Arctic temperatures the warmest in 2,000 years; 2009 Arctic sea ice loss 3rd highest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:32 PM GMT on September 04, 2009

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It's time to take a bit of a break from coverage of the Atlantic hurricane season of 2009, and report on some important climate news. The past decade was the warmest decade in the Arctic for the past 2,000 years, according to a study called "Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling" published today in the journal Science. Furthermore, four of the five warmest decades in the past 2,000 years occurred between 1950 - 2000, despite the fact that summertime solar radiation in the Arctic has been steadily declining for the past 2,000 years. Previous efforts to reconstruct past climate in the Arctic extended back only 400 years, so the new study--which used lake sediments, glacier ice cores, and tree rings to look at past climate back to the time of Christ, decade by decade-- is a major new milestone in our understanding of the Arctic climate. The researchers found that Arctic temperatures steadily declined between 1 A.D. and 1900 A.D., as would be expected due to a 26,000-year cycle in Earth's orbit that brought less summer sunshine to the North Pole. Earth is now about 620,000 miles (1 million km) farther from the Sun in the Arctic summer than it was 2000 years ago. However, temperatures in the Arctic began to rise around the year 1900, and are now 1.4°C (2.5°F) warmer than they should be, based on the amount of sunlight that is currently falling in the Arctic in summer. "If it hadn't been for the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases, summer temperatures in the Arctic should have cooled gradually over the last century," Bette Otto-Bliesner, a co-author from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a statement.

The Arctic melt season of 2009
Arctic sea ice suffered another summer of significant melting in 2009, with August ice extent the third lowest on record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. August ice extent was 19% below the 1979 - 2000 average, and only 2007 and 2008 saw more melting of Arctic sea ice. We've now had two straight years in the Arctic without a new record minimum in sea ice. However, this does not mean that the Arctic sea ice is recovering. The reduced melting in 2009 compared to 2007 and 2008 primarily resulted from a different atmospheric circulation pattern this summer. This pattern generated winds that transported ice toward the Siberian coast and discouraged export of ice out of the Arctic Ocean. The previous two summers, the prevailing wind pattern acted to transport more ice out of the Arctic through Fram Strait, along the east side of Greenland. At last December's meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest scientific conference on climate change, J.E. Kay of the National Center for Atmospheric Research showed that Arctic surface pressure in the summer of 2007 was the fourth highest since 1948, and cloud cover at Barrow, Alaska was the sixth lowest. This suggests that once every 10 - 20 years a "perfect storm" of weather conditions highly favorable for ice loss invades the Arctic. The last two times such conditions existed was 1977 and 1987, and it may be another ten or so years before weather conditions align properly to set a new record minimum.

The Northeast Passage opens
As a result of this summer's melting, the Northeast Passage, a notoriously ice-choked sea route along the northern Russia, is now clear of ice and open for navigation. Satellite analyses by the University of Illinois Polar Research Group and the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that the last remaining ice blockage along the north coast of Russia melted in late August, allowing navigation from Europe to Alaska in ice-free waters. Mariners have been attempting to sail the Northeast Passage since 1553, and it wasn't until the record-breaking Arctic sea-ice melt year of 2005 that the Northeast Passage opened for ice-free navigation for the first time in recorded history. The fabled Northwest Passage through the Arctic waters of Canada has remained closed this summer, however. An atmospheric pressure pattern set up in late July that created winds that pushed old, thick ice into several of the channels of the Northwest Passage. Recent research by Stephen Howell at the University of Waterloo in Canada shows that whether the Northwest Passage clears depends less on how much melt occurs, and more on whether multi-year sea ice is pushed into the channels. Counter-intuitively, as the ice cover thins, ice may flow more easily into the channels, preventing the Northwest Passage from regularly opening in coming decades, if the prevailing winds set up to blow ice into the channels of the Passage. The Northwest Passage opened for the first time in recorded history in 2007, and again in 2008. Mariners have been attempting to find a route through the Northwest Passage since 1497.


