to melt so quick. It already looks like the IPCC was wrong on it's 100 year projections they put out last year, as in too low. Unforchanately one of the most important effects is one of the hardest to forecast.
Hang there for just a minute sky. Is not the majority of the citrus industry in central Fla? The sugar industry does not describe Florida.
And is not the majority of dollar value of land endangered by rising sea levels located in high dollar coastal developments? Don't get me wrong and LOL, but when I look at the land loss due to 6 feet of mean sea level rise, what I see is "people" more so than ag land.
And no, I have no wish to see people flocking to a paradise which is unsupported by infrastructure be left homeless. But, I have to wonder if ocean side condos are as important in the grand scheme of things as some would have me believe.
I was born and raised in Fla. The fishing capital of the world is only 5 hrs away to the south. In fifty years it becomes 4 1/2 hrs away. I think the perspective of land loss vs "who needs it?" is worth a few beers and a friendly chat.
I may look at this in the AM and wonder, but right about now I'm thinking if you move to the ocean, don't be suprised if **** happens.
LOL
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10139
235. pangean
12:56 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
"And if a frog had wings he wouldn't bump his little waterproof butt every time he landed."

Sorry, but that's just plain gibberish. Any chance you have something intelligible to post? Right now you're just looking like a simple fool.

"Pick on a woman your own size."

Gamma looks plenty big enough to me. You really think that she's afraid of me?
234. pangean
12:48 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
"I have to say, though, that your foolish remark to Gamma was one of the low points on the blog, for a long time."

Why do you call it foolish? I will stand behind it. The bimbo insulted me, and I returned the favor. It obviously comes down to me being the outsider here which puts me in the wrong. BTW, exactly how long did that "ingore" last?
233. Skyepony (Mod)
12:44 AM GMT on December 20, 2008
TheSheperd~ I could have worded that better. The larger AG areas in FL, our black gold, is mostly very low seas level lands of SFL around Lake O. Much is already protected by dikes & leeves. The east coast citrus sits low too.

I think sea level is where the numbers are one of the scetchiest. The ice wasn't expected to melt so quick. It already looks like the IPCC was wrong on it's 100 year projections they put out last year, as in too low. Unforchanately one of the most important effects is one of the hardest to forecast.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 193 Comments: 38688

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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