Winter Storm Xynthia kills 62 in Europe

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:21 PM GMT on March 01, 2010

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Devastating Winter Storm Xynthia ripped a swath of destruction through Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, and Germany over the weekend, killing at least 62 people. It was Europe's 5th deadliest winter storm of the past 60 years. Hardest hit was France, where at least 51 died. The storm also caused six deaths in Germany, including a 2-year-old boy blown into a river and drowned. Three people were dead in Spain, and Belgium, Portugal, and England had one fatality each. At least ten people are still missing. Most of the deaths in France occurred when a powerful storm surge topped by battering waves up to 25 feet high, hitting at high tide, smashed though the sea wall off the coastal town of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer. A mobile home park built close to the sea wall was particularly hard-hit. The sea wall was several hundred years old, built in the time of Napoleon, and locating a mobile home park so close to it showed poor coastal development practices, critics said. The storm cut power to more than 1 million homes in France, and up to 1 million customers in Portugal also lost power. A few wind peak wind gusts measured during the storm:

Portugal
Pampilhosa da Serra 147 km/h (91 mph)
Penhas Douradas 126.1 km/h (78 mph)
Porto (Airport LPPR) 113km/h (70 mph)

Spain
Lardeira: 196.1 km/h (122 mph)
Serra do Eixe: 157 km/h (98 mph)
Campus de Vigo: 146.9 km/h (92 mph)
Gandara: 145.8 km/h (91 mph)

France
Eiffel Tower, Paris: 175 km/h (106 mph)
Saint-Clement of the Whales: 159km/h (99 mph)
Charente-Maritime: 161km/h (100 mph)

A Personal Weather Station in Les Portes-en-Re recorded sustained winds of 143 km/h (89 mph) gusting to 180 km/h (112 mph) before losing power at the height of the storm. According to Meteo France, the maximum recorded gust from Xynthia for elevations lower than 1200m was 160 km/h along the coast and 120 km/h inland. In 1999, Winter Storm Lothar brought gusts of almost 200 km/h to coastal areas and up to 160 km/h in the interior at these lower elevations.


Figure 1. Six-hour animation of the surface winds as Winter Storm Xynthia crossed the Bay of Biscay and smashed into France.

Destructive European storms of the past 60 years:
2010: Winter Storm Xynthia of February 27, 2010 killed 51 people in France, Spain, and neighboring countries, and did $2 - $4 billion in damage. Lowest pressure: 967 mb.

Winter Storm Klaus hit northern Spain and southwest France January 23 - 25, 2009, and was Earth's most costly natural disaster of 2009, causing $5.1 billion in damage and killing 26. Minimum pressure: 967 mb.

Kyrill (January 18, 2007) killed at least 45, with Germany suffering the most fatalities (13). Minimum pressure: 964 mb.

Back-to-back winter storms Lothar and Martin December 26-28, 1999) killed 140 people, 88 of the victims in France. Minimum pressure: 961 mb (Lothar), 965 mb (Martin).

The Burns' Day Storm of 1990 killed 97, mostly in England. Minimum pressure: 949 mb.

The Great Storm of 1987 was Europe's "storm of the century". It killed 22 people in England and France. Minimum pressure: 953 mb.

The North Sea Flood of 1962 killed 318 people--315 of them in Hamburg, Germany.

The North Sea Flood of 1953 killed 2,000 people in the Netherlands and England.

Xynthia's warm air surge sets records
One reason Xynthia became so powerful is that it formed very far south, where it was able to tap into an airmass that was unusually warm and moist. Satellite measurements (Figure 2) showed a plume of high total precipitable water (the amount of precipitation one can produce by condensing all the water vapor from the surface to the top of the atmosphere), about 300% above average, flowing from southwest to northeast along Xynthia's cold front. Enhancing the amount of moisture was the presence of very warm sea surface temperatures 1°C above average along this plume. As this extra moisture flowed into the storm, the moisture condensed into rain, releasing the "latent heat" stored up in the water vapor (the extra energy that was originally used to evaporate the water into water vapor). This latent heat further intensified Xynthia. The storm's central pressure fell to 966 mb at the storm's peak intensity, reached at 18 GMT Saturday after it passed over Spain's northwest corner.