Figure 1. Sea ice extent on September 2, 2009, with the Northwest Passage (red line) and Northeast Passage (green line) shown. The Northeast Passage was open, but the Northwest Passage was blocked in three places. The orange line shows the median edge of sea ice extent for September 2 during the period 1979 - 2000, and this year's ice extent is about 19% below average. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Commercial shipping begins in the Northeast Passage
This year's opening marks the fourth time in five years that the Northeast Passage has opened, and commercial shipping companies are taking note. Two German ships set off on August 21 on the first commercial voyage ever made through the Northeast Passage without the help of icebreakers. The Northeast Passage trims 4,500 miles off the 12,500 mile trip through the Suez Canal, yielding considerable savings in fuel. The voyage was not possible last year, because Russia had not yet worked out a permitting process. With Arctic sea ice expected to continue to decline in the coming decades, shipping traffic through the Northeast Passage will likely become commonplace most summers.

When was the Northeast Passage ice-free in the past?
People have been attempting to penetrate the ice-bound Northeast Passage since 1553, when British explorer Sir Hugh Willoughby attempted the passage with three ships and 62 men. The frozen bodies of Sir Hugh and his men were found a year later, after they failed to make it past the northern coast of Finland. British explorer Henry Hudson, who died in 1611 trying to find a route through Canada's fabled Northwest Passage, (and whom Canada's Hudson Bay and New York's Hudson River are named after), attempted to sail the Northeast Passage in 1607 and 1608, and failed. The Northeast Passage has remained closed to navigation, except via assist by icebreakers, from 1553 to 2005. The results published in Science today suggest that prior to 2005, the last previous opening was the period 5,000 - 7,000 years ago, when the Earth's orbital variations brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer than at present. It is possible we'll know better soon. A new technique that examines organic compounds left behind in Arctic sediments by diatoms that live in sea ice give hope that a detailed record of sea ice extent extending back to the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago may be possible (Belt et al., 2007). The researchers are studying sediments along the Northwest Passage in hopes of being able to determine when the Passage was last open.

References
Belt, S.T., G. Masse, S.J. Rowland, M. Poulin, C. Michel, and B. LeBlanc, "A novel chemical fossil of palaeo sea ice: IP25", Organic Geochemistry, Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 16-27.

Darrell S. Kaufman, David P. Schneider, Nicholas P. McKay, Caspar M. Ammann, Raymond S. Bradley, Keith R. Briffa, Gifford H. Miller, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Bo M. Vinther, and Arctic Lakes 2k Project Members, 2009, "Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling", Science 4 September 2009: 1236-1239.

Howell, S. E. L., C. R. Duguay, and T. Markus. 2009. Sea ice conditions and melt season duration variability within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: 1979.2008, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L10502, doi:10.1029/2009GL037681.

Tropical Weather Outlook
The remains of Tropical Storm Erika are bringing heavy rain to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands today, and this activity will spread to the Dominican Republic on Saturday. Radar-estimated rainfall shows up to three inches of rain has fallen in eastern Puerto Rico from the storm. Long range radar out of Puerto Rico shows no surface circulation or organization of the echoes, and redevelopment of Erika over the next three days is unlikely to occur due to high wind shear of 25 - 30 knots. By Monday or Tuesday, shear may drop enough to allow redevelopment, depending upon the location of Erika's remains. Redevelopment is more likely if Erika works its way northwestward into the Bahamas.

A large tropical wave with plenty of spin is located a few hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verdes Islands, off the coast of Africa. Heavy thunderstorm activity has increased slightly in this wave over the past day, and it has the potential to gradually develop into a tropical depression by early next week. NHC is giving this wave a low (less than 30% chance) of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. The GFS model continues to predict development of this wave into a tropical depression early next week.

I'll have an update Saturday or Sunday, depending upon developments in the tropics.

Jeff Masters

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Anyone,

Bear with me, this is a long one, but my question/observation is based on several years of using this website and following the comments in this blog, and is based on (to me) unusual observation:

I have been following tropical weather patterns during the hurricane season for several years now and am seeing something that appears not to be the norm.

Normally (to me) when I see tropical disturbances forming south of the Cape Verde Islands area (somewhere in the 10-15N degree latitude zone this time of year, this means real trouble. The system will often stay low in the latitudes and will either pass to the south of the Antilles/Hispanolia area, hit the west side of Cuba and then pull up into the Gulf where all hell breaks loose.

