Space Weather storms

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:40 PM GMT on March 31, 2009

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Twenty years ago this month, on March 13, 1989, I was aboard NOAA's P-3 weather research aircraft, bumping through a turbulent portion of a fierce winter storm in a remote ocean area between Greenland and Norway. We were searching for clues on how to make better weather forecasts for the regions of Norway and the northern British Isles battered by these great storms. Our 2-month project, based in Bødø, Norway, was called the Coordinated Eastern Arctic Research Experiment (CEAREX) . Today's flight took us through the heart of an extratropical storm developing at the edge of the sea ice that covered the ocean waters east of Greenland.

As I looked over at the white-capped, forbidding waters of the Greenland Sea, I reflected today's flight was not particularly dangerous by Hurricane Hunter standards, though the storm's tropical storm-force winds made the ride a bit rough at times. However, we were a long way from civilization. Should an emergency require us to ditch the aircraft in the ocean or the nearby remote island of Jan Mayen, we'd be tough to find unless we were able to radio back our position before going down. Far from any land areas, our communication life-line to the outside world was HF radio (ham radio), which relied on Earth's ionosphere to bounce signals off of. Three hours into the flight this life-line abruptly stopped working.


Figure 1. Sea ice swirls in ocean eddies off the coast of Labrador, Canada, in this photo I took during a 1989 CEAREX flight.

"Jeff, can you come up to the cockpit?" Aircraft Commander Dan Eilers' voice crackled over the intercom. I took a break from monitoring our weather instruments, took off my headset, and stepped forward into the cockpit of the P-3.

"What's up, Dan?" I asked.

"Well, HF radio reception crapped out about twenty minutes ago, and I want to climb to 25,000 feet and see if we can raise Reykjavik Air Traffic Control to report our position. We're flying at low altitude in hazardous conditions over 500 miles from the nearest airport, and it's not good that we're out of communication with the outside world. If we were to go down, search and rescue would have no idea where to look for us."

I agreed to work out an alteration to the flight plan with our scientists, so that we could continue to collect good data on the storm while we climbed higher. The scientists weren't too happy with the plan, since they were paying $20,000 for this flight, and wanted to stay low at 1,500 feet to better investigate the storm's structure. Regardless, we climbed as high as we could and orbited the storm, issuing repeated calls to the outside world over our HF radio. No one answered.

"I've never seen such a major interruption to HF radio!" Commander Eilers said, worriedly. "We can go back down to 1,500 feet and resume the mission, but I want to periodically climb to 25,000 feet and continue trying to establish communications. If we can't raise Air Traffic Control, we should consider aborting the mission".

I agreed to work with the scientists to accommodate this strategy. They argued hotly against a possible cancellation of this mission, which was collecting some unique data on a significant winter storm. So, for the next four hours, we periodically climbed to 25,000 feet, issuing futile calls over our HF radio. Finally, after an uncomfortable eight hours, it was time to go home to our base in Norway. As twilight sank into Arctic darkness, a spectacular auroral display--shimmering curtains of brilliant green light--lit up sky. It began to dawn on us that the loss of our HF radio reception was probably due to an unusual kind of severe weather--a "Space Weather" storm. An extremely intense geomagnetic storm was hitting the polar regions, triggering our brilliant auroral show and interrupting HF radio communications.

The geomagnetic "Superstorm" of March 13, 1989
As it turned out, the geomagnetic storm of March 13, 1989 was one of the most intense such "Space Weather" events in recorded history. The storm developed as a result of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the sun four days previously. The CME event blasted a portion of the Sun's plasma atmosphere into space. When the protons and electrons from the Sun arrived at the Earth, the planet's magnetic field guided the highly energetic particles into the upper atmosphere near the magnetic poles. As a result, the lower levels of the polar ionosphere become very ionized, with severe absorption of HF radio, resulting in my uncomfortable flight over the Greenland Sea with no communications. The geomagnetic storm didn't stop there--the storm's charged particles triggered a strong magnetic impulse that caused a voltage depression in five transmission lines in the Hydro-Quebec power system in Canada. Within 90 seconds, automatic voltage compensation equipment failed, resulting in a generation loss of 9,450 MW. With a load of about 21,350 MW, the system was unable to withstand the generation loss and collapsed. The entire province of Quebec--six million people--was blacked out for approximately nine hours. The geomagnetic storm also triggered the failure of a large step-up transformer at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant in New Jersey, as well as 200 other failures on the North American power system. Auroras were observed as far south as Florida, Texas, and Cuba during this geomagnetic "superstorm".