As warm, tropical air surged northeastwards in advance of Xynthia's cold front, it set several all-time high temperature records for the month of February. Melilla, Spain hit 34°C (93°F) at 3pm local time on the 27th, beating previous highest February temperature of 30.6°C, set in 1979. The temperature surged upwards a remarkable 9.1°C (16°F) in one hour as Xynthia's warm front passed through. Record February warmth was also observed in the Canary Islands as Xynthia's warm front passed though.


Figure 2. Satellite measurements show a region of high total precipitable water (the amount of precipitation one can produce by condensing all the water vapor from the surface to the top of the atmosphere) up to 300% above average, flowing from southwest to northeast along Xynthia's cold front. Enhancing the amount of moisture was the presence of very warm sea surface temperatures along this plume, about 1°C above average. If this pool of very warm water is still around in July, it could lead to an earlier than average start to the Atlantic hurricane season. Image credit: Sheldon Kusselson, NOAA/NESDIS, and National Hurricane Center.

Next storm
For the the U.S., the next winter storm of note is a moderately strong low pressure system currently over Texas that is expected to move quickly eastwards today and Tuesday. The storm should bring an inch or so of snow to Atlanta and northeast Alabama, and 2 - 4" to the nearby mountains of South and North Carolina, including Charlotte. After that, the models show a long break from winter storm activity for the Eastern U.S. Beginning Sunday, it looks like it will be the Midwest's turn, when a powerful winter storm will drop out of the Rockies, then move across the northern tier of Midwestern states early next week.

Next post
I'll have a new post Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jeff Masters

Xynthia - High seas in Carcavelos (Portugal) (rozzopt)
High seas an waves from storm Synthia, with storm-surge taking over the entire beach, and "attacking" bars usually 30meters away from the sea.
Xynthia - High seas in Carcavelos (Portugal)

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This is short, 26 seconds, but scary. Listen to her voice as she realizes how bad it is. And this is from Santiago, not the heart of the earthquake epicenter.

Amateur video shows Chile quake
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting atmoaggie:

Yeah, I got nowhere in a hurry on that. If anyone was allowed to attend for free, that would be a possible, but everyone has to pay, even presenters.


I would very much like to see our U.S. tax system operate in the same fashion, yes indeed.
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Hey ya'll need too check this out, note the comments about Obama.
Link
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Also interesting, the sheer probability of a hurricane landfall for the east coast and florida broken out by ENSO phase.

The east coast actually has a slightly less chance (data noise level) of a landfall in a neutral year, vs +ENSO. Really looks like the east coast threat is at a peak for -ENSO (La Nina).


For Florida, a neutral is nearly as threatening as a La Nina, but not quite (also possibly within the data noise, statistically)


Indeed, La Nina provides the conditions most favorable to a westward congregation of tracks, and more threat to the U.S. east coast. Neutral favors higher total season activity in terms of A.C.E. and number of named storms. Hard to say which is worse for the U.S. east coast....my guess would be that weak La Nina is the worst. A strong La Nina may direct more storms westward but they would be weaker on average than during a weaker La Nina or neutral conditions.
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Yeah, I got nowhere in a hurry on that. If anyone was allowed to attend for free, that would be a possible, but everyone has to pay, even presenters.


Tom has to PAY to teach? That's as bad as my U.Md. 9-credit internship (aka slave labor for local TV station).
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
Hmmm, excuse me in advance for meddling, officially it's called liaison and I used to actually get paid for it... hard habit to break.

TampaTom... are you teaching classes at the same Conference that we WU'ers want StormW to attend? It's the Orlando Conference, right? (So many disasters, so many conferences...a gal could get confused.)

I remember Atmo was dialing for passes and yanking chains, to no avail...

Can you bring him in the side door with you?

Yeah, I got nowhere in a hurry on that. If anyone was allowed to attend for free, that would be a possible, but everyone has to pay, even presenters.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Howdy, thought this was interesting enough to share. If it stands, another first. No Tornado activity in the US for Feb... L8R :)

http://www.spc.ncep.noaa.gov/climo/online/monthly/newm.html
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Also interesting, the sheer probability of a hurricane landfall for the east coast and florida broken out by ENSO phase.

