Why Southeast Greenland's glaciers have slown down since 2005

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:57 PM GMT on December 15, 2009

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I'm in San Francisco for the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest gathering of climate scientists. I saw ten or so great talks yesterday (and five really boring ones!) Here's a summary of the the most interesting talk I heard yesterday:

If you plan on owning ocean front property after the year 2050, you should pay close attention to the glaciers In Greenland. Greenland holds enough ice to raise global sea level by over 20 feet (6.5 meters), should its ice cap completely disintegrate--though such an event would likely take centuries to occur. Still, should the climate warm 2°C or more this century, partial melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet could readily raise global sea level by a meter or more by 2100. That's why scientists reacted with concern during 2003 - 2005, when all of the glaciers in southeastern Greenland accelerated in synchrony to speeds 30% to 210% faster than they had flowed in 1996. As they sped up, the glaciers began dumping huge amounts of ice into the ocean off the coast of southeast Greenland, more than doubling Greenland's contribution to global sea rise, to .57 mm/year. Would the glaciers keep accelerating, bringing about an increasing disintegration of the Greenland Ice Sheet? Nobody knew, since computer models of glacial dynamics were (and still are) in a primitive state.


Figure 1. Helheim Glacier in southeast Greenland, in three images captured in 2004, 2005, and 2006. The glacier accelerated significantly in 2005, and the face of the glacier retreated 5 km inland (middle frame) compared to 2004. However, by the summer of 2006, the acceleration ceased, the the glacier returned back to its 2004 position. Image credit: Ian Howat, University of Washington.

Well, it turned out that 2005 was the peak of the glacial acceleration event. The glaciers in southeast Greenland have returned to where they were eight or nine years ago--still causing a net loss of mass that is raising global sea level, but not as fast as in 2003 - 2005. In a talk titled, "Ocean regulation of glacier dynamics in south-east Greenland and implication for ice sheet mass changes", Tavi Murray and colleagues from the UK's Swansea University presented a plausible theory for why this strange synchronous speed-up and slow-down occurred. Using satellite, aircraft, and surface observations, the researchers found that air temperatures in the region did not vary much over 2003 - 2005 (Figure 2). Thus, a major increase in temperature could be ruled out as the cause of the glacier surge. However, study of the ocean temperatures near the coast revealed strong clues that ocean currents were responsible for the surge.

Figure 2. Ocean currents off the east coast of Greenland feature the cold East Greenland Coastal Current flowing north to south (white arrows) and the warm Irminger Current flowing south to north (red arrows). Image credit: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

Ordinarily, the southeast coast of Greenland features a cold water current flowing north to south, called the East Greenland Coastal Current (EGCC). Much of the cold water for this current is supplied by melting of the 14 glaciers in southeast Greenland that empty into the sea (two of these glaciers, Kangerdlugssuaq and Helheim, represent 35% of east Greenland's total glacial discharge). A few hundred kilometers offshore, a warm water current called the Irminger Current flows the opposite direction, bringing warm water from the North Atlantic northward. In 2003, it happened that weather conditions over Greenland brought an unusually low amount of run-off of precipitation. With little new mass pushing the glaciers seaward, the glaciers responded by greatly reducing the amount of ice they dumped into the ocean by the shore. As a result, the East Greenland Coastal Current slowed down and warmed, which allowed the warm Irminger Current to advance towards the coast, warming the coastal waters even more. All that warm water near the coast began melting the glaciers where they reached the sea, causing the glaciers all along the southeast coast of Greenland to accelerate and rapidly thin between 2003 - 2005. By 2006, the thinning glaciers had dumped so much new ice into the ocean near the coast that the waters cooled and the East Greenland Coastal Current re-established itself. This cooled the glaciers at their marine termination points and slowed down the glacial surge, putting the glaciers back where they had been before 2003. This is a classic example of a negative feedback process--a change in weather conditions which generates a response, but the response creates conditions that tend to dampen the response.


Figure 3. Average temperatures for the only station in southeast Greenland with a century-long temperature record, Angmagssalik (called Ammassalik on the map in Figure 2). Temperatures in southeast Greenland during the 1930s and 1940s were similar to today's temperatures, suggesting that glacial surges like we witnessed in 2005 may have also occurred in the 1930s and 1940s, before we had monitoring capability. Image credit: NASA Goddard.