Figure 2. Red and green colors predominate in this view of the Aurora Australis (Southern Hemisphere aurora) photographed from the Space Shuttle in May 1991 at the peak of the geomagnetic maximum that also brought us the March 13, 1989 geomagnetic "superstorm". The payload bay and tail of the Shuttle can be seen on the left hand side of the picture. Auroras are caused when high-energy electrons pour down from the Earth's magnetosphere and collide with atoms. Red aurora occurs from 200 km to as high as 500 km altitude and is caused by the emission of 6300 Angstrom wavelength light from oxygen atoms. Green aurora occurs from about 100 km to 250 km altitude and is caused by the emission of 5577 Angstrom wavelength light from oxygen atoms. The light is emitted when the atoms return to their original unexcited state. Image credit: NASA.

Solar Maximum is approaching
The sun waxes and wanes in brightness in a well-documented 11-year cycle, when sun spots and their associated Coronal Mass Ejections occur. We just passed through solar minimum--the sun is quiet, with no sun spots. We are headed towards a solar maximum, forecast to occur in 2012. Geomagnetic storms are at their peak during solar maximum, and we'll have to be on the lookout for severe "Space Weather" starting in 2010. I'll talk more about severe "Space Weather" storms in my next post, when I'll discuss the greatest Space Weather storm in recorded history--the famed "Carrington Event" of 1859--and what damages it might wreak were it to happen today. An extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2008 says that a repeat of the Carrington Event could result in the most costly natural disaster of all time.

Resources
MetaTech Corporation's animation of the March 13, 1989 geomagnetic "superstorm".
spaceweather.com
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)

Jeff Masters

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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Anyone hear about the wicked weather here in So. Fla.? :) So is this trend of sea breeze storms on the east coast supposed to continue?


it looks more wicked in north Florida
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Severe Weather in the Southeast:
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Anyone hear about the wicked weather here in So. Fla.? :) So is this trend of sea breeze storms on the east coast supposed to continue?
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Throughout the day at the campus, I had been monitoring the weather situation across Florida. The main reason was due to the fact that all the forecast soundings from this morning indicated favorable atmospheric conditions for thunderstorm development. Was really surprised by the several tornado warnings that were issued across the state and into Georgia as I had not anticipated the atmosphere to destabilize as rapidly as it did. Based upon the early reports I received, it seemed to me that the tornadoes that did form produced minimal damage, which is good news.

What we all saw today occuring this afternoon across Florida is the transition that is starting to take affect in weather patterns. With the seabreeze activity, it indicates to me that we are exiting the grasp of the dry, continental airmass that had dominated the state for the past several months, and entering into the push towards our rainy season. It will likely still take several more weeks to get into rainy season, but if the impressive seabreeze thunderstorm action this afternoon was any indication, it seems that the worst of this terrible drought across the state may be over and relief is on the horizon.
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StSimonsIslandGAGuy
What's it looking like in your neck of the woods about now?
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Nice round of storms about to settle in here in Pensacola. My two year old just came in and yelled at me "STOP BLOGGING!!!!!"

Good night and stay safe. Looks like the worst weather is east of us.
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Quoting Tejano72:
Sorry about the typos. Anyway, it won't be Eta, Aplha, Beta or Sirius. It will be either something that already happened and will hit us through luck and space laser-plinko (SPACE WEATHER is not space mysticism, y'all), or likely WR 104 in Sagittarius. We are within a decade of implosion on a tightly wound binary that was assumed to be a small spiral galaxy until 3/4/08, when someone had an "oh sh--" moment at the observatory in Australia, and realized that we were looking top down on an impending binary implosion. That means looknig right down the rifle of the gun. Here's the problem: When the solar system is at the peak of its hyperbolic orbital wobble, we are exposed because there is nothing between us and it. So the odds are roughly 1 in 12. I wouldn't play Russian roulette with 1 to 12 odds.