That looked like the scenario for Ericka; however, it runs into this real serious set of winds coming out of the Southwest which just shut Ericka down, period.

Now looking at the Infrared Animation for the Western Caribbean/Western Atlantic area, there is the very large area of convection which appears to be spinning off these strong winds and is located over Colombia, moving (it appears) into the Pacific side of the Central American land mass.

I don't ever remember seeing anything like this happen before (a potential deadly Tropical System - Ericka) killed by winds coming out of the southwest from a system located in extreme NW South America that is moving towards the Pacific Ocean during the "Prime Time" of the hurricane season between the last week of August and first week of September.

My question, is this a very unusual occurance or just one happens often (the southwesterly winds of high magnitude during the peak of hurricane season) or just one of those dumb luck things that kept a interesting tropical system from becoming a bad one in the Gulf of Mexico?

Sorry for the length, but things are a little quiet now until perhaps that new disturbance that came of Africa in the last 36 hours starts to develop and define a path towards the America's, so for some of you (StormW, Patrap, Drak, Keeper, Dr. Masters, etc) and others that have historical knowledge of these things, could you weigh in on this observation I have made and comment on its uniqueness or my perhaps my ignorance of not paying more attention to developing weather patterns over the north part of South America and the effect they have on tropical systems during hurricane season - Thank You
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The Warming isnt the debate,the Numbers Globally from the Artic,Greenland,,US Glacier Park etc..is occurring,..what the debate is about is the root cause,I dont think the CO2 and Methane and other pollutants we put out 24/7/365 is wiped away every Night by the Co3 and Methane Fairies.

Ever see a Clear day In Hong Kong or Mexico City?

LOL,vary rare as Taz would say.

Ever seen what occurring is the Alps,..Greenland ?

And every farmer in the Northern Hemisphere can tell ya summer and spring are coming earlier and Lasting Longer. Even the tropics might have to push back the Start of H season In the Atlantic eventually,..to May 1.

We had our worst Impact by that Storm Memorial weekend in Daytona in Fla,..so I wouldnt willy nilly the Warming,it is occurring.
All the Fodder is on the root cause.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
What is the circulation i see on long range radar south of st croix
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Quoting mikatnight:
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."
Carl Sagan


We are just the universe contemplating itself. (Carl Sagan RIP)
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Quoting apocalyps:


Whats up doc?

bugs bunny,


We all have our heroes...
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hey flood i guess i won that bet huh..LOL
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Quoting justalurker:


YES, but they are talking climate control, and how rain will effect the passing game..LOL


There ought to be weather making machines for the playing fields in domed stadiums. Football without the rain, sleet, snow, mud, cold, wind, etc is NOT football....it's pansy ball.
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Quoting tornadodude:
You know the Atlantic is dead when almost everyone is talking about college football and GWCC


Did someone say FOOTBALL!

WHooohaaaaaaaa!

Back to the tropics
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Quoting 954FtLCane:


It has nothing to do with our past, Floridians aaren't more prone to wishcast. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the percentage of wishcasters from a certain area on WU is equal to the percentage of people that are from that given area at one time. So in essence there are more wishcasters from FL because there are more folks on here from FL.


One should also note that Florida gets the most US hits (by far).
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Quoting justalurker:


true but all that hot air coming off there heads from loosing every year, shuld be very humid inside this year..


hmm, i cant say much because im a cowboys fan............ :O
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Here's what Danny's remnants did to Scotland.


Link
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Quoting tornadodude:


haha yeah, i got the connection, but the saints play in the dome....


true but all that hot air coming off there heads from loosing every year, shuld be very humid inside this year..
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Let's hope she doesn't make it into the Bahama's. We don't need any sleepers around these parts. Or any part for that matter.
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Quoting mikatnight:
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."
Carl Sagan


Whats up doc?

bugs bunny,
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Quoting tornadodude:


haha yeah, i got the connection, but the saints play in the dome....


but i guess they plat at miami
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
I didn't mean to start a big fight in here...I was joking about the Florida casters...and they're not all from Florida, alright? We watch storms because they're cdangerous, awesome and incredibly destructive...

