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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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
453. calusakat
Your spelling has never been worse. Are you okay tonight?

Whut?

Just cuz I slipped into a little Justin Wilson for a sec?

Heh Heh.


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Quoting Chicklit:


Interesting political analogy to the traditional reigning G7 and new power G20 today, with "The People" now representing world population.

I was trying to figure out what had the Cophenhagen talks stalled this morning.
It looks like China, considered among the "developing nation" class, will not agree to any outside monitoring of its emissions. I think also the developing nations get bigger emissions leeway than the developed ones, such as the U.S. And the U.S. is basing its refusal to cooperate based upon the Chinese stance. I don't know what India, another big polluter, thinks. Probably just hoping the Chinese and U.S. continue to battle it out so nobody has to adhere to anything responsibly.




China can Huff and puff and stick out their chest all day in Copenhagen,..but it's really kinda hard to Hide from a Lacrosse KH-11 DOD Platform.

One of the reasons I do sleep well every night.


file photo from late 60s-early 70s Model




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Looks like landfall toward The Kimberly on this map.
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WPB, the weekend looks cold for Lake Worth with temperatures in the lower 40s on Sunday and Monday.
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Quoting miajrz:

I looked and you're right. So why doesn't my local WU weather page match up /NWS at this time? Mostly it does.


Some of the WU posts are very old. I found one of my entries from 3 months ago.
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453. calusakat
Your spelling has never been worse. Are you okay tonight?
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Very cool weekend for Miami:

Local Text Forecast for
Miami, FL

Weather Related to...Aches & PainsAir Quality
Dec 15 Tonight
Mostly clear. Humid. Low 71F. Winds light and variable.
Dec 16 Tomorrow
Partly cloudy skies early. A few showers developing later in the day. Humid. High 82F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Dec 16 Tomorrow night
Cloudy with occasional showers. Humid. Low 71F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
Dec 17 Thursday
Thundershowers. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the low 70s.
Dec 18 Friday
Showers possible. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the upper 60s.
Dec 19 Saturday
Occasional showers possible. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the upper 50s.
Dec 20 Sunday
Cloudy. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the mid 50s.
Dec 21 Monday
Cloudy. Highs in the upper 60s and lows in the mid 50s.
Dec 22 Tuesday
Partly cloudy. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 60s.
Dec 23 Wednesday
Sunny. Highs in the mid 70s and lows in the low 60s.
Dec 24 Thursday
Mix of sun and clouds. Highs in the mid 70s and lows in the mid 60s.
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Quoting Patrap:


Thanx aussie..

And may God be with your countrymen as Cyclone Laurence makes his move..

We are watching it closely too, here.

Thanx Pat
I am watching Him very closely
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Quoting Chicklit:
Dr. Ricky Rood has a great blog that I totally identify with.

I hire and manage people, 99% with at least a bachelor degree. There is one in about every 25 who is unhappy, points fingers, doesn't do their job well, and then says I am to blame. They have risen by doing this, presumably based upon the good opinion they have of themselves and perhaps the people above them who they hold hostage. They will badmouth me and the program.

What happens to these people in my organization is they either quit or they quiet down; they either get with the program or leave it. I do not spend a lot of time convincing them I am a worthy leader because that is a waste of my time and feeds their purpose. Rather, I remind them how they were hired in the first place and then show them what other people are doing. This is when they either quit or shut up. These people were that way before they came on board and will be that way when they leave.

America, unfortunately, has become a nation lead by liars for the benefit of thieves. No where in this equation is the true interest, health and welfare of the people who elected them. And we pay the penalty for this in the form of low wages, no benefits, no health insurance, and a regressive tax structure. Now we're paying the ultimate price: the further disruption in the integrity of our planet's ecosystem. We have been polluting for a centuries. The emissions and pollutants we produce have created a critical mass issue for our environment. I just look at my goldfish tank and understand this. If I do not drain the bottom portion, change the filters, and add fresh water monthly, my fish will die. This is a fact.

It is time for America and its leaders to sit down, shut up, listen, and get with the program.

Just a quick change of subject
Errr. Sorry to have to tell you this but you be diddin somethin wrong if you have to change things like that. Our family has over 600 gallons worth of aquariums and none need anything more than additional water as needed. Yes the water is crystal clear and the fish are thriving.

Now back to our story...
Your first two paragraphs were...no comment.

The first half of the third is, well...I have an answer for that.

America...love it or leave it.

The last half of that paragraph insinuates that we who disagree with AGW are also somehow disagreeing that pollution is bad, that consumption of earths resources etc is not a problem...and nothing could further from the truth.

