Embattled UK climate scientist steps down

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:53 PM GMT on December 03, 2009

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The embattled director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU), Dr. Phil Jones, announced that he will be temporarily standing aside as director. An independent review of his conduct in light of the emails illegally hacked from his computers last month is in progress. In a press release, Professor Jones said: "What is most important is that CRU continues its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible. After a good deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the Director's role during the course of the independent review and am grateful to the University for agreeing to this. The Review process will have my full support".

The University and the police are investigating the break-in, and it is currently unknown if this was the act of an insider or an external break-in. I think it is highly unlikely this was the work of an insider in a whistle-blower type of action, since a computer at realclimate.org was hacked into the same week (via a computer in Turkey), and the criminal attempted to upload the emails stolen from CRU to the realclimate.org server. This is not the sort of action a whistleblower would do. Dr. Gavin Schmidt of realclimate.org said in a comment yesterday that the CRU break-in appeared to have been done from the outside, into a backup mail server. It is unlikely the hacker acted alone, since hackers aren't typically intimately familiar with the details of the climate change science debate. The emails and code stolen were selectively culled by someone who appeared to have considerable expertise in climate science.

What did Dr. Jones do wrong?
So, what did Dr. Jones do wrong? For starters, he should have confronted the allegations raised by his critics immediately and talked candidly to the press about some of the specific accusations being made. For example, one of the emails contained the statement that he would like to "redefine what the peer-reviewed literature is" to exclude two questionable papers from the IPCC report. Well, that's not something a good scientist should seriously advocate, and is an impossibility, in any case. No one can redefine the peer-reviewed literature, since the rules for this are well-established an not subject to change. When I read the comment in the context it was made, it reads as a joke. There is no discussion in the hacked emails about how to go about redefining the peer-reviewed literature. In the end, the two papers Jones was referring to with this comment, McKitrick and Michaels (2004) and Kalnay and Cai (2003), ended up being cited and discussed in Chapter 2 of the IPCC AR4 report. Those intent on discrediting the science of human-caused global warming are spinning the comment differently, creating a controversy about something that is impossible to do, and was not being seriously suggested. Jones should have immediately spoken up to quash the hype on this comment.

The "trick" to "hide the decline"
Another area of concern is over a graph Dr. Jones helped construct in 1999 showing the "hockey stick" of Earth's surface temperature going back 1,000 years. This graph combined instrumental measurements made since the 1800s with older paleoclimate data (including data from tree rings) to show a continuous 1,000 year record of Earth's temperatures. The paleoclimate data after 1960 show a bogus decline in Earth's temperatures that does not agree with what modern thermometers have been measuring, due to a well-known variation in tree ring thickness as a function of time, referred to as "the decline". Thus, Jones elected to toss out the bogus paleoclimate data (using a "trick" to "hide the decline") rather than present it in the graph. The graph was not properly labeled to show this was done, so viewers of the graph would have had needed to be familiar with a 1998 paper published in Nature or the 1999 paper referenced in the caption on the graph, which explained this well-known data issue. The graph that Jones used his "trick" on was put into a 1999 report called the "WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate". The report was given to policy makers, but was never published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. No reputable climate scientist believes that the paleoclimate data since 1960 is of higher quality than the instrumental record (this is discussed in detail in Chapter 6 of the 2007 IPCC report). In order to make the "hokey stick" graph less confusing, removing "the decline" from the tree ring data is a reasonable thing to do--provided one labels the graph properly. The graph was not properly labeled. Does Jones' "trick" and failure to properly label the graph constitute data falsification, or was it merely sloppy science? The hacked emails contain no suggestions that the "trick" was done to intentionally fool people, and the "trick" never appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, including the IPCC reports. In Dr. Jones' words, "This is well-known and is called the "decline" or "divergence". The use of the term "hiding the decline" was in an email written in haste. CRU has not sought to hide the decline. Indeed, CRU has published a number of articles that both illustrate, and discuss the implications of, this recent tree-ring decline, including the article that is listed in the legend of the WMO Statement figure".




Figure 1. The WMO 1999 "hockey stick" figure (top) with climate reconstructions and instrumental temperatures merged, and a version (bottom) with the climate reconstructions (coloured) and instrumental temperatures (annual & summer in black) shown separately. Note "the decline" in the temperature obtained from tree ring data (green curve) in the bottom curve. Image credit: University of East Anglia.

