Bill Gates takes on hurricanes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:49 PM GMT on July 27, 2009

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Bill Gates thinks big. His charitable foundation has poured $1 billion into the fight against that great scourge of humankind, malaria, resulting in the creation of a new vaccine that is 100% effective in mice, and is now headed towards trials in humans. If successful, Gates' efforts have the potential to save millions of lives. Gates has also turned his attention to another great scourge of humankind, the hurricane. In a 2008 patent filing that recently came to light, Bill Gates and his friends presented a scheme for reducing the strength of hurricanes by cooling sea surface temperatures, using a fleet of ships that bring up cold water from the depths. Can Gates really pull this off? I don't think so. The obstacles are fourfold: technical, financial, environmental, and legal.


Figure 1. A diagram from a 2008 Bill Gates patent filing, depicting an array of hurricane-control vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Image credit: techflash.com.

Technical issues
While modification of hurricanes is theoretically possible, the scale of the undertaking is truly enormous. A fleet of dozens or hundreds of ships spanning a huge swath of ocean would be required, and these ships would have to be able to withstand the 50-foot waves and 160 mph winds a major Category 5 hurricane could deliver. As I discussed when a similar scheme was proposed in 2006 by Atmocean, Inc., it is not clear how long the cold water pumped to the surface will stay there--the cold water pumped to the surface is more dense than the water beneath it, and so will tend to sink, allowing warmer water beneath to replace it and warm the surface waters again. Modeling studies and field studies are needed to determine if the cold water can stay at the surface long enough to significantly affect a hurricane. Furthermore, simply cooling the ocean may have no effect on a hurricane, if the storm is in a favorable upper-atmospheric environment with low wind shear.

Financial issues
Any hurricane modification effort is going to be tremendously expensive. The cost of the array of cooling pumps proposed by Atmocean in 2006 for the Gulf of Mexico was pegged at $2.4 billion. Gates' scheme would have a similar cost. He proposes paying for it through government funding and the sale of insurance policies in hurricane-prone areas.

Environmental issues
A large change to the ocean temperatures over a wide area of ocean is bound to have significant--and unknown--impacts on fisheries and wildlife. Regional weather patterns may also be affected, intensifying droughts or bringing heavy rains and flooding.

Legal issues
Hurricanes naturally make sudden unpredictable course shifts, and the hurricane modification efforts are also capable of causing track shifts in a storm. Residents on the coast hit by the modified storm will want to sue, and there will be many lawyers more than happy to take their case. Gates would have to get special legislation passed to protect his company from lawsuits, such Congress passed for the gun industry in 2006.

Summary
In summary, we simply don't know enough about hurricanes yet to safely engage in modifying them. A lot more research is needed before we should spend the huge sums needed to attempt hurricane modification. The Department of Homeland Security has a $1 million research effort going that will attempt to answer some of these questions, called HURRMIT (The Identification and Testing of Hurricane Mitigation Hypotheses). The HURRMIT program is evaluating the potential of a number of hurricane modification techniques, including:

Seeding with tiny hygroscopic aerosols to suppress warm rain (Rosenfeld et al. 2007 and Cotton et al., 2007)

Seeding with radiation-absorbing aerosols (i.e., carbon black) at the storm periphery (Gray et al., 1976)

Seeding with radiation-absorbing aerosols (i.e., carbon black) at storm top (Alamaro et al., 2006)

Pumping cool water from the depths to the ocean surface in front of the hurricane (Ginis and Kithil, 2008)

Frankly, I'm dubious that the money being spent on HURRMIT is worth it, given the four huge obstacles to hurricane modification I presented above. However, the research may provide some new insights into hurricane intensification that we don't have now.

For more insight on this issue, read the Washington Post article published on this subject earlier this year.

In closing, I'll present the proposal one reader of an New Orleans online newspaper had:

"[Bill Gates] should just have one of his employees write an ActiveX Script for Google maps so we can just highlight the hurricane, right click on it, then select delete. Or maybe just cut and paste it farther out into the Atlantic Ocean."