The fact is that we who disagree are telling the AGW gang that, to destroy evidence is really more of a crime than a simple scientific expediency. Especially since the destruction renders the so-called data false and the conclusions reached from that data, false as well.

Taking that false data and falsified conclusion before our leaders sobbing the "We are all going to die." and demanding money to fix things that might or might not be broken, is just so fraudulent...bordering on criminal in fact. Besides that, there is no way to demonstrate that the solutions are actually valid for any of the falsified ills we may or may not be having.

Is it really that wrong of us to demand that the AGW gang prove their solutions will actually work before robbing from so-called rich countries and giving to the likewise so-called poor countries of the world?

Finally, I agree with your last sentence...with a few minor changes.

It IS time for America and its leaders to sit down, shut up, listen the citizens, get with the program and totally reject the IPCC/AGW Climate Change fraud and demand new data and totally new research that is overseen by researchers from other fields to insure there is absolutely no data falsification and that all conclusions were honest and without any collusion.



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451. Skyepony (Mod)
Laurence..dang intensified outrageous in the last 12 hrs while making landfall 3 times.. insane MIMIC

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 225 Comments: 39390
Quoting Chicklit:


Factoid: Factoid

Fact: Fact

For example, in layman's terms, justifying doing nothing about dumping air pollutants and addressing deforestation based upon the premise that the earth is so old that we cannot possibly accumulate enough data in one century or even a half century to justify doing anything about what we observe is a factoid. It is taking a small bit of truth and stretching it to further than it should be taken.

A fact is what is the truth. What is observed and what we know. Based upon facts, we formulate problems and resolve them.

This is Common Sense.



Interesting political analogy to the traditional reigning G7 and new power G20 today, with "The People" now representing world population.

I was trying to figure out what had the Cophenhagen talks stalled this morning.
It looks like China, considered among the "developing nation" class, will not agree to any outside monitoring of its emissions. I think also the developing nations get bigger emissions leeway than the developed ones, such as the U.S. And the U.S. is basing its refusal to cooperate based upon the Chinese stance. I don't know what India, another big polluter, thinks. Probably just hoping the Chinese and U.S. continue to battle it out so nobody has to adhere to anything responsibly.
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Quoting hydrus:
Well , rest assured come Dec/21 -2012 this house will have a party in it. And we will have a toast to the good times we had in the past. If we are still here on the 22, that is good enough reason to keep the grog flowin a little longer.jmo


sounds good!
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:



my thoughts.... hmmm....

well the world is going to end in 2 years anyway, so why bother? I'm going to get a credit card, buy a new car, burn as much fuel as possible, and leave the lights on all the time. Who cares, right? we won't be here in 2 years :P
Well , rest assured come Dec/21 -2012 this house will have a party in it. And we will have a toast to the good times we had in the past. If we are still here on the 22, that is good enough reason to keep the grog flowin a little longer.jmo
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22641
Quoting Grothar:


No offense mia, but I think you are misreading this just a bit. Do you have the link to the main page? There is nothing in our forecast that suggests anything like this at all. Nothing even near it.

I looked and you're right. So why doesn't my local WU weather page match up /NWS at this time? Mostly it does.
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Quoting Patrap:


Funeral services are Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home and Cemeteries, 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd. in New Orleans. A memorial service will be held in the auditorium of Tulane University's School of Medicine, 1430 Tulane Ave. on Thursday at 5 p.m.


C.J. Lin can be reached at clin@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3796.

Thanks Pat.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1240
Quoting AussieStorm:

So sorry to read that.


Thanx aussie..

And may God be with your countrymen as Cyclone Laurence makes his move..

We are watching it closely too, here.
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Quoting alaina1085:

I didn't know that. I think the family will appreciate each and every individual. When are the services being held? Did they ever recover the body?


Funeral services are Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home and Cemeteries, 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd. in New Orleans. A memorial service will be held in the auditorium of Tulane University's School of Medicine, 1430 Tulane Ave. on Thursday at 5 p.m.


C.J. Lin can be reached at clin@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3796.
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438. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number 39
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE LAURENCE, CAT 5 (01U)
9:00 am AWST December 16 2009
==========================================

At 8:00 am WST Severe Tropical Cyclone Laurence, Category 5 (933 hPa) located at 15.4S 124.2E has 10 minute sustained winds of 110 knots with gusts of 155 knots. The severe cyclone was estimated to be 35 kms west northwest of Kuri Bay and 220 kms north northeast of Derby and moving southwest at 5 knots.

