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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Flood...we're well...sounds like you're rebounding...

Amy...just check out "her" Adam's Apple...
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Quoting Buhdog:
my 11 and 6 year old praying for ohio (dayton) snow....they still have never seen it as we head north for the holidays sunday! cmon jack frost!

help me wu bloggers! Hotter than molasses in my wifes freshly baked cookies in Ft myers today... 84!


You might get it, I'm in West Lafayette Indiana and we have a chance of snow this weekend
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Quoting Floodman:


So how have you been, man?


I'm doing well, the holidays are always a nice time of year. Not cold yet but maybe a little cold spell before Christmas. It's REALLY cold in your neck of the woods, huh? I'm glad you're doing so well. Hopefully you'll stay pain free for many years to come.
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895
November #'s from the global temperature record keepers are starting to trickle in...


NOAA has the combined land/surface anomaly @ +0.60°C - 4th warmest on record.



Meanwhile NASA GISS has the November anomaly @ +0.70°C - warmest on record.

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good afternoon all, thanks Jeff for the interesting blog update
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Quoting Buhdog:
my 11 and 6 year old praying for ohio (dayton) snow....they still have never seen it as we head north for the holidays sunday! cmon jack frost!

help me wu bloggers! Hotter than molasses in my wifes freshly baked cookies in Ft myers today... 84!


Man, there's nothing like a good 4-6" showfall when you're young...hell, even now at 49 I get excited about it...I like a nice bottle of Jim Beam, a confortable chair and front row seats to it coming down...to top ot off, given my current condition, I wouldn't even have to shovel it off the drive and sidewalks...LOL
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103. presslord 6:51 PM GMT on December 15, 2009
...please don't refer to Ann Coulter as 'she'...'she' is clearly a 'he' in drag...



you would know!!!!!!

;)
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Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:
I wonder if number 2 by the ECMWF is Sub Tropical? Deep Extra-Tropical cyclones are usually the parent.


Don't think Thing Two will be attached to Thing One since they'll be no blocking downstream in the Caribbean(another words, they'll be no stalled-out fronts for Florida even before Thing One. Let Cuba/Jamaica have it for a change lol).

Quoting Jeff9641:
I haven't heard anyone mention anything about the potential for severe weather for the Florida penisula on Friday. One would think with a low of 1000 to 1004 milibars going over a very warm humid airmass would be a great recipe for nasty weather across Florida. We will definitly get more beneficial rain across the penisula either way.


Looks like South Florida's gonna get the brunt(assuming it overcomes the departing stable air-mass).

Quoting JFLORIDA:
Sunspot 1035 - of the new cycle is growing rapidly.


But will it sustain itself or become another "Op, there it went"?..lol
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Quoting presslord:
...please don't refer to Ann Coulter as 'she'...'she' is clearly a 'he' in drag...


My apologies, press...I gave that individual the benefit of the doubt...

How are things for you today, friend?
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my 11 and 6 year old praying for ohio (dayton) snow....they still have never seen it as we head north for the holidays sunday! cmon jack frost!

help me wu bloggers! Hotter than molasses in my wifes freshly baked cookies in Ft myers today... 84!
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Yep, Pat...I think there should be some regulatory controls on her mouth, but then I do believe in freedom of speech...the only problem is that there will always be those that believe anything...Ann Coulter...**double shudder**

U betcha,..

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
Quoting Patrap:

"If there were no regulatory controls on the market at all, the housing crash would not have occurred"




...I like to make profit on my holdings as much as the next guy, but I do the things that I do for my kids, and yes, for your kids as well. I'll take a little less money for retirement if it means a better, cleaner place to live for my kids and their kids...the fact that the market dictates everything is a chilling, frightening idea for me and if you are intelligent, it will frighten you too..


..next to a Cat-5 Heading N in the GOM,..nothing scares me more than a Ann Coulter quote..


..."Shudders"


Yep, Pat...I think there should be some regulatory controls on her mouth, but then I do believe in freedom of speech...the only problem is that there will always be those that believe anything...Ann Coulter...**double shudder**
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"If there were no regulatory controls on the market at all, the housing crash would not have occurred"




...I like to make profit on my holdings as much as the next guy, but I do the things that I do for my kids, and yes, for your kids as well. I'll take a little less money for retirement if it means a better, cleaner place to live for my kids and their kids...the fact that the market dictates everything is a chilling, frightening idea for me and if you are intelligent, it will frighten you too..


..next to a Cat-5 Heading N in the GOM,..nothing scares me more than a Ann Coulter quote..