Watching these things is a lot like watching NASCAR...you can say all you want that you;re watching to see some real skillful driving (all left turns at 180 mph) but all you're really watching for is to see someone crash in an explosion of fuel and carparts
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Quoting bluehaze27:


God forbid we blame ourselves for anything. I'm not implying man is THE cause of all of global warming, but one must have their heads up the you know what to suggest that co2 emissions is not at least partially responsible.


Analogy Of The Day:

Let's compare the Earth's atmospheric gasses with a football stadium that holds 80,000 people.

The total concentration of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere, when a ratio is applied to make that gas fit into the stadium would equate to CO2 taking up 4 seats.

4 seats out of 80,000. That's how small a concentration CO2 is in our atmosphere...and IT'S REQUIRED TO BE THERE...or plant life would die.

When I breathe out, it's CO2. I guess I need to stop breathing, huh?
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Quoting TriniGirl26:


i know florida have had several run ins with hurricanes in the past and u all have a right to be concern about that...but the fact is not all hurricanes are going to to go to florida...the wave just left africa it going to take a few days to get organise and choose a direction..thats all i am really saying...all the casting and casting not going to change anything.


It has nothing to do with our past, Floridians aaren't more prone to wishcast. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the percentage of wishcasters from a certain area on WU is equal to the percentage of people that are from that given area at one time. So in essence there are more wishcasters from FL because there are more folks on here from FL.
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Quoting justalurker:


YES, but they are talking climate control, and how rain will effect the passing game..LOL


haha yeah, i got the connection, but the saints play in the dome....
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."
Carl Sagan
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Quoting tornadodude:
You know the Atlantic is dead when almost everyone is talking about college football and GWCC


YES, but they are talking climate control, and how rain will effect the passing game..LOL
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Erika has a nice increase of convention.
What a fighter.
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LOL..That might work too :)
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You know the Atlantic is dead when almost everyone is talking about college football and GWCC
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting bluehaze27:


God forbid we blame ourselves for anything. I'm not implying man is THE cause of all of global warming, but one must have their heads up the you know what to suggest that co2 emissions is not at least partially responsible. Frankly, I don't care one way or the other because the Earth won't die off, we will. If man dies off, the Earth will carry on and 99% of all life forms that are to exist on Earth in it's life time will continue to come about and die off. We are just parasites on the Earth and eventually the Earth will shake us off one way or the other (war, famine, pestulence global warming etc).


a la Carl Sagan (RIP)
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Quoting StormW:


Or issue out fishing poles.


that sounds nice
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting TriniGirl26:


i know florida have had several run ins with hurricanes in the past and u all have a right to be concern about that...but the fact is not all hurricanes are going to to go to florida...the wave just left africa it going to take a few days to get organise and choose a direction..thats all i am really saying...all the casting and casting not going to change anything.


tell him trini, btw never heard of anyone representing "954" you sure it;s not "305".."U"
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Quoting tigerfanintexas:
Pat does Jesuit still have a powerhouse wrestling team? I know when I was in school they were dyanamite.


Next week Jesuit has Holy Cross @ Home,City Park ..Big Catholic League City Rivals too.

I'll be doing a Blog on that one.


O yeah,..big time,heres all Jesuit Sports schedule for 09-10
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting rareaire:
Luckily you landed mrs flood before she found out how old you really are!


LOL...I think you're right!
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Quoting rareaire:
Ill have to say Go Sooners if you keep it up, oops already did!!
My upset pick of the year. BYU over OU week 1. I don't want to see it happen because I hate the BCS buster talk, but I think it will, especially now without Gresham. OU is alot like the tide, lots of questions on the o-line. We'll see tomorrow.
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Quoting iluvjess:
I don't see any bouyos out there reporting any West winds.


Thats amazing.I am sure there are West winds all over the world.
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Quoting LBAR:
I appreciate the fact the Dr. Masters indicates the Arctic ice melt is due to natural causes of the Earth's orbit.

Erika's remnants are a fighter! Thank goodness for wind shear because by all indications she'd have been a bad one!