Controlling hurricanes, Hollywood style
Hollywood's latest attempt to create a weather disaster epic is itself a disaster, as many of you who suffered through last night's installment of "The Storm" miniseries on NBC will agree. The uninspired plot involves government/military bad guys and a noble scientist who heroically tries to save the world, with a good measure of made-for-TV chase scenes, murders, and special effects thrown in. The hero scientist Dr. Jonathan Kirk (James Van Der Beek) has a scheme whereby one can control the weather by bouncing crackling streams of energy from a ground-based array of dishes off of satellites and into the ionosphere, which then gets "peeled away like an onion". Dr. Kirk then uses the energy to bring life-giving rains to the Sudan, and to steer a hurricane away from Florida. The trouble is, he doesn't quite have things figured out. Unintended side effects occur, such as the Mojave Desert getting 8 inches of snow the day after 112°F temperatures. More problematically, the hurricane heading for Florida strengthens instead of weakening. In one scene, a radar animation of the hurricane off the coast of Florida shows the powerful storm spinning clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, defying the laws of physics. Hmm, that's some pretty powerful weather control technology! The scientific basis for the weather control scheme is preposterous--ground-based energy streams beamed into the ionosphere would not appreciably affect the weather. The weather is made in the troposphere, the layer of atmosphere closest to the ground. Furthermore, the amount of energy needed to cause the kind of disturbances portrayed in the movie are enormous, similar in scale to the entire electrical output of the world. A small array of ground-based dishes could only channel perhaps a trillionth of the amount of energy required. The movie's special effects are cheesy, the acting average, the plot weak, and the science behind the the story completely implausible, making this weather disaster movie as disastrous as the equally rotten Day After Tomorrow movie. The movie's main redeeming grace is as a cautionary tale--weather modification on a large scale will certainly have unintended side effects, and we should not engage in such efforts until we have a much greater understanding of how the weather and climate work.

Scientific American has an interesting article that talks about the proposed Bill Gates hurricane modification idea in more detail.
Jeff Masters

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Quoting extreme236:


I could be wrong, but looking at where the wave is now, I doubt it will take till Friday to emerge.


Same. It should take another day or two.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good evening...

Well it if wasn't for the SAL... currently the CATL and Carib Sea appear to be quite conductive for TC formation.
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the biger they come the harder they fall
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Is that blog of convection near 45W developing a low?
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TC FORMATION PROBABILITY has been shown several times off the coast here in NC/SC. Whats up with that?
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


Highly unlikely the wave over Africa would be mentioned before it exits the coast on Friday



I could be wrong, but looking at where the wave is now, I doubt it will take till Friday to emerge.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
Quoting btwntx08:

i think there waiting on presistance on the convection and if holds till tomorrow then the two will mention it


They're talking about the wave still over the continent, not the one that moved offshore. TWO will wait until the axis is over water.
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Frankly, Jason, you have lost all credibility with me due to your "joke" postings. I cannot believe you are still on here after doctoring up two NHC releases (that I have witnessed, anyway).
In other (negative) news, I do not think people should be ripped out of their homes in hurricanes.
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Quoting btwntx08:

i think there waiting on presistance on the convection and if holds till tomorrow then the two will mention it


Highly unlikely the wave over Africa would be mentioned before it exits the coast on Friday

answer is not much
Quoting TexasGulf:
Texas' new law allowing police to arrest people that choose to stay put, ignoring mandatory evacuation orders, will be in effect beginning Sept. 1st. The law doesn't really give much guidance... like saying "mandatory arrest", "forced evacuation"... but gives police the lawful ability to use "reasonable force%u201D to relocate people.

My belief is that the law will only be applied in a very few specific cases and will be almost completely ineffective for the general population of the Texas coastline. I've been subject to two "mandatory" evacuations and have chosen to stay both times. Unless we have a Cat-5, I'm staying. I know my house, elevation and surroundings and can determine for myself when to leave.

I love how they failed to define "reasonable force" or how to determine if some person should be targeted for the "forced" evacuation. I smell discrimination lawsuits and 1st ammendment challenges. If the police target certain neighborhoods (and not others) which may have a different racial or ethnic demographic... lawsuit. What could be considered "reasonable" force by a law officer might be completely unreasonable to someone else.