Hurricane Force Winds
=====================
15 NM from the center

Storm Force Winds
=================
20 NM from the center

Gale Force Winds
================
40 NM from the center

Dvorak Intensity: D6.5/6.5/D2.0/ 24HRS

Severe Tropical Cyclone Laurence is a small but very intense tropical cyclone having VERY DESTRUCTIVE WINDS with gusts to 285 kilometres per hour close to the cyclone centre. VERY DESTRUCTIVE wind gusts are possible on the coast near Kuri Bay during today.

GALES with gusts to 100 kilometres per hour will extend further southwest along the coast, reaching Cockatoo and Koolan Islands during the day. Should the centre pass close by VERY DESTRUCTIVE winds are possible during the afternoon and evening. GALES, and possibly DESTRUCTIVE winds may extend to Derby and Beagle Bay on Thursday morning.

HEAVY RAIN is expected to continue over the north Kimberley region, extending into the western Kimberley later today and during Thursday. Daily rainfall totals in excess of 100mm are possible near the coast with totals decreasing further inland.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
===============================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Mitchell Plateau to Beagle Bay and adjacent inland parts.

A Cyclone WATCH has been declared for Beagle Bay to Bidyadanga and extending inland towards Fitzroy Crossing.

Forecast and Intensity
======================
12 HRS: 16.2S 123.7E - 105 knots (CAT 4)
24 HRS: 16.7S 123.7E - 75 knots (CAT 3)
48 HRS: 17.7S 122.9E - 40 knots (CAT 1)
72 HRS: 18.0S 121.3E - 50 knot (CAT 2)

Additional Information
======================
Severe Tropical Cyclone Laurence is a small and very intense system. A well defined eye has been evident on microwave and IR imagery. EIR analysis was consistently giving a DT of 6.5 and FT is assigned on this basis with no constraints broken following reanalysis of previous imagery. The latest image shows some filling of the eye with the warmest eye temp grey shade being white, which will imply a weakening trend if it continues.

It has remained sufficiently off the coast and is in a very favourable low shear environment. Guidance indicates the shear environment will remain generally favourable over the next 48-72 hours despite some fluctuation. Only interaction with land is likely to weaken the system, hence the forecast intensity is dependent on the track. The track is likely to become more southerly during today under the influence of a highly meridional mid level pattern with a stationary trough to the west and an anticyclone to the east.

A more westerly track is possible during Friday and in the longer term the system may move offshore and redevelop.
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Quoting Patrap:


Im going to the funeral,..a lot of Local wu-bloggers are Tulane students.. mov




I didn't know that. I think the family will appreciate each and every individual. When are the services being held? Did they ever recover the body?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1240
Quoting alaina1085:

ROFL, you guys and that Urge!

Pat, that story tears me up. So sad reading that. That poor woman will think about that day the rest of her life.


Im going to the funeral,..a lot of Local wu-bloggers are Tulane students..



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Quoting miajrz:
Oh, Grothar, I'm not happy about this and want to sue someone about false advertising about Miami's weather, but it may be a "sad-but-true." Saturday's not looking happy and I still have shopping to do.
Link


No offense mia, but I think you are misreading this just a bit. Do you have the link to the main page? There is nothing in our forecast that suggests anything like this at all. Nothing even near it.
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Quoting hydrus:
Good Evening T-Dude, You are just in time for the GW debates. Looks like a slight change in the overall pattern within a couple of weeks. Your thoughts on this matter would be appreciated.



my thoughts.... hmmm....

well the world is going to end in 2 years anyway, so why bother? I'm going to get a credit card, buy a new car, burn as much fuel as possible, and leave the lights on all the time. Who cares, right? we won't be here in 2 years :P
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting Grothar:


I think TD prefers to sing to 100 cans of Urge on the wall!!!!! OOPS, make that 99, I just finished one.

ROFL, you guys and that Urge!

Pat, that story tears me up. So sad reading that. That poor woman will think about that day the rest of her life.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1240
Quoting tornadodude:
howdy all
Good Evening T-Dude, You are just in time for the GW debates. Looks like a slight change in the overall pattern within a couple of weeks. Your thoughts on this matter would be appreciated.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22641
Quoting Patrap:
evening TD.


Hey Pat, are you drying out yet?

Quoting Grothar:


I think TD prefers to sing to 100 cans of Urge on the wall!!!!! OOPS, make that 99, I just finished one.


:-P
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Is there any chance that Greenland will be the lush fram land it once was?
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Quoting Patrap:
Sadly..the rains here took a Man way too early who was a good soul.