Global warming contrarians are spinning the "trick" as reason to discredit the "hockey stick", claiming that the data was falsified to hide the fact that tree rings were telling the real story. Since the hockey stick was falsified, some claim, the entire science behind human-caused global warming needs to be questioned. This is plain ludicrous. The graph was never published in a scientific journal. Several updated versions of the "hockey stick" graph have been published in the ten years since the disputed graph was produced, and the "hockey stick" can be reproduced in essentially the same form excluding the controversial tree rings, using other paleoclimate data such as boreholes (See Mann et al., 2008, Figure 2). Furthermore, the peer-reviewed science supporting human-caused global warming is not based solely upon the "hockey stick" and the CRU data used for the last 150 years of the hockey stick graph. There are three separate data sets of global temperatures maintained by NASA, the CRU, and NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, that all show essentially the same global warming. We also have evidence from nature herself in the form of plants and animals expanding their ranges poleward, the record loss of Arctic sea ice in 2007 and record loss of multi-year Arctic sea ice this year, the shrinking of mountain glaciers, reductions in the length of freeze season in many Northern Hemisphere lakes and rivers, the shifting of spring blooms earlier in most regions of the world, and on and on and on. Again, Jones should have spoken up immediately to kill the ridiculous hype being pushed by global warming contrarians about the importance of a 10-year old graph that is now scientifically irrelevant, and was never published.


Figure 2. The "hockey stick" of global temperature anomalies since 300 A.D., as published in a 2008 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Mann et al.. Even if one excludes tree rings (blue curve), the hockey stick looks the same.

Resistance to releasing data to other researchers
The hacked emails also show that Dr. Jones resisted releasing his data to contrarians and urged others to delete emails regarding Freedom Of Information (FOI) related requests. Many countries protect their weather data under an international agreement called World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40, which prohibits the data from being made public (this is why wunderground can't give out the UKMET model forecasts on our web site, for example). About 5% of the CRU data fell in that category, making release illegal. However, deleting emails related to FOI requests is inadvisable and implies one has something to hide. The investigation should certainly pursue the issue of whether Dr. Jones properly handled the requests to turn over his data to outside researchers. Ideally, weather data documenting Earth's climate history should be free to everyone on the planet (I am not a big fan of WMO Resolution 40). However, another aspect to this issue is the time it takes for the scientists involved to prepare the data for release. Large, complicated data sets require extensive documentation and access to related computer codes in order to process them, and making the data available to every amateur investigator interested in the data puts an unfair burden on the scientists who maintain the data sets. In particular, an amateur climate science investigator named Stephen McIntyre, who runs the web site Climate Audit, has created such an issue. McIntyre, a retired mining executive and an investor, is not a professional scientist, but has been successful identifying several technical errors made in the published literature. He has also generated a huge amount of misleading and incorrect information over the years, and has done a tremendous amount of damage to the understanding of climate science. McIntyre is intent on discrediting the science of human-caused global warming--presumably for ideological reasons, since he has no obvious ties to the fossil fuel industry--and has generated a large number of Freedom of Information requests to further his cause. One of the hacked emails, from Dr. Ben Santer, complained that McIntyre's FOI requests were intrusive and unreasonable with no scientific justification or explanation given, and appeared to be a calculated strategy to divert Santer's attention and focus away from research. It's worth reading Santer's reaction to the hacked email affair to learn more. Given such tactics by McIntyre, Dr. Jones' resistance to FOI requests from McIntyre is understandable, but appears to have been poorly handled.

The science of human-caused global warming remains unaffected
None of the hacked emails reveal any conspiracy to publish falsified or "fudged" material in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The science of human-caused global warming will require no revision as a result of this affair. Baseless accusations of fraud, data manipulation, and conspiracy against climate change scientists stemming from the hacked emails are being massively hyped by the Manufactured Doubt industry in an effort to discredit climate scientists, since no flaw with the science can be found. Most of the public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad, so if you can create doubt, uncertainty, and confusion, you can win--or at least buy time, lots of it. The hacked email affair is all about politics, not science. Dr. Jones is an excellent scientist, but unfortunately was over-matched as a politician. It was hardly a fair fight--one scientist against the political might of the mightiest PR campaign against science ever waged, armed with some selectively culled stolen emails taken out of context.

Other posts in this series
The Manufactured Doubt industry and the hacked email controversy
Is more CO2 beneficial for Earth's ecosystems?