..."Shudders"
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
Quoting GrtLksQuest:
Re: Post 79. Floodman - making sense where cents rule!
As long as bottom-line, short-term net profits determine shareholder profits and CEO bonuses, the ecologically more advantageous (relative to coal and petroleum) but initially more expensive energy alternatives will be at such an economic disadvantage that they will remain uncompetitive and thus unavailable at the scale needed to significantly influence human contributions to climate warming factors. This is where reason must enter the equation. Combinations of incentives (for developing environmentally neutral alternatives) and penalties (for pollution and environmental degradation) can level the playing field. Waiting for this to develop under free market conditions will take too long and risk irreversible and immensely costly consequences.


Well, I try very hard not be full bore GOP or Democrat; I have a liberal bent, and anyone that knows me is aware of that, but I'm far more conservative than I generally let on; I believe in a free market to a point, but I heard the most amazing thing few months ago from the arch-intellectual, Ann Coulter:

"If there were no regulatory controls on the market at all, the housing crash would not have occurred"

You can't let powerful people run things without some hand(s) providing guidance and control of one type or another or things will get out of control and we will all pay dearly for it...does anyone in power remember the meaning of the term "Checks and balances"? The founding fathers were very smart men and they wanted to make sure we didn't end up in a dictatorship of one type or another...and it works fine until you start seeing some collusion. And please, don't get me started on shareholders...I like to make profit on my holdings as much as the next guy, but I do the things that I do for my kids, and yes, for your kids as well. I'll take a little less money for retirement if it means a better, cleaner place to live for my kids and their kids...the fact that the market dictates everything is a chilling, frightening idea for me and if you are intelligent, it will frighten you too...

**steps off the tree hugger soapbox**
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Well,we have Amy,Flood and Awake,now doesn't that sound like a lethal mixture,everyone get their helmets on,quick!!!
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15043
Quoting Floodman:


The pleasure is all mine! I'm doing half days at the office so I'll be leaving here in a little while, but I will certainly be back this afternoon to hang out for a while...I'll be more comfortable being at home and all...


I'm going to take a break here, too...need to get groceries and "supplies" for the big snowstorm we're gonna' get (hope!) -- thanks for the heads-up, bloggers -- really!

I NEED YUMMY, EASY GUMBO RECIPE(S) for somewhat-challenged cook (myself)! One that can be made in small or large quantities (like easily doubled or tripled) would be most appreciated.

I'm still thinking about Super-Bowl party...but I'm shy (pfftt...about cooking and entertaining). I've decided Orca's Canadian "Moosemilk" recipe is TOO dangerous...the Yorkie would love it, and, well, the neighbors could walk home...but too many overnight guests would scare the Pom.
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79. Floodman 5:50 PM GMT on December 15, 2009

Ditto...didn't have to look up onanism, nor Sophism...And there was neither in your post.
thanx
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
Re: Post 79. Floodman - making sense where cents rule!
As long as bottom-line, short-term net profits determine shareholder profits and CEO bonuses, the ecologically more advantageous (relative to coal and petroleum) but initially more expensive energy alternatives will be at such an economic disadvantage that they will remain uncompetitive and thus unavailable at the scale needed to significantly influence human contributions to climate warming factors. This is where reason must enter the equation. Combinations of incentives (for developing environmentally neutral alternatives) and penalties (for pollution and environmental degradation) can level the playing field. Waiting for this to develop under free market conditions will take too long and risk irreversible and immensely costly consequences.
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I'll be more comfortable being at home and all...


I'm sure you will....

"Drivin' that train...."

;)
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

therefore, it is a "DEAD" mule...self-fulfilling prophecy. Heck, Flood, you know I'm moving to Fulton to terrorize your relatives!

Dry Prong. Not touching that...paraphrasing Amy...you should know better than to feed me lines like that! :)

So good to see you!


The pleasure is all mine! I'm doing half days at the office so I'll be leaving here in a little while, but I will certainly be back this afternoon to hang out for a while...I'll be more comfortable being at home and all...
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83. Oh whoopsie(?!)
Fire away if thou must! I have learned how to post Cheney images...looking forward to going head-to-head with AMY mano-en-mano re Gore, 'xcept would that be womano-en-womano? Shoot, I don't know.