Tulane professor who drowned in rain-swollen canal remembered as hero
By C.J. Lin, The Times-Picayune
December 15, 2009, 6:21PM



So sorry to read that.
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Oh, Grothar, I'm not happy about this and want to sue someone about false advertising about Miami's weather, but it may be a "sad-but-true." Saturday's not looking happy and I still have shopping to do.
Link
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Quoting alaina1085:
Hey Tornadodude.
Your just in time for 100 bottles of beer on the wall.


I think TD prefers to sing to 100 cans of Urge on the wall!!!!! OOPS, make that 99, I just finished one.
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evening TD.
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What's your favorite reason out of all one hundred?

I kind of like #24.

It is a falsehood that the earth's poles are warming because that is natural variation and while the western Arctic may be getting somewhat warmer we also see that the Eastern Arctic and Greenland are getting colder

Really not a coherent thought there.

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Spathy is just a racist crank

sorry, stormobserver, that most definitely IS a personal attack, and shall be flagged as such.

Repeatedly.
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Sadly..the rains here took a Man way too early who was a good soul.

Tulane professor who drowned in rain-swollen canal remembered as hero
By C.J. Lin, The Times-Picayune
December 15, 2009, 6:21PM



Red tape and idiotic local BS took a Life that could easily been prevented.

Einstein was right.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

hey TD
Quoting alaina1085:
Hey Tornadodude.
Your just in time for 100 bottles of beer on the wall.
Quoting Grothar:


They are on tonight!!!


haha sounds good, how is everyone?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:
howdy all


They are on tonight!!!
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Hey Tornadodude.
Your just in time for 100 bottles of beer on the wall.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1240
Quoting tornadodude:
howdy all

hey TD
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howdy all
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
24 Hour Summary Tamiami Airport


Time
EST (UTC) Temperature
F (C) Dew Point
F (C) Pressure
Inches (hPa) Wind
MPH Weather
Latest 9 PM (2) Dec 15 73.9 (23.3) 71.1 (21.7) 30.09 (1018) Calm
8 PM (1) Dec 15 75.0 (23.9) 71.1 (21.7) 30.07 (1018) Calm
7 PM (0) Dec 15 77.0 (25.0) 72.0 (22.2) 30.04 (1017) ESE 6
6 PM (23) Dec 15 78.1 (25.6) 72.0 (22.2) 30.04 (1017) ESE 3
5 PM (22) Dec 15 81.0 (27.2) 71.1 (21.7) 30.03 (1016) ESE 10
4 PM (21) Dec 15 82.9 (28.3) 70.0 (21.1) 30.02 (1016) SSE 7
3 PM (20) Dec 15 84.0 (28.9) 71.1 (21.7) 30.02 (1016) SE 8
2 PM (19) Dec 15 84 (29) 71 (22) 30.02 (1016) ESE 9
1 PM (18) Dec 15 82.9 (28.3) 71.1 (21.7) 30.04 (1017) SE 8
Noon (17) Dec 15 84.9 (29.4) 70.0 (21.1) 30.06 (1017) SSE 8
11 AM (16) Dec 15 84.0 (28.9) 71.1 (21.7) 30.08 (1018) SSE 10
10 AM (15) Dec 15 82.0 (27.8) 72.0 (22.2) 30.09 (1018) SE 10
9 AM (14) Dec 15 80.1 (26.7) 73.9 (23.3) 30.08 (1018) ENE 3
8 AM (13) Dec 15 75.9 (24.4) 75.0 (23.9) 30.07 (1018) Calm
7 AM (12) Dec 15 75.0 (23.9) 75.0 (23.9) 30.06 (1017) Calm light rain
6 AM (11) Dec 15 73 (23) 71 (22) 30.06 (1017) SSW 5 rain; mist
5 AM (10) Dec 15 75.0 (23.9) 72.0 (22.2) 30.04 (1017) Calm
4 AM (9) Dec 15 75.0 (23.9) 72.0 (22.2) 30.04 (1017) Calm
3 AM (8) Dec 15 75.0 (23.9) 72.0 (22.2) 30.04 (1017) Calm
2 AM (7) Dec 15 75.9 (24.4) 71.1 (21.7) 30.05 (1017) NE 3
1 AM (6) Dec 15 73 (23) 69 (21) 30.05 (1017) E 5
Midnight (5) Dec 15 73.0 (22.8) 70.0 (21.1) 30.05 (1017) E 6
11 PM (4) Dec 14 73.0 (22.8) 70.0 (21.1) 30.06 (1017) E 7
Oldest 10 PM (3) Dec 14 73.9 (23.3) 70.0 (21.1) 30.06 (1017) E 6
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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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