Next post
I'm working on a post called, "Don't shoot the messenger", and plan to run this Sunday or Monday.

Our Climate Change expert, Dr. Ricky Rood, will be in Copenhagen for Monday's start to the crucial COP15 climate change treaty negotiations. Be sure to tune into his blog for updates on the talks. Wunderground has provided financial support for several University of Michigan students to attend the talks, and I may be featuring portions of their blogs over the coming weeks.

Jeff Masters

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the snow is really coming down now in Pearland. big, fat, wet snow flakes everywhere. pretty cool stuff!
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Hi BAP,
What are the chances for more severe WX in FL?
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If you have weather bug check out Edna! it is piling up, and visibility down to less than 1/8th of mile....
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Quoting jeffs713:
The Woodlands, TX now reporting snow. (actually, not just reporting... its definitely falling... I'm watching it fall outside)

What are you waiting for, go take some pics! LOL.
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The Woodlands, TX now reporting snow. (actually, not just reporting... its definitely falling... I'm watching it fall outside)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
Still waiting on snow here in College Station...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669
Still rain in Texas City, Friendswood getting snow NW portion of Galveston county
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And, just in case that wasn't enough, there's more on the way. Could be a very wet & stormy next couple weeks.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...SATURDAY THROUGH THURSDAY


LOW PRESSURE WILL DEVELOP OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO AND MOVE ACROSS
CENTRAL FLORIDA ON SATURDAY PUSHING A COLD FRONT THROUGH SOUTH
FLORIDA. THIS WILL ALLOW FOR A CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS
OVER ALL OF SOUTH FLORIDA ON SATURDAY. SOME OF THE STORMS IN THE
MORNING COULD EVEN BE STRONG WITH FREQUENT LIGHTNING STRIKES,
GUSTY WINDS UP TO 50 MPH, AND LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL.

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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Snowing in Louisiana a yet?


Not here! But im in south east so it wont be till way later for us.

Quoting 1900hurricane:

After checking the obs, it look like it is still rain in Galveston and Brazoria (and probably Chanbers) Counties, but everything else looks like snow!


Fun fun!
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Quoting alaina1085:


So is that all snow where the rain is?

After checking the obs, it look like it is still rain in Galveston and Brazoria (and probably Chanbers) Counties, but everything else looks like snow!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669
Snowing in Louisiana a yet?
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Quoting mrnicktou:
Funny how they show cantore in the dark in houston and its not dark here at all. i saw it the other day too total b.s. that aint live



Pre-recorded.
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Funny how they show cantore in the dark in houston and its not dark here at all. i saw it the other day too total b.s. that aint live
Member Since: July 28, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 64
Quoting 1900hurricane:
Check out that radar!



So is that all snow where the rain is?
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Lightning and thunder...Squalls moving in! WOOHOO!
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Check out that radar!

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11669
Looks to be a rough night south of Lake O tonight. Stay safe everyone.


THUNDERSTORMS: THERE IS A SLIGHT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS TODAY INTO TONIGHT...EXCEPT A CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS NORTH OF ALLIGATOR ALLEY TONIGHT. A FEW OF THE STORMS COULD EVEN BE STRONG TONIGHT OVER THE NORTHERN AREAS OF SOUTH FLORIDA TONIGHT.




WIND: THE STRONGEST STORMS NORTH OF ALLIGATOR ALLEY TONIGHT WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING WIND GUSTS UP TO 50 MPH.





TORNADOES: THE ATMOSPHERE LATE TONIGHT INTO EARLY SATURDAY MORNING NORTH OF ALLIGATOR ALLEY WILL BE FAVORABLE FOR PRODUCING A FEW WEAK TORNADOES WITH THE STRONGEST STORMS.

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Snow covering the ground over N Jackson County into SW Wharton County under heavy snow band. Enda already has about an inch on the ground.

Accumulation likely ogoing into SW Fort Bend County at this time.

May need to up accumulations do to fast start and impressive snow banding. Visibilities along US 59 in Jackson County down to 1/4th of the mile in heavy snow.
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Moderate to heavy snow falling across metro Houston and Harris County.

Surface temperatures has fallen into the mid to upper 30's and we are losing about 1 degree everything 30 minutes...but this should start to stabilize as the initial significant temperature fall is ending.

Will start to see SN accumulate in the heavy bands in within the next 2 hours from SW to NE.