Commentary
As I commented in my previous post, Arctic sea ice loss appears to have created a new atmospheric circulation pattern that brings more warm air in the Arctic, creating a positive feedback loop that causes even more sea ice loss. This positive feedback loop was a bad news surprise that our climate models did not predict. Now we have evidence of a good news surprise that no model predicted--a negative feedback loop that acts to keep the southeast portion of Greenland's Ice Sheet from runaway glacial acceleration. We can expect many more surprises--good and bad--over the coming decades, as our climate responds to the huge shove human activities are giving it.

Ricky Rood in Copenhagen
Our Climate Change expert, Dr. Ricky Rood, is in Copenhagen for the COP15 climate change treaty negotiations. His latest post, called Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? makes for very interesting reading on how the U.S. is "wasting its intellect and time on disruptions designed to play to people at home".

Next post
I'll have another post from the AGU meeting Thursday or Friday this week.

Jeff Masters

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I'm not trying to argue with you, I am just pointing something out
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Good morning and as usual I think to much and have another question of the rise of the oceans.

Soil erosion around the world caused by ice, floods, winds or what ever results in a lot of soil being transported into the worlds oceans. How much of the rise in the ocean level is a direct result to this soil erosion?

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Quoting bonovoix:



They just need someone to attack. That is all they have.

Once you try to engage them in a debate and start showing how inept their views are they claim you are attacking them.


calm down :P

here is a thought for you:

You said that 98% of the world's scientists believe in man-made GW. What ever happened to the 98% of the scientists who thought the earth was the center of the universe? the 98% who thought the earth was flat?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting bonovoix:



They just need someone to attack. That is all they have.

Once you try to engage them in a debate and start showing how inept their views are they claim you are attacking them.


I hear you. It gets OLD after a while. Talk about obsessed. Good Lord, you'd think the poor man had committed genocide or something.
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


You are definitely in an inflammatory mood this morning. What is with you people and Al Gore? The guy isn't hurting anyone with his message. All he's trying to do is get people to care for their environment. What is wrong with that? Jeez! Why should we consider anything YOU post as legitimate? Your science background is even less than Al Gore's! Remember Doug, don't let your ideology blind you. Your words (paraphrased), remember?



They just need someone to attack. That is all they have.

Once you try to engage them in a debate and start showing how inept their views are they claim you are attacking them.
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Dr Grays position is well-known.
Look it up yourself. THis thread started with me stating that a "nuclear" explosion in the trialer for Big Al's movie could be considered "fear-mongering".
No one has denied it yet only attacked me for questioning it.


That may be true but no one has died from Al Gore's sensationalism which is more than I can say for other sensationalism we've seen in the past decade also involving a "mushroom cloud".
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
I'm not denying GW exists, only how much of it is man-made.


I agree with you 100% on this except I probably think more of it is man made than you do. I do, however, only wonder about the degree to which we contribute not IF we contribute. Glad we agree on something!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:


Lets see.
He goes around the world promotingg his agenda thru HIS movie, wins all kinds of awards including a Nobel Peace Prize for it, and yet doesn't have to take any of the responisibilty for errors of content or sensationalism. I notice you don't deny that it is fear-mongering, only that its not Big Al's fault. Why should I ever consider anything you post legitimate?


You are definitely in an inflammatory mood this morning. What is with you people and Al Gore? The guy isn't hurting anyone with his message. All he's trying to do is get people to care for their environment. What is wrong with that? Jeez! Why should we consider anything YOU post as legitimate? Your science background is even less than Al Gore's! Remember Doug, don't let your ideology blind you. Your words (paraphrased), remember?
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Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
638 am CST Wednesday Dec 16 2009



Thursday through Friday...this is the focus of the forecast package. As our
disturbance slowly pushes through southern Texas towards the Gulf, cyclogenesis
will begin in the western Gulf.


By Thursday afternoon/early evn we should see a
surface low deepen in the western Gulf while our old cold front will be back
on the way north as a warm front. Decent isentropic lift in the
295/300k levels will likely get light to moderate rain showers as early as
midday Thursday over the coastal parishes but the majority of the rain
will occur during the evn and overnight hours. The surface low will slowly
work east-northeast just south of the la coast and twrds the Florida Panhandle by
late Friday morning. With this track we will stay on the cool side
which will limit the amount of thunderstorms and rain we will see but that said we
will still see strong isentropic lift initially and then some decent
middle level support as our disturbance moves across the northern Gulf. There
could once again be some locally heavy rain as we move under the
deformation zone. At this time it looks like the same areas that
have received the most rain over the past week could very well see
the most rain from this system as well. Another 1-2" of rain looks
possible especially across extreme southeastern la. Rain will exit the
region from west to east late Friday morning and by afternoon all of the
rain should be east of the County Warning Area. /Cab/
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Looks like Laurence is poised to do the RI-in-reverse-dance-after-landfall:



Any storm surge from our little vortiphoon, Aussie?
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Quoting tornadodude:


silence is golden, eh?
Quoting gordydunnot:
Its sw of whats off canvas that I am worried about.
Quoting Patrap:
So enjoy the slight reprieve..things are gonna get Squirrly in Dixie,..the next 14 Days seems.

I gotta find my isotoner gloves
Quoting AussieStorm:

NO RAIN????? what happened?

Yeah, I know it is very temporary...still it is nice for the mold I was growing to dry out.
L8R.
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So enjoy the slight reprieve..things are gonna get Squirrly in Dixie,..the next 14 Days seems.

I gotta find my isotoner gloves
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Its sw of whats off canvas that I am worried about.
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The new GOM Low ,or the Thursday,Friday Storm..takes shape Sw of Galveston

GOM IR Loop



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Quoting atmoaggie:
Here it is. A beautiful picture:



silence is golden, eh?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Slow Atlantic Hurricane Season Comes to a Close


Slow Atlantic Hurricane Season Comes to a Close

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Quoting atmoaggie:
Here it is. A beautiful picture:


NO RAIN????? what happened?
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Here it is. A beautiful picture:

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Quoting AussieStorm:

yeah... as pleasant as a slap in the face with a kiss.


precisely :P I am supposed to get some snow friday and saturday, we'll see how that goes
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
I see the theatre of the absurd happened again last night; there is a reason you guys almost never see me here amongst the fray once it gets goofy (mission of reading back aborted). And I thought it was only opponents of AGW theory and controls that were just showing up out of the woodwork...? Seems that here lately it has been the other way around.

Oh, I have a beautiful picture to post that sure brightened my day. I'll share in a moment.
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Charlie - leads the way in his demonstration of AGW-Klimate Change "leadership" hubris -

PRINCE Charles used up seven months’ worth of the average British person’s “carbon footprint” yesterday flying to Copenhagen on an executive jet to make a speech on climate change.

Charles, who made an impassioned speech to world leaders on the need to agree drastic cuts in carbon emissions, decided against taking a more environmentally-friendly train or scheduled airliner, arguing it was impractical.

Neat twist on " I had to be there in person to 'interact' with professional scientists (& not generate an email trail for chrissakes!)"
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Quoting tornadodude:


that is pleasant, not :P it is 11 here right now

yeah... as pleasant as a slap in the face with a Fish.
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686. LOLOLOL Grist for another SouthPark man-bear-pig episode. About time - the material has been accumulating since the last one. Hello? SouthPark guys, you feeling this?
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Oh and its going to be 100F here tomorrow. oh joy... not


that is pleasant, not :P it is 11 here right now
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
I'm not sure if anyone has already posted this information, but if not, some of you might find this interesting. I watched a show about this on Discovery called Project Earth.

From telegraph.co.uk: "Wrapping Greenland in reflective blankets - Rising sea levels are threatening the planet but a glaciologist has devised a way to prevent glaciers from melting further - by wrapping them in a reflective blanket. "

Here's a link to the rest of the article and also a video: Link
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The Gore Effect strikes as the UN climate summit begins
Written by Tony Hake, Climate Change Examiner
Monday, December 07 2009 11:33

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) begins today in Copenhagen, Denmark and brings together politicians and scientists from across the globe to address manmade climate change. As if on cue, the Gore Effect has struck much of the United States with record setting cold and snow.

The Gore Effect was coined in recent years for the unseasonable weather that oftentimes accompanies appearances by former vice president and Nobel Laureate Al Gore or when a global warming event is held. Cold and snow have followed Al Gore and these events across the globe with amazing frequency since 2004.

In just the last week, the United States has been besieged by cold weather events from coast to coast with more on tap for this week. Is it the Gore Effect being felt as a result of the climate summit?

Last Friday, snow fell in Houston, the earliest it ever has and it marked the first time it has snowed in the Texas city in back to back years. Other cities across the Lone Star state and Louisiana reported similar records. Near the Great Lakes, Grand Rapids, Michigan had more snow on Friday than it had ever recorded on that date.