I would really like to learn more. Please send me some links to the data so we can check it out. Thanks E
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
108. I actually have a version of the Hunab Ku inked on my back. When I was a high school student I read The Mayan Factor: The Path Beyond Technology. I was way into that stuff back then.

The premise of the book was that the Mayans discovered a galactic energy beam/wave that reaches its peak in 2012. If we were to align our minds we could creat a collective consciousness and in turn be able to tap into the power. This would allow us to no longer have to rely on technology as we know it. When the new beginning came we would collectively be seeded to a new galaxy collectively as the energy went on its way.

If we didn't align ourselves with it, the Earth would begin to rumble as the date approached. Apparently, the end result would be the Earth's complete destruction as it broke up into a new asteroid belt.

That phase didn't last long though. Especially when I found out about the cult like following the author maintained.....Creepy.... The tatoo still has the meaning of everything being interconnected and I am still very glad to have it.
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Quoting hahaguy:
Wow first time I've seen lightening and heard thunder in a long time lol
don't worry you going to see a lot more yet over the next 6 to 10 days
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DEC21
1111GMT OR 611 AM EST
2012
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Wow first time I've seen lightening and heard thunder in a long time lol
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Oh lord what's this mayan mysticism doing all over a space weather blog?

Looks good for me to get bunches of rain!


If the line that just went through here (Brooks/Thomas county line) holds together, you will get bunches of rain. I got 1.2 inches in the rain gauge in about 30 minutes. It's hitting Quitman GA about now.
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Sorry about the typos. Anyway, it won't be Eta, Aplha, Beta or Sirius. It will be either something that already happened and will hit us through luck and space laser-plinko (SPACE WEATHER is not space mysticism, y'all), or likely WR 104 in Sagittarius. We are within a decade of implosion on a tightly wound binary that was assumed to be a small spiral galaxy until 3/4/08, when someone had an "oh sh--" moment at the observatory in Australia, and realized that we were looking top down on an impending binary implosion. That means looknig right down the rifle of the gun. Here's the problem: When the solar system is at the peak of its hyperbolic orbital wobble, we are exposed because there is nothing between us and it. So the odds are roughly 1 in 12. I wouldn't play Russian roulette with 1 to 12 odds.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Oh lord what's this mayan mysticism doing all over a space weather blog?

Looks good for me to get bunches of rain!


You just never know what the subject is going to be on this blog
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If the Universe has been in existence for 14.3 billion years(give or take a few years)I wonder how long it will be here from this point on.Whatever has been preconceived to happen on 12/21/12 I am sure there will humans here to record its effect on the good earth.
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Pacal Votan on Google Map..Letter E.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129909
"All is number

You sure this guy does not work at Bank of America. They told me that I was just a number.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188


He is revered as the chief engineer who guided the Mayan mission of inscripting stone monuments with precise astronomical and astrological information during his reign in the 10th Baktun (435-830 AD).

Known as a magician of time, he understood mathematics, or numbers, as a type of language that transcends the subjectivity of human verbal experience. His sentiment "All is number. *God is a number. God is in All." is an intriguing way to catalogue the Maya's message that we are intimately linked with and informed by the Galaxy. All of life is ordered by the same basic, re-occurring patterns.
*In the Yucatec Mayan language, the word "Hunab Ku" means Source
- The One, Giver of Movement and Measure, the galactic core, "God".

Pacal Votan's prophecy speaks of the Closing of this World Age Cycle on December 21, 2012 AD. As this date approaches, we are collectively in a transition phase of the old world dying and a new world being born.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129909
103 - 105,, At least you wouldn't feel it. I think the % referenced would be more applicable to our actual knowledge of Space and Time. Here is some additional speculation for you. It is estimated that based upon the current known Universe there should be 40,000 planets with life on them at any given time. I could never understand that for the universe is infinite, and even if you think it is finite, what would be beyond the edge ah?

Very nice Patrap
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129909
Mabe the Myans know something about 2012 in that calendar...