Heavy snow band appears to be setting up along US 59. Will likely see accumulation shortly over Fort Bend County as air temp. as dropped to 35 at Sugar Land.
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Quoting BenInHouTX:
Temp here was around 80 on Sunday, and it will be dropping below freezing here in a few hours. Quite a turnaround if you ask me.

Welcome to Houston. Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
804. IKE
Ellington Field, Texas (Airport)
Updated: 26 min 15 sec ago
Light Rain
37 °F
Light Rain Snow
Windchill: 31 °F
Humidity: 100%
Dew Point: 37 °F
Wind: 8 mph from the NNE
Pressure: 30.30 in (Falling)
Visibility: 5.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds:
Overcast 400 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 30 ft
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Temp here was around 80 on Sunday, and it will be dropping below freezing here in a few hours. Quite a turnaround if you ask me.
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69 degrees here in Boston yesterday and snow in Houston today,did someone flip the continent around while I was sleeping?
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801. fahr
Here in beautiful downtown Beeville Texas, we're having snow flurries mixed with light rain since about 7:30am

gonna be a fun day here in the coastal bend.
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Watching Jim cantore in Houston, the snow is starting to come down. Its dropped 2 degrees in the last hour. Send some of that snow to SELA
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Temp now showing at 37.2 degrees at 8:35. That's down another 2.3 degrees in the last 25 minutes.
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Quoting jeffs713:

So YOU are the reason its snowing here....

Do you have any family that can move down here? ;)

And honestly... most people here don't know how to drive when the weather is perfect. Them driving in ice/snow scares me.


snowing in the 77379 area or 281 or 832 whichever one you want to look at just a few flakes nothing significant yet
Member Since: July 28, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 64
Quoting jeffs713:

So YOU are the reason its snowing here....

Do you have any family that can move down here? ;)

And honestly... most people here don't know how to drive when the weather is perfect. Them driving in ice/snow scares me.


Oh, I've been trying to get my brother and his wife and kids to move here. Right now I only see them at Christmas. I moved here from Lexington, KY. My brother lives in Beckley, WV, so if he were to move here and bring snow with him, it would be a lot more than this.

BTW, it is now snowing pretty good here in the Galleria area. Pretty good size flakes too.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Strong thunderstorms developing on the north side of Tampa. A big slug of rain off SWFL getting ready to move ashore as well.


Mornin' all!
I see we maybe getting some of that much needed rain. Unless the evil rain-dissolving gremlin strikes again.
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Galleria area getting snow flying all over according to radio station
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Quoting BenInHouTX:
Temperature dropping here in Houston. Here in the 77056 zip code, it was 41.8 degrees at 6:45am. Now at 8:10, it has already dropped over 2 degrees to 39.5.

A 3 degree total drop from 42.5 when I got to work at 5:30 this morning. So, in the first hour and 15 minutes of work today, it dropped .7, but in the last hour and a half, it has dropped 2.3, and it hasn't even really started raining yet, just a little bit of a drizzle here and there. It will be interesting to see how quick it drops once it really starts raining/sleeting/snowing.

My second winter in Houston and the second straight year with snow. Looking forward to the possibility of snow, just not looking forward to having to drive in it. People around here don't know how to drive in the rain, much less sleet/snow.

So YOU are the reason its snowing here....

Do you have any family that can move down here? ;)

And honestly... most people here don't know how to drive when the weather is perfect. Them driving in ice/snow scares me.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
Moderate to heavy snow will develop over the region today

Significant accumulations are likely producing an unprecedented winter storm event for coastal TX.

Winter Storm Warning has been expanded to include all SE TX counties.

Discussion:

Factors are well on their way to producing a historic snow event for SE TX and metro Houston today. Radar is rapidly filling in as mid and low level moisten and saturate to the surface while surface and 850mb cold air advection of arctic air mass is in progress. Light rain in being reported at our SW county stations and Port Aransas is reporting a mixture at this time…although I am not sure this ASOS site is getting it correct since Port Lavaca or no other sites are reporting SN or SN/RA mix. Strong lift is incoming across SC TX and this will be the trigger to get things going. Models pegging away at meso scale banding features setting up across our central zones this afternoon dumping heavy snowfall rates. In fact dynamics and lift may be strong enough to produce the extremely rare thundersnow across our central and coastal tier zones given convective look of radar images out of CRP. With all said will go with 100% snow for all US 59 corridor counties and then 80% either side of those counties as confidence is now at that level.