The weekend brought snow to Denver, Colorado and temperatures 30 degrees below normal. Baltimore, Maryland had snow on December 5th – the same date it has its first snowfall of the season for six out of the eight last years.

In all, over the three day span from Friday through Sunday, 370 new record low temperatures were set or tied across the United States according to the National Climatic Data Center. Similarly 333 new record low maximums were set or tied over the same period.

Plenty of folks also saw record rain and snow. Over 130 new snowfall records were reported during the period and more than 100 record rain reports were made.

Today, in Sacramento, the California city is expecting record cold temperatures and a chance at its first snow since 2002. In the Midwest, blizzard conditions are expected across Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois tomorrow.

Certainly it is most likely just coincidence but these types of events do seem to occur with a startling frequency at the most inopportune time for advocates of the manmade climate change theory.

Below is a partial list of various events over the last five years in which the Gore Effect was in full force:

•January 15, 2004 – A global warming rally held in New York is subdued by one of the coldest days in New York City history. Gore tells the audience it was caused by global warming.
•November, 2006 – Al Gore visits Australia two weeks before the start of summer. Ski resort operators are caught off guard by the snowfall.
•February, 2007 – A hearing in the House of Representatives on global warming is cancelled after a snow and ice storm strike DC.
•April, 2007 – Two feet of snow arrive on Itaca, NY in time for an Earth Day rally.
•April, 2007 – A rally in Reno, Nevada held by the Northern Nevada Coalition for Climate Change is cut short by heavy rain and sleet.
•March, 2007 – A media briefing on the Senate’s climate bill is cancelled due to a snowstorm.
•December 5, 2007 – Washington DC receives its first snow of the season as the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee debates global warming legislation.
•January, 2008 – A global warming rally in Baltimore, Maryland is held amidst falling snow.
•October 22, 2008 – Al Gore appears at Harvard amidst temperatures that approached 125 year old low temperature records.
•October 28, 2008 – The House of Commons debates a climate change bill as London gets its first October snow since 1922.
•October 28, 2008 – John McCain and Barack Obama campaign in Pennsylvania. A wet, wintry mix causes McCain to cancel a rally while Obama goes forward. He teases people holding ‘stop global warming’ signs saying, "This is probably not the weather to hold up those signs. I'm not into global warming either but it's a little chilly today."
•November, 2008 – The “People’s Power for the Climate” protest in Newcastle, Australia is canceled after one day due to rain and cold. Participants had been told to bring sunscreen and hats.
•December, 2008 – The former vice president speaks to an audience in Milan, Italy about global warming. Outside it is snowing, a rare event in the area. Snow and freezing rain also strike Rome, Naples, Palermo and Sicily.
•January 17, 2009 – President-elect Obama on his train tour to the capital stops in Philadelphia. He tells those gathered, “A planet that is warming from our unsustainable dependence on oil." Temperatures were 18 degrees with a wind chill below 10 degrees.
•January 28, 2009 – Al Gore is set to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about global warming. A winter storm arrives at the nation’s capital.
•February 5, 2009 – Temperatures down to -6 degrees freeze a major global warming conference in Buffalo.
•March 2, 2009 – A major global warming rally billed as “the nation’s largest act of civil disobedience” sees low turnout after a blizzard blanketed the nation’s capital with snow. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi cancels an appearance at the event after her flight was delayed due to the storm.
•July, 2009 – Leading up to a visit from Al Gore to launch Safe Climate Australia, Melbourne suffers through temperatures approaching zero degrees.
•October 9, 2009 – Al Gore is in Madison, Wisconsin for a convention of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Record cold temperatures arrive with him.
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 669
Oh and its going to be 100F here tomorrow. oh joy... not
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Safe to assume you meant County and not Country?

We don't have counties here, we have Shires. My parents live in the Cooma/Monaro Shire.
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Mmmm - Jetting from chilly Michigan to gloriously damp San Francisco now, eh? I'd of thought the AGW - Klimate Change believers would not be jetting all over the country to "meetings" but would be using "satellite symposiums" to listen, speak & interact with other "professional scientists", no?(we use such technology all the time in my field - not only for learning & interacting but for diagnostics & remediation as well). Big carbon footprint just to share off-gassed CO2 & lottsa methane - the only things satellite symposia can't communicate as well as face-to-face interactions (other than the cocktail persons - SF - after meetings of course). What's the point? Yet more "Heat for me but not for thee" action! Disingenuous, hypocritical & full of hubris - the days of "leadership by example" seem to be long gone (or does that only apply to those who did not do well in school as described by John Kerry?).
Hey! Just like Charlie! PRINCE CHARLES: EXECUTIVE JET WITH BIG CARBON FOOTPRINT GETS HIM TO CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I did actually mean country. as in Country music, as in Country town.