The solar system bounces up and down through the solar place. We will reach the apex of this hyperbolic oscillation in 2012. Space is 99.99999......% nothing. However, that most of the .000.....1% of stuff is in the same plane, makes the odds significantly less for us to get hit with the laser pointer of a gamma ray beam. If could, however, hit the sun, which is a much larger target, with unpleasant results, or superheat a few space rocks and change their trajectory. The #1 threat is the sun, #2 would be something volcanic (multiple simultaneous geologic evenents), #3 would be a space rock. Gamma Rays are way down the list.

The Galactic core contains a huge black hole 35,000 light years away from the Earth.
If a star fell into this black hole 34,996 and 9 months ago the light from the Gamma Ray Burst would get to our planet on December 21, 2012. It would be a done deal that a disaster would take place. The Galatic alignment of the Earth with the plane of the galaxy would be a necessity since a star that was going to fall in the central galatic black hole would be on the galatic plane and emit a Gamma Ray Burst along that plane in alignment with the Earth.
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Quoting Tejano72:
The solar system bounces up and down through the solar place. We will reach the apex of this hyperbolic oscillation in 2012. Space is 99.99999......% nothing. However, that most of the .000.....1% of stuff is in the same plane, makes the odds significantly less for us to get hit with the laser pointer of a gamma ray beam. If could, however, hit the sun, which is a much larger target, with unpleasant results, or superheat a few space rocks and change their trajectory. The #1 threat is the sun, #2 would be something volcanic (multiple simultaneous geologic evenents), #3 would be a space rock. Gamma Rays are way down the list.

The Galactic core contains a huge black hole 35,000 light years away from the Earth.
If a star fell into this black hole 34,996 and 9 months ago the light from the Gamma Ray Burst would get to our planet on December 21, 2012. It would be a done deal that a disaster would take place. The Galatic alignment of the Earth with the plane of the galaxy would be a necessity since a star that was going to fall in the central galatic black hole would be on the galatic plane and emit a Gamma Ray Burst along that plane in alignment with the Earth.
That is an interesting post T-72.What happens if a near by star goes supernova?
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Hot and Humid in Bradenton with some apparent convection to the east today, but nothing on the radar that close, but sweat.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Quoting Vortex95:
A nice looking outbreak of storms have occured across the spine of florida.


first popups of the year
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Where is the blog stretching graphic police when you need them :)
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Nasty cell heading right for my hometown.

TORNADO WARNING
GAC071-205-312215-
/O.NEW.KTAE.TO.W.0049.090331T2127Z-090331T2215Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL
527 PM EDT TUE MAR 31 2009

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TALLAHASSEE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
COLQUITT COUNTY IN SOUTH CENTRAL GEORGIA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF MOULTRIE...
SOUTHEASTERN MITCHELL COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST GEORGIA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF PELHAM...

* UNTIL 615 PM EDT

* AT 521 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
DEVELOPING TORNADO NEAR PELHAM...MOVING EAST AT 45 MPH.

* THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
MOULTRIE BY 545 PM EDT...
7 MILES SOUTH OF NORMAN PARK BY 555 PM EDT...

ACCORDING TO SPOTTERS ON THE GROUND NEAR THIS STORM...SEVERAL FUNNEL
CLOUDS HAVE BEEN OBSERVED AS THE STORM CROSSED GEORGIA STATE ROAD
300.

IN ADDITION TO THE TORNADO...THIS STORM IS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING
QUARTER SIZE HAIL AND DESTRUCTIVE STRAIGHT LINE WINDS.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 333
The solar system bounces up and down through the solar plane. We will reach the apex of this hyperbolic oscillation in 2012. Space is 99.99999......% nothing. However, that most of the .000.....1% of stuff is in the same plane, makes the odds significantly less for us to get hit with the laser pointer of a gamma ray beam. It could, however, hit the sun, which is a much larger target, with unpleasant results, or superheat a few space rocks and change their trajectory. The #1 threat is the sun, #2 would be something volcanic (multiple simultaneous geologic events), #3 would be a space rock. Gamma Rays are way down the list.