Temperatures:

Will crater temperatures during the day today and bottom them out in the low to mid 20’s Saturday morning. This will be a hard and killing freeze with many areas at or below freezing for 10-12 hours. Snow cover will only allow minor warming on Saturday and will cut highs only into the upper 30’s. Areas of heavy snow accumulation may remain snow covered into Sunday morning and area bridges and overpasses will be slow to recover.

Accumulations:

NW Counties (Walker, Polk, San Jacinto, Brazos, Grimes, Washington, Burleson, Madison):

Accumulations of 1-2” this afternoon. Expect a mainly light to at times moderate snow event in this area.


Montgomery, Waller, Austin, Liberty, Harris, Fort Bend, Wharton, Colorado:

This is where the greatest snow will likely fall with moderate to at times heavy snow banding favored along US 59. Expect everything to go over the snow by noon and then begin to accumulate by early to mid afternoon. Rates may approach 1” under the meso scale banding reducing visibilities down to 1/8 or ¼ of a mile. Widespread accumulations of 2-4” is likely with isolated totals of 6” possible under meso scale bands. Significant impacts to travel are likely both on the ground and in the air.


Coastal tier counties (Victoria/Calhoun –Chambers):

Light rain developing with begin to mix and then change to all snow by early to mid afternoon. May see meso scale banding develop in these counties also. Will go with 1-2” SW counties up to 1-3” Brazoria County and possibly higher over Galveston/Chambers counties.

Impacts:

This will be a high impact event both for surface and air travel.

Snowfall rates this afternoon will greatly hinder air travel as aircraft will require vigorous de-icing operations. Reduced visibilities and extremely low ceiling will stack up taxi-way delays and may require aircraft to return to gates for multiple rounds of de-icing as snow accumulates on the control surfaces. Not sure IAH or HOU will be able to keep the runways clear given the possible heavy snow bands being generated.

With air temperatures falling to freezing early this afternoon…initial snowfall will melt and then begin to freeze as a glaze of ice on area bridges and overpasses. As snow continues…it will accumulate on top of this sheet of ice producing very hazardous to near impossible travel conditions. Heavy snow bands will produce rates high enough to cover surface streets producing near impossible travel especially on any inclined ramps. Will be needing heavy sanding operations, but the size and intensity of the event is going to quickly overwhelm available resources…best bet is to be where you are going to be 1-2 hours after the snow begins at your destination location.
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Wow, you are going to defend Mr. Jones. Him and many more so called experts have put the scientific community in the same realm as used car salespersons and politicians. I guess you and others are back to being just the weatherman.
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Quoting jeffs713:

How is it that you ALWAYS beat me to posts like that? Do you have some mind-reading device I don't know about? ;)


Know a met in Houston, get weather report emails
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Temperature dropping here in Houston. Here in the 77056 zip code, it was 41.8 degrees at 6:45am. Now at 8:10, it has already dropped over 2 degrees to 39.5.

A 3 degree total drop from 42.5 when I got to work at 5:30 this morning. So, in the first hour and 15 minutes of work today, it dropped .7, but in the last hour and a half, it has dropped 2.3, and it hasn't even really started raining yet, just a little bit of a drizzle here and there. It will be interesting to see how quick it drops once it really starts raining/sleeting/snowing.

My second winter in Houston and the second straight year with snow. Looking forward to the possibility of snow, just not looking forward to having to drive in it. People around here don't know how to drive in the rain, much less sleet/snow.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Rain Snow mix in Pearland, snow in Bellaire, Sugarland, Rosengberg, downtown Houston

How is it that you ALWAYS beat me to posts like that? Do you have some mind-reading device I don't know about? ;)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
Snow reported in Sugar Land, TX, and Katy, TX. (Southwest and West of Houston, respectively.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5885
Rain Snow mix in Pearland, snow in Bellaire, Sugarland, Rosengberg, downtown Houston
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Models sometimes have a hard time of estimating snow fall and this just might be the case this time also
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yes that big slug is going over my place north of z-hills. i'll take it too. oh good morning all
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Gonna be a cold rain Doug



That bites.


But I can dream!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:



Down on Bayou Grande this morn.


Gonna be a cold rain Doug
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Down on Bayou Grande this morn.
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Quoting P451:
Tampa do you really trust the GFS though? It's been good with genesis but intensity has been well overdone.



I think it does well at showing possiblities but, ya your correct its not good for winter intensity storms......I like the NAM for that


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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.