The east coast actually has a slightly less chance (data noise level) of a landfall in a neutral year, vs +ENSO. Really looks like the east coast threat is at a peak for -ENSO (La Nina).


For Florida, a neutral is nearly as threatening as a La Nina, but not quite (also possibly within the data noise, statistically)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Hmmm, excuse me in advance for meddling, officially it's called liaison and I used to actually get paid for it... hard habit to break.

TampaTom... are you teaching classes at the same Conference that we WU'ers want StormW to attend? It's the Orlando Conference, right? (So many disasters, so many conferences...a gal could get confused.)

I remember Atmo was dialing for passes and yanking chains, to no avail...

Can you bring him in the side door with you?
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Quoting StormW:
REGIONAL EFFECTS OF ENSO ON U.S. HURRICANE LANDFALLS

Neat. To hijack a little...

Looks like in a neutral year, more likely to have a higher probability of formation, over the usual, limited to the band of the MDR from 15 - 20 N (west of 40 W, anyway), relative to La Nina years, where the latitude band from 10 - 15 N is a more likely host for TC development. (Of course, the number indicate the 10 - 15 as the most probable all the time.) Between 30 and 40 W, the above actually flips...

And, fewer storms forming in the Bahamas in a neutral year vs a La Nina (cold phase ENSO).


Number of tropical cyclone formations per neutral year.


Number of tropical cyclone formations per cold year.

So, with this, one might expect fewer tracks that follow westward, south of Cuba in a neutral year. (DOES NOT MEAN IT CANNOT HAPPEN, before anyone gets any ideas.)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting TampaTom:


Oh, and basking in the sun at Byrd Stadium those first few days of spring... a rite of passage!


On March 3rd, 1983...I was slyly photographed by a Pensacola News Journal reporter as I was basking in the sun on the main dock at Bayview Park in Pensacola.

That photo was on the front page of the Journal on March 4th.

47 degrees at PensacolaDoug's house right now.

My my, how times have changed! You used to be able to start working on your tan by March 3rd in Pensacola.

The good news! Oysters from Apalachicola will be in season longer, as long as it stays cool.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
Over the years the terrapin population has been depleted.


Not surprising with the cost of tuition these days.

Just something else to "slash." :)
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Wind report from NWS NOLA/BR:

...Summary of observed strong winds from March 1 2010...

During the afternoon and evening hours of March 1 2010...a deepening
surface low moved through the northern Gulf of Mexico. The low
brought widespread rain to southeast Louisiana and southern
Mississippi. As the low moved away from the area...a wake depression
or Gravity wave developed on the back side of the precipitation
shield. This feature was responsible for widespread strong winds
which caused isolated damage throughout the area. For a listing of
maximum sustained winds and gusts at various observing sites...
please see below. Wind speeds are listed in mph and times are in
CST. An (i) indicates incomplete data. All data is preliminary and
may change slightly as quality control checks are completed.


ASOS station gust/time sustained/time
============================================================
N.O. Lakefront 60/1856 48/1857
N.O. International 52/1821 41/1821
Boothville 51/1904 39/1906
Pascagoula 49/2029 35/2029
Gulfport 46/2028 36/2028
Baton Rouge 44/1644 35/1651
Belle Chasse 44/1808 25/1808
Slidell 39/1837 30/1842
Hammond 39/1821 29/1821
McComb 29/1807 20/1807

Other stations gust/time sustained/time
============================================================
Gulfport pass (nos) 61/2054 49/2054
pilots station (nos) 57/1948(i) 49/1948
Petit Bois Island (nos) 56/2130 46/2130
new canal (nos) 56/1848 45/1848
Shell Beach (nos) 56/1912 46/1900
Grand Isle (nos) 52/1824 37/1824
Bay Waveland (nos) 51/2012 40/2006
West Lake (lumcon) 49/1900 31/1900
bayou labranch (nos) 48/1824 32/1824
mid Lake Pontchartrain 44/1900 29/1800
Terrebonne Bay (lumcon) 42/1800 30/1800
south timbalier (lsu) 39/1900 33/1900
Mandeville 36/1900 24/2000
Cocodrie (usgs) 30/1700

Note how the gusts average 120% of the sustained. This is normal. In Dr. M's post, the gusts are about 250% of the sustained in the plot/animation. This is what I was referring to. Without some dynamical reason, it is hard to believe that the sustained winds were only 40 mph if 100 mph gusts were recorded.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


I Knoooooow; it always seemed pretty official that the terrapin would never, ever fly...