The threat of "forced" anything by law enforcement won't make any difference to me. I'm staying to protect my pets & property... besides I rather enjoy hurricanes.

Now if they decided to systematically fine everyone that chooses to stay $1000.00 / person... that would be a different story. Then I may leave. A small fine would be far more real than the threat of "reasonable" force and would influence my decision more. Besides, a fine could be levied against the property, being due at tax time next year. Property owners would feel obliged to move people off their premises and the city could simply have people assigned to assess fines and/or warn people to evacuate. Police could then concentrate on evacuation, not forced removal of citizens from their own properties.

Texas has it all backwards. If you threaten our rights, we will resist. If you threaten our pocketbooks, you will get the results you want.


Im sorry but I only partly agree with you, I agree that the fine may be the better way to go, but Ike should have taught everyone last year that it is a bad idea to stay on the coast during a mandatory evacuation. A lot of people have claimed to know their surroundings and then regretted staying.

I remember back to 2004 in Florida some guy was filmed actually saying, "Yea we arent trying to be heroes or brave or anything, I just want to make sure when I wake up I still have my home."

Im sorry but what in the world do you think you are going to do exactly to prevent this hurricane from destroying your home and now well since you stayed killing you?
Texas' new law allowing police to arrest people that choose to stay put, ignoring mandatory evacuation orders, will be in effect beginning Sept. 1st. The law doesn't really give much guidance... like saying "mandatory arrest", "forced evacuation"... but gives police the lawful ability to use "reasonable force” to relocate people.

My belief is that the law will only be applied in a very few specific cases and will be almost completely ineffective for the general population of the Texas coastline. I've been subject to two "mandatory" evacuations and have chosen to stay both times. Unless we have a Cat-5, I'm staying. I know my house, elevation and surroundings and can determine for myself when to leave.

I love how they failed to define "reasonable force" or how to determine if some person should be targeted for the "forced" evacuation. I smell discrimination lawsuits and 1st ammendment challenges. If the police target certain neighborhoods (and not others) which may have a different racial or ethnic demographic... lawsuit. What could be considered "reasonable" force by a law officer might be completely unreasonable to someone else.

The threat of "forced" anything by law enforcement won't make any difference to me. I'm staying to protect my pets & property... besides I rather enjoy hurricanes.

Now if they decided to systematically fine everyone that chooses to stay $1000.00 / person... that would be a different story. Then I may leave. A small fine would be far more real than the threat of "reasonable" force and would influence my decision more. Besides, a fine could be levied against the property, being due at tax time next year. Property owners would feel obliged to move people off their premises and the city could simply have people assigned to assess fines and/or warn people to evacuate. Police could then concentrate on evacuation, not forced removal of citizens from their own properties.

Texas has it all backwards. If you threaten our rights, we will resist. If you threaten our pocketbooks, you will get the results you want.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
maybe its all the two tone talk


lol, great!
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that wave over africa is huge
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696. IKE
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
000
ABNT20 KNHC 272343
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT MON JUL 27 2009

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.
$$
FORECASTER BERG




:)
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
695. IKE
Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:


well then I guess the TWO aint getting posted lol


Oh well...nothing to post anyway.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Atlantic Tropical Weather Discussion

000
AXNT20 KNHC 272350
TWDAT

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
805 PM EDT MON JUL 27 2009

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION FOR NORTH AMERICA...CENTRAL
AMERICA...GULF OF MEXICO...CARIBBEAN SEA...NORTHERN SECTIONS
OF SOUTH AMERICA...AND ATLANTIC OCEAN TO THE AFRICAN COAST
FROM THE EQUATOR TO 32N. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS BASED
ON SATELLITE IMAGERY...METEOROLOGICAL ANALYSIS...WEATHER
OBSERVATIONS...AND RADAR.

BASED ON 1800 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS AND SATELLITE IMAGERY THROUGH
2315 UTC.

...TROPICAL WAVES...