I'm taking Chicklit resolutions from last night. No truly mean stuff. Gore has a great sense of humor...weekly radio chats here in DC w/one of our popular DJs while he was VP...Tipper, too. I think he'd laugh at a LOT of these shenanigans!
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Expedition 22 to Launch Sunday



(10 Dec. 2009)--- At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 22 NASA Flight Engineer Timothy J. Creamer (left), Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov (center) and Flight Engineer Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency take a moment for photographs following a fit check of their Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft at the launch site’s integration facility Dec. 10, 2009. The trio are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station December 21 for a six-month stay on the complex. They will join Expedition 22 Commander Jeffrey Williams of NASA and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, who have been on the station since October. Photo credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
I wonder if number 2 by the ECMWF is Sub Tropical? Deep Extra-Tropical cyclones are usually the parent.
Quoting Floodman:


If you like that one, look uop Dry Prong (yes, really, Dry Prong)...LOL

There used to be a town in Missouri called Dead Mule, but it sits at the bottom of Lake of the Ozarks now...

therefore, it is a "DEAD" mule...self-fulfilling prophecy. Heck, Flood, you know I'm moving to Fulton to terrorize your relatives!

Dry Prong. Not touching that...paraphrasing Amy...you should know better than to feed me lines like that! :)

So good to see you!
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I am not sure! Can anyone here post an ECMWF computer model for everyone, for next week. Trying to determine if they're still calling for ice/snow for the Southern US.
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Quoting btwntx08:



ECMWF forecasts a double whammy for the east coast and on board with the NoGaps for system 1. The event is becoming more of a plan on now.
AwakeinMaryland,

How can one ever get tired of "Gore bashing"???? He continually makes unfounded, false, & stupid statements, i.e., the core of the Earth is millions of degrees.....puleez!! Here is his latest gaffe:

Inconvenient Truth for Gore as Arctic Ice Claims Don't Add Up

London Times

The former vice president said new research showed that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years, but the scientist his estimate was based on denies the timeline.
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Quoting Patrap:

Boutte,..a lil fine city.

Boutte-area historical tornado activity is slightly below Louisiana state average. It is 68% greater than the overall U.S. average.

On 12/6/1983, a category 4 (max. wind speeds 207-260 mph) tornado 12.5 miles away from the Boutte place center injured 25 people and caused between $5,000,000 and $50,000,000 in damages.

On 10/3/1964, a category 4 tornado 20.8 miles away from the place center killed 22 people and injured 165 people and caused between $500,000 and $5,000,000 in damages.

Read more: http://www.city-data.com/city/Boutte-Louisiana.html#ixzz0ZmQdEdTd


Nice, and relatively inexpensive, too!
No breakdown by faith...hmmm, I have several legal names I can use as camo if necessary.
I see I'm safe in this area, but the Aggies and Dr. Jeff would be in trouble...it's lonely at the top:
* Master's degree: 0
* Professional school degree: 0
* Doctorate degree: 0
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
LOL. Is there REALLY a LA town named "Boot-ee"?
Pr. "Boot-(long)A"


If you like that one, look uop Dry Prong (yes, really, Dry Prong)...LOL

There used to be a town in Missouri called Dead Mule, but it sits at the bottom of Lake of the Ozarks now...
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Quoting theshepherd:
As mentioned in today's and previous topics, Dr. Ricky Rood is in Coppenhagen. Dr. Rood is sharing his views over there as well as his emotional distress over here in light of recent unfortunate circumstance. However, I must push away from the notion that over 25% of the United States Senate who seek to open the books have their quest colored as an Alliance with Saudi Arabia.

*****From Rood's blog entry:
US Senators pursue an investigation of climate science based upon the stolen and published correspondence of a small clutch of prominent scientists. Here at the Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen the news says that we should anticipate a visit by Congressman Sensenbrenner to call for the end of “climate fascism.” This will place this US political tribe in solid alliance with, perhaps, Saudi Arabia. *****

It's time for Science to dispell alarm and speak with a single tongue. The truth is in there somewhere. I'm not believing anything until Sunshine prevails. NASA has "no right" not to honor a FOI request and they should have "no reason" either.

For anyone to claim that only a Climate Scientist can understand what's going on with the climate is indeed an elitist opinion.



Thanks, Shepherd; this has pretty much always been my opinion...the sky is not really falling, but on the other hand, calling the whole thing a hoax is an intellectually lazy point of view...the truth, as is almost always the case on issues such as these, lies somewhere in the middle and it takes reasonable people of good intelligence and open minds to sort through the mess stirred up by both sides and the media to come to some semblence of the truth.