Another rite -- May 1, always pretty cloudy; 'nuff said ... family blog ... security clearance...


mumble... mumble...mumble...
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Quoting TampaTom:


It was made the official mascot in 1994? You mean when I was there from 87 - 91, it was unofficial? Dang....

Oh, and basking in the sun at Byrd Stadium those first few days of spring... a rite of passage!


I Knoooooow; it always seemed pretty official that the terrapin would never, ever fly...

Another rite -- May 1, always pretty cloudy; 'nuff said ... family blog ... security clearance...
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:



How un-Florida-like is this?


As long as we don't get a freeze. Buds are swelling on bushes and trees. Two young redbuds across the street as well as a dogwood couple of houses down have already bloomed. Too early. Everything else is getting ready to pop. Love it when dogwoods and azaleas bloom at same time.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


For Silver Spring, MD 20901
Live Conditions 2:19 PM
Montgomery Blair HSChange Tracking Station
Temp
41.6°F
5 mph
So Far Today
* Lo: 37°F
* Rain: 0.00"
* Hi: 43°F
* Gust: W 11
* Wind Chill: 38°F
* Humidity: 58%
* Dew Point: 28°F

Almost missed my cue: GO TERPS!

Terrapin Tidbits

* The Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) was made the state reptile and official mascot of the University of Maryland in 1994.

* Chesapeake diamondbacks are distinguished by diamond-shaped, concentric rings on their upper shells.

* Their preference for unpolluted saltwater make them indicators of healthy marshes and rivers.

* In winter, they hibernate under water in mud.

* Most of the summer months are spent basking in the sun on the dunes and sandy beaches. [Edit: Now I know why I get the same "urge."]

* Over the years the terrapin population has been depleted.

* A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Fear the Turtle merchandise goes to the Fear the Turtle Fund for terrapin conservation.


It was made the official mascot in 1994? You mean when I was there from 87 - 91, it was unofficial? Dang....

Oh, and basking in the sun at Byrd Stadium those first few days of spring... a rite of passage!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
embed

How un-Florida-like is this?


For Silver Spring, MD 20901
Live Conditions 2:19 PM
Montgomery Blair HSChange Tracking Station
Temp
41.6°F
5 mph
So Far Today
* Lo: 37°F
* Rain: 0.00"
* Hi: 43°F
* Gust: W 11
* Wind Chill: 38°F
* Humidity: 58%
* Dew Point: 28°F

Almost missed my cue: GO TERPS!

Terrapin Tidbits

* The Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) was made the state reptile and official mascot of the University of Maryland in 1994.

* Chesapeake diamondbacks are distinguished by diamond-shaped, concentric rings on their upper shells.

* Their preference for unpolluted saltwater make them indicators of healthy marshes and rivers.

* In winter, they hibernate under water in mud.

* Most of the summer months are spent basking in the sun on the dunes and sandy beaches. [Edit: Now I know why I get the same "urge."]

* Over the years the terrapin population has been depleted.

* A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Fear the Turtle merchandise goes to the Fear the Turtle Fund for terrapin conservation.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PensacolaDoug:



How un-Florida-like is this?


Lafayette, Purdue University Airport
Lat: 40.43 Lon: -86.93 Elev: 623
Last Update on Mar 2, 1:54 pm EST

Mostly Cloudy

40 °F
(4 °C)
Humidity: 63 %
Wind Speed: N 10 MPH
Barometer: 29.98" (1015.7 mb)
Dewpoint: 28 °F (-2 °C)
Wind Chill: 33 °F (1 °C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.
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How un-Florida-like is this?
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This years SST.
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Compare to this years. SST
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what is going on this year with the tropics?
FEB 2005 SST
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Notable political quotes that have backfired:

Read my lips, no new taxes (circa 1988)

Hope and change (circa 2008)
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Snowing pretty good there.