A TROPICAL WAVE IS INTRODUCED ALONG 18W S OF 18N MOVING W NEAR
20 KT. THIS WAVE COINCIDES WITH A BROAD MAXIMUM IN DEEP LAYER
MOISTURE BASED ON THE TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER PRODUCT FROM
CIMSS. SCATTERED SHOWERS ARE WITHIN 120 NM OF THE WAVE AXIS. AN
UNRELATED 1010 MB LOW HAPPENS TO BE W OF THE WAVE AXIS NEAR
18N22W. NO SIGNIFICANT CONVECTION OR SHOWERS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH
THIS LOW.
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Quoting SavannahStorm:


We are getting into the best part of the season right now. Between June and October we usually get big adults in the 100-180 pound range following the pogy bait pods along the beaches. We rarely get juveniles, which can be a little disappointing, because they do a lot more acrobatics. We also have to pick through the sharks. For every 1 tarpon hookup you'll have 5 or 6 blacktips on your line.

I've caught a few on the flats around Islamorada before, and that was a lot more fun.


Yeah, sharks are certainly an issue with tarpon. The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish right? A local man caught the world record hammerhead recently ('06) in BG pass. 1200+ lbs, pretty incredible. Unfortunately it was mainly due to the 50 or so pups inside her. I think the biggest fish caught this year was 218 lbs. The Keys have great juvie fishing, especially on fly poles, although I myself have never attempted. Have caught a few here though on standard rigs. So much fin and you don't even have to venture offshore!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
000
ABNT20 KNHC 272343
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT MON JUL 27 2009

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.
$$
FORECASTER BERG


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54342
Quoting IKE:


The GFS hasn't been. It's been spinning up systems in the eastern Atlantic. Not so much lately though.

I've been posting on this blog since 2005. That's about the time I really started following the tropics every day. This season is as opposite of 2005, so far, that I could imagine. GFS model run going to mid-August with virtually nothing, with no named systems so far?

It's only one model and one run, but it does have some company through August 6th in the more reliable ECMWF.

Comebacks welcome.....

IKESTER......


Posts have been saying the GFS is not performing well this year, but my memory must be failing me. I don't remember the operational run (out to 180 hours) developing systems with more than one closed iosbar at the surface in the Carribean or Atlantic. After 180 hours yes, but thats when the model horizontal resolution changes from 35km to 70km and I generally discount after 180 hours. We haven't had systems developing, and the GFS has not been showing systems.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
000
ABPZ20 KNHC 272340
TWOEP
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 PM PDT MON JUL 27 2009

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

AN AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE IS
LOCATED SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES SOUTH AND SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF
MANZANILLO MEXICO. THE SHOWER AND THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY HAS BECOME
SEPARATED INTO TWO DISTINCT CLUSTERS...AND DEVELOPMENT...IF ANY...
SHOULD BE SLOW TO OCCUR AS THE SYSTEM MOVES WEST TO WEST-
NORTHWESTWARD AROUND 10 MPH. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...LESS THAN 30
PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

A SECOND AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER LOCATED ABOUT 1300 MILES
SOUTHWEST OF THE SOUTHERN TIP OF BAJA CALIFORNIA HAS CHANGED LITTLE
IN ORGANIZATION DURING THE AFTERNOON. DEVELOPMENT OF THIS
SYSTEM...IF ANY...IS ALSO EXPECTED TO BE SLOW TO OCCUR AS IT MOVES
WESTWARD AROUND 10 TO 15 MPH. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...LESS THAN 30
PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BERG



Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54342
the TWO no yellow at low or any waves yet in atlantic two yellows on epac TWO
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Quoting IKE:


I'll give you the honors...


well then I guess the TWO aint getting posted lol
Quoting RufusBaker:
What is going on in the gulf? winds are blowing in every different direction what a mess...........
maybe its all the two tone talk
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54342
686. IKE
Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:
Waits for Ike to post the 8pm TWO, along with a comment about it lol


I'll give you the honors...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
685. IKE
Quoting Weather456:
The ave over Africa is big



Best wave I've seen so far.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858

18Z CATL & EATL
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Waits for Ike to post the 8pm TWO, along with a comment about it lol
Quoting IKE:


If that wave heading for the coast poofs, then Bill Gates must have forces on the western Africa coast killing waves.