No, we are not wholly responsible for the warming trends noted in the last 100 or so years, but neither are we innocent in any of it. The most reasonable response is to start making changes in our energy consumption and ussage and the types of fuels we use to generate that energy; there's been plenty of research in alternative energy sources...the only problem is that these laternative sources do not give the yeild ratios that oil do...too much labor goes into creating the energy, making the cost of that energy higher initially. It's a proto-typing issue.

Think about this (and I know it's going to sound weird):

The movie the Odd Couple was released in 1968 and shot on location in NYC. There is a scene in that movie where Oscar and Felix are on the roof of their apartment building. When you look past the actors at the secnery you can barely make out the buildings 10-12 blocks away. I was in NYC 7 yeaars ago and the air was clear, clean and you could see 30 or 40 blocks from a reasonably tall building. What caused this miraculous change in air quality? Clean air legislation and monitoring the output of the industrial areas closeby that contributed to the air pollution.

So now, about this whole Climate Change thing...reasonable steps, reasonable responses and open minds on both sides of the argument. To say unequivocably that we have absolutely nothing to do with the warming of the atmosphere is like saying that we are not responsible in anyway for the change in air quality in NYC, once one of the most polluted cities (air wise) on the planet; statements in absolutes about Climate Change are ridiculous and should be considered for what they are: exercises in mental onanism (look it up).

Sorry about how long I took to get back on this posty, but I'm back at the office after three weeks off and I'm trying to catch up
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Good morning, Bordonaro & Amy!

That's funnier than you know. That ball of fluff is a BOY! And he's actually created progeny...he attracted the girls at an indecently young age...the David Bowie of doggys?

Speaking of indecent...the Pom is totally crushed out on my husband. Sad, really, except it is hilarious. Luckily, the Pom has been fixed and his devotion is of the "agape" variety!


Well we're all glad that you, the doggie and the hubbie are all doing well :0)!!
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Quoting Bordonaro:
Awake in Maryland***We all love you, we were all wondering where you where!!

I thought for a moment you actually vacuumed up your Pomeranian, by mistake of course, and were trying to get her out of the vacuum!!


Good morning, Bordonaro & Amy!

That's funnier than you know. That ball of fluff is a BOY! And he's actually created progeny...he attracted the girls at an indecently young age...the David Bowie of doggys?

Speaking of indecent...the Pom is totally crushed out on my husband. Sad, really, except it is hilarious. Luckily, the Pom has been fixed and his devotion is of the "agape" variety!
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Just moderate-light rain here don't need any more, 7.06 since yesterday evening at around 7 when the line first started
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Remember when "Copenhagen" was a just a Skoal Smokeless tobacco?

....."Spittttt"


..Ding!!!
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
I thought for a moment you actually vacuumed up your Pomeranian, by mistake of course, and were trying to get her out of the vacuum!!


hahahahahahaha!!!!!!

:)
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Boutte,..a lil fine city.

Boutte-area historical tornado activity is slightly below Louisiana state average. It is 68% greater than the overall U.S. average.

On 12/6/1983, a category 4 (max. wind speeds 207-260 mph) tornado 12.5 miles away from the Boutte place center injured 25 people and caused between $5,000,000 and $50,000,000 in damages.

On 10/3/1964, a category 4 tornado 20.8 miles away from the place center killed 22 people and injured 165 people and caused between $500,000 and $5,000,000 in damages.

Read more: http://www.city-data.com/city/Boutte-Louisiana.html#ixzz0ZmQdEdTd





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
Awake in Maryland***We all love you, we were all wondering where you where!!

I thought for a moment you actually vacuumed up your Pomeranian, by mistake of course, and were trying to get her out of the vacuum!!
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LOL. Is there REALLY a LA town named "Boot-ee"?
Pr. "Boot-(long)A"
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
Sunspot 1035 - of the new cycle is growing rapidly.



Sweet..bout time too JF.

Sol has been naked too long.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
Quoting Patrap:


Mostly nuisance/and street flooding as the rates havent been too bad,..just steady.


I think were going to get a substantial break in about an hour or so
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This you dont see very often,,

NEXRAD Radar
New Orleans, Storm Total Surface Rainfall Accumulation Range 124 NMI



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
Quoting eyesontheweather:
I heard there was school closuers in the area this morning so it sounds like it could be bad. Are all the pumps working, no water in homes?


Mostly nuisance/and street flooding as the rates havent been too bad,..just steady.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125418
ROFLMAO...But the adrenaline's pumping, isn't it? Unless your heart stopped cold! Real possibility, that...regrets and condolences to the families of...
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.