The Galactic core contains a huge black hole 35,000 light years away from the Earth.
If a star fell into this black hole 34,996 and 9 months ago the light from the Gamma Ray Burst would get to our planet on December 21, 2012. It would be a done deal that a disaster would take place. The Galactic alignment of the Earth with the plane of the galaxy would be a necessity since a star that was going to fall in the central galatic black hole would be on the galatic plane and emit a Gamma Ray Burst along that plane in alignment with the Earth.
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I'm in Deland, fl...thunder all around, however no rain...wall cloud to the nw heading this way...looks ominous
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Hope Ike is ok out there in Defuniak in North Florida...Tornado warnings starting to pop up a plenty in the Florida Panhandle and Southern AL/GA Border areas right now..............
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someone thought it to be a good idea to put a Flood warning over the NE Palm beach Blob. All these storms seem to be firing up and moving east from the Lake.
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"Reading this book is like getting punched in the face by Carl Sagan. Frightening, but oddly exhilarating."
-- Daniel H. Wilson, author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising
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Quoting hahaguy:


Running out of beer


Oh yeah. That's a state of emergency right there.

I think another one is if the CBA in the NFL doesn't get re-signed...

But speaking of rarities that do happen, here:
Link
Link
Link

A lot of things meteorological have some form of cycle, even if not well understood. Very much a reach, but think Feb/Mar/Apr storms come up every 50 years?
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Vortex: N. Lauderdale is where I am
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here plywood Link
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Quoting natrwalkn:
It's very disturbing to know how many different types of apocalyptic events are possible. How many are possible that we don't know about?


Depends what you define by 'apocalyptic'.

There are many in terms of disrupting or shattering civilisation - from the caldera (or supervolcano) explosion to a gamma ray burst caused by either a supernova explosion or the fusion of two neutron stars. There's the study of 'eschatology' (the study of the last) which goes into all these theories including those of a biblical origin.

As far as a hypercane goes - seems pretty logical. The hotter the water, the more chance of a stronger 'cane coming your way.

If you mean apocalyptic in terms of saying 'Bye bye Earth', then there are very few. Only ones I can think of is a rogue star or large enough comet/meteor to collide and vaporise the planet *or* when the Sun goes into a Red Giant and swallows us up. There are probably others - but it gets more fanciful.

As far as 2012 goes - I have a bad feeling about that year's hurricane season. It's the naming list that's got the fewest retirees - and nature seems to want each one to catch up. Which one was the least before? List III - before 1999 and 2005 paid to that.(And nothing to do with those Mayans, either!)
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anyone have a graphic showing how badly the drought is here in florida. as well as what the lake is sitting at.

Speaking of power grid, just got two minor surges here. make that three.
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Oh and if anyone is interested, that major snow storm that we were supposes to get in Minnesota seems to have taking a turn towards the North again. They just don't seem to like us here in the Twin Cities much.
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Quoting Vortex95:
WHAT ABOUT THE SUPER VOLCANO OR A HYPERCANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I don't put an stock in the hypercane theories, but the super volcano is not a theory. It is a documented fact though they haven't had any eruptions in a long while. I know that there are folks keeping a close eye on Yellowstone now that they know that it is a super volcano (also a very recent discovery).
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Well another 2012 possibility is another El Nino 15 years after the 1997-98 El Nino which was 15 years after the 1982-83 El Nino. Something like that, which raises the temperature of the earth another 0.5-1 C could be the real start of severe global warming and ice melt, which we have seen some of since temperatures stabilized at a new higher plateau after the 97-98 El Nino.

As for a solar storm I see no evidence that the 2012 max is more likely to cause massive solar storms than the previous peaks in the cycle. Perhaps it will. But I doubt it.


Like I said, I'm not saying that it will or that it wont. I just find it interesting that there is a solar maximum scheduled to occur in 2012 or there about and that many sources from the past have indicated something catastrophic may happen in the year 2012. I know that there are those who are trying to say that it would be the end of the world. I kind of doubt that, but we already have experienced some nasty events like the El Nino's and Solar Flares in recent history. The only question is how bad can they get and are more on the way?
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Most of these ideas about how the world could end are just theories with not real data to back up even the possibility of such things happening. The ones that we do have solid evidence on are objects striking the earth and solar flares. These are not theories, but very real and we are only becoming aware of the possibilities.

Whether any of these things will happen in any of our life times is only conjecture, but we do know that they have happened before and can happen again.
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About

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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