Ahh ok.. Australia uses provinces just like we do right.. and county's like england also?

With a little bit of luck.. SWMBO and myself are taking the kids and grandson to Mexico on the 2nd of January. Probably to the eastern side, south of Cancun.

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Quoting Orcasystems:


Safe to assume you meant County and not Country?

I did actually mean country. as in Country music, as in Country town.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
LAMB CHOP!! Awwwwwww.

Guess it's late enough in the Blog.

My mother had my pre-school report card, well, report, many years ago.
Evidently I told my pre-school teacher I wanted to be a lamb when I grew up.

I'm sure an analyst could have a field day with that; or a theologian.


my daughter was asked if she could be any kind of car what would she be and she said "plymouth valiant". this was in 1979. None of us oculd figure that one out.
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I always sucked at testing. Thought about it too much. I get awesome grades all year, I know it, and get B's on tests, Blah!!!
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Calgary beats record set in 1893

Calgary has beaten a weather record set more than 100 years ago.

At about 7:00 Monday morning, Calgary dipped to minus 32.4 degrees beating the old record by .2 degrees.

And at least twelve low temperature records have been broken, with the coldest being Sundre coming in at minus 41.6C.

That's prompting calls from the Catholic and public schools to warn parents about letting kids stand outside to wait for the bus. The frigid temperatures also cancelled bus service in the Chinook Edge School District.

The lowest windchill was in Camrose, where the wind makes it feel like minus 50C.................
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Ya'll have fun with GW debate part 500000... lol



Snort..chuckle chukle....lol
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 669
Quoting alaina1085:

Yes!! Tomorrow's my last final. :))



Party Time. Best Of Luck To Ya!
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Ohhh, well in that case.. good luck :)
And as a father would say.. do well on your tests.. now get out of my house and get a Job :)
Merry Christmas :)

LOL! I cant wait to get my job!

Quoting biff4ugo:
Good luck Alaina.

I still would like to know how flow from Glaciers in the SE of Greenland provide most of the water for a current that starts way in the north.

Thanks.

Ya'll have fun with GW debate part 500000... lol.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Further to my earlier post, when i come back from my week away, I will publish my photos on my blog and will post a link on the main blog.


Safe to assume you meant County and not Country?
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Good luck Alaina.

I still would like to know how flow from Glaciers in the SE of Greenland provide most of the water for a current that starts way in the north.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 116 Comments: 1605
Quoting alaina1085:

ROFL! For college Orca. Def not on GW.


Ohhh, well in that case.. good luck :)
And as a father would say.. do well on your tests.. now get out of my house and get a Job :)
Merry Christmas :)
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Quoting Orcasystems:


what the heck.. I'll bite.
Finals of what? or is it something to do with GW

ROFL! For college Orca. Def not on GW.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Just to give everyone a heads up... I wont be online from next Monday night. I am taking a week off and going to visit my parents about 450km's away, at a little country town called Cooma. While i am there, I hope to walk to the highest point of Australia, i will be taking many pics while i am away, If you want to join me on facebook, send me a Wu-mail and I'll add u to my friends list.
Cheers AussieStorm

Further to my earlier post, when i come back from my week away, I will publish my photos on my blog and will post a link on the main blog.
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Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:


Morning.

Almost done though, right?

Yes!! Tomorrow's my last final. :))
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Quoting alaina1085:
Morning guys and gals!
Round 2 of finals this morning.... Yay (note sarcasm.)


what the heck.. I'll bite.
Finals of what? or is it something to do with GW
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Quoting alaina1085:
Morning guys and gals!
Round 2 of finals this morning.... Yay (note sarcasm.)


Morning.

Almost done though, right?
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
From JB.

Heh, it's snowing in Copenhagen... and in merry olde England How bout that?



The "Gore Effect" strikes again!

haha. i like your style.
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Morning guys and gals!
Round 2 of finals this morning.... Yay (note sarcasm.)
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

Humor in Comments
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From JB.

Heh, it's snowing in Copenhagen... and in merry olde England How bout that?



The "Gore Effect" strikes again!
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 669

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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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