Its all that District 9 Dust Ike.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
The wave over Africa is big

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Chicklit:
Wow...Looks like it's raining pretty much everywhere...

And yet there is no tropical cyclones.Lol
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
678. IKE
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
Meteosat Long-Wave Difference (SAL)
(CIRA Personnel Only)



If that wave heading for the coast poofs, then Bill Gates must have forces on the western Africa coast killing waves.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
What is going on in the gulf? winds are blowing in every different direction what a mess...........
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Crazy the minute amount of light emissions from the entire African continent in the NexSat image. The Nile is clearly outlined, but beyond that, almost total darkness. Such an extreme stark contrast to almost any other part of the world!!!
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Quoting java162:
there is something just off the coast of affrica!!! it looks promising. what do you guys think?


Been over water nearly two days and it has only weakened slightly. Now it has to organize and battle the dry air to the north.
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Seems CIRA has a Big personnel cue.

LOL

ESL Imagery whoops that hands down..easily


GOES-12 Atmospheric Imagery

These images are primarily for use in tropical storm monitoring. There are several areas to choose from providing a large-scale view of the Atlantic, down to the Gulf of Mexico. During hurricane season, the hurricanes page provides a variety of GOES atmospheric products to help monitor the active storms.


GOES JavaScript Animations
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Meteosat Long-Wave Difference (SAL)
(CIRA Personnel Only)

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54342
672. IKE
Quoting code1:


Happy you clarified Ike. I was thinking "whattt? on the GFS comments" ECMWF has taken over GFDL, but the GFS since we have been watching at least has out performed that one as well. I'm going against the children and wishcasters here, but I am praying for a non-event season for all coasts! And I am out the door now to enjoy our little piece of coastal paradise Ike. You gotta come over one day!


Where are you at?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting GatorWX:
Savannah, noticed your user image, is there good tarpon fishing in your area? I live very near Boca Grande, all the tournaments are ending, but some really big fish caught the last two seasons. Do they run pretty thick up there?


We are getting into the best part of the season right now. Between June and October we usually get big adults in the 100-180 pound range following the pogy bait pods along the beaches. We rarely get juveniles, which can be a little disappointing, because they do a lot more acrobatics. We also have to pick through the sharks. For every 1 tarpon hookup you'll have 5 or 6 blacktips on your line.

I've caught a few on the flats around Islamorada before, and that was a lot more fun.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
670. code1
Quoting IKE:


The GFS hasn't been. It's been spinning up systems in the eastern Atlantic. Not so much lately though.

I've been posting on this blog since 2005. That's about the time I really started following the tropics every day. This season is as opposite of 2005, so far, that I could imagine. GFS model run going to mid-August with virtually nothing, with no named systems so far?

It's only one model and one run, but it does have some company through August 6th in the more reliable ECMWF.

Comebacks welcome.....

IKESTER......


Happy you clarified Ike. I was thinking "whattt? on the GFS comments" ECMWF has taken over GFDL, but the GFS since we have been watching at least has out performed that one as well. I'm going against the children and wishcasters here, but I am praying for a non-event season for all coasts! And I am out the door now to enjoy our little piece of coastal paradise Ike. You gotta come over one day!
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Atlantic Ocean View (Updated ~3 hours)
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
Quoting HURRICANECAT5:
Can someone please post a current sat pic of waht is going on in Africa. Thank You. Also please post a site where we can get current African Sat Pics.



Meteosat 4 km IR4 Floater
(CIRA Personnel Only)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54342
Quoting DDR:

the gfs has moisture around your area by weekend :D

I just finished watching the local news and said that a tropical wave will see us in the next 48 hours or less and more rain behind it be here by weekend but I don't trust the local news so much
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Latest SAL Split Window Image,Ack,,coff spit..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639
NexSat African View,Eastern Atlantic
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128639

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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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