God forbid we blame ourselves for anything. I'm not implying man is THE cause of all of global warming, but one must have their heads up the you know what to suggest that co2 emissions is not at least partially responsible. Frankly, I don't care one way or the other because the Earth won't die off, we will. If man dies off, the Earth will carry on and 99% of all life forms that are to exist on Earth in it's life time will continue to come about and die off. We are just parasites on the Earth and eventually the Earth will shake us off one way or the other (war, famine, pestulence global warming etc).
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Quoting 954FtLCane:

All I'm gonna say is this is partly because a large percentage of folks on here are from FL. I would take a guess that the percentage of island wishcasters is probably equal to the precentage of of island people that are on here so y'all need to chill on florida wishcasters!!!


i know florida have had several run ins with hurricanes in the past and u all have a right to be concern about that...but the fact is not all hurricanes are going to to go to florida...the wave just left africa it going to take a few days to get organise and choose a direction..thats all i am really saying...all the casting and casting not going to change anything.
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Quoting Patrap:



Last year Brees almost Broke Marino's record for yards thrown for.

Brees is a Machine..,2nd string Tight End behind Shockey injured his Achilles tendon,Billy Miller.


Yeah, the commentary during the game about Brees is a cause for concern on 10-25.
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Luckily you landed mrs flood before she found out how old you really are!
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I don't see any bouyos out there reporting any West winds.
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Pat does Jesuit still have a powerhouse wrestling team? I know when I was in school they were dyanamite.
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Quoting rareaire:
Floodman is 68 Dont let him Kid You!!


Did you not see daksters and my conversation yesterday? I'm older than that (well, at least I feel older than that)
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Quoting mikatnight:


Morning Patrick -
Tuff luck last night, but you get a rematch on Oct. 25th (you might even get to use your starting QB then).



Last year Brees almost Broke Marino's record for yards thrown for.

Brees is a Machine..,2nd string Tight End behind Shockey injured his Achilles tendon,Billy Miller.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting LBAR:
I appreciate the fact the Dr. Masters indicates the Arctic ice melt is due to natural causes of the Earth's orbit.

Erika's remnants are a fighter! Thank goodness for wind shear because by all indications she'd have been a bad one!


Did you miss this part?

"Furthermore, four of the five warmest decades in the past 2,000 years occurred between 1950 - 2000, despite the fact that summertime solar radiation in the Arctic has been steadily declining for the past 2,000 years."
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Quoting LBAR:
I appreciate the fact the Dr. Masters indicates the Arctic ice melt is due to natural causes of the Earth's orbit.



He didn't say that. THIS is what he said.

However, temperatures in the Arctic began to rise around the year 1900, and are now 1.4°C (2.5°F) warmer than they should be, based on the amount of sunlight that is currently falling in the Arctic in summer. "If it hadn't been for the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases, summer temperatures in the Arctic should have cooled gradually over the last century," Bette Otto-Bliesner, a co-author from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a statement.

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Ill have to say Go Sooners if you keep it up, oops already did!!
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Quoting Patrap:


Saints played only 4 regulars whole Game...They Have the Opener against Detroit next Sunday.

I left at Half to go to Sons Jesuit High School Game,here at City Park Stadium, Jesuit Over Douglas,55 to 6.


Smoked 'em!
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Quoting apocalyps:
With all that ice melting,does a pinguin also melt?
Or will the pinguins form a new COC?
Is it not possible global warming is a kind of eye wall replacement for the world?
Have you seen erika lately?
Impressive convention.


ADD huh..
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Quoting bluehaze27:
Hey floodman, how about that wave off of Africa? How strong do you think it will be? Do you think it will hit South Florida? Should I pack up grandma and head for the hill;)


I don't know, I don't know and probably...LOL
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Quoting Patrap:


Saintsly played on 4 regulars whole Game...They Have the Opener against Detroit next Sunday.

I left at Half to go to Sons Jesuit High School Game,here at City Park Stadium, Jesuit Over Douglas,55 to 6.


Well I am sure that your sons game was a lot more interesting, man #9 on oregon has got some issues, so tropics.....
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360

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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.