The cams cool too.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
C'mon Pat, will you stop with the weather stuff already. LOL J/K
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Quoting TampaTom:


It's like I never left the University of Maryland... :-)


GO TERPS!
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Live Video Feed,Georgia State University,controllable webcam
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Villa Rica,Georgia "Snow Cam"
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
NEXRAD Radar
Atlanta, Echo Tops Range 124 NMI


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
NEXRAD Radar
Atlanta, Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 3.35 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
NEXRAD Radar
Atlanta, Storm Total Surface Rainfall Accumulation Range 124 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting CycloneOz:


What a "collegiate" experience you have ahead of you! Sounds like so much fun!


It's like I never left the University of Maryland... :-)
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Quoting centrfla:
just signed on...anyone here know how much if any snow accumulation will be in atlanta, ga???? (today and tonight)


Well looking at the radar and the winter strorm warnings, Im gonna go with 1-3 inches
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just signed on...anyone here know how much if any snow accumulation will be in atlanta, ga???? (today and tonight)
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I'm getting one of these today to professionally record audio during any hurricane chases I do in 2010!

Tracking Number: 1ZY2999X0XXXXXXXXX
Status: In Transit
Scheduled Delivery Date: 03/02/2010
SANTA FE, NM, US - 03/02/2010 - 7:00 A.M. - OUT FOR DELIVERY
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Check out the Broadcast this afternoon as its going to be a big Communication ear/source come Hurricane Season I feel.

And thanks to Shaun and his Folks for bringing it to us as they put a lot of effort into it.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093

The Daily Downpour Premieres Today!




Shaun Tanner, March 2, 2010
Senior Meteorologist, Weather Underground

You can listen to the Weather Underground Broadcast Network by going to the homepage. To call in to the show, please call (415) 983-2634.


We all hope you will join us for the premiere broadcast of The Daily Downpour on the Weather Underground Broadcast Network. The network has been developed to provide the Weather Underground community with the most up-to-date weather information on the web and will be hosted by Weather Underground meteorologists. The Daily Downpour will begin at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Pacific and will last for an hour. It is our goal to provide a schedule, informative show that will also teach you about the atmosphere that is so important to all of us. No other weather provider gives you access to its meteorologists as call-ins are welcome during the broadcast and the schedule is as follows:

All times are Eastern
4:00-4:10: National Forecast
4:10-4:20: Regional Forecast
4:20-4:30: Dr. Masters Blog Recap Or Learning Corner on reflection
4:30-4:40: International Forecast
4:40-5:00: The Weather Show with Shaun and Tim (Call ins welcome)

Please note that we do appreciate feedback and will be monitoring the chat room during the show. It is our hope that this network flourishes with your help and will become a force for weather information on the web
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129093
Quoting Skepticall:


Actually I signed out before I said that to see if I was actually hidden and you aren't. Maybe it was just for that minute cause I've seen you hidden before now I do show all too.

yeah, sometimes im hidden, sometimes im not. I imagine I get flagged a lot, same reason for my getting banned for extremely dumb reasons, and when I email the admin asking what specifically warranted a ban, they never respond
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Quoting twhcracker:


usps--- the need to DIE. they only deliver my snail mail when they feel like it. when i went to the postmistress and asked why i dont get any mail all week and then in one day the box is running over, she said ohhhh your carrier is gonna retire in 6 months and i cant wait, he's terrible, so lazy". then we caught a kid opening our mail and putting it back in the box. i complained. she said i could file an official complaint if i wanted to but nothing would be done about it. she gossips to everybody about everybody elses mail. sometimes the box outside is full to overflowing. they have gone up and up and up on rates regularly and just a bunch of lazy ass deadwood loitering around in there. i have stood at the counter ten minutes while a guy hummed and sauntered around, fully aware i was there. they had a wakeup call and ignored it when ups and fed ex came along. they need to go.


Interesting hearing others viewpoints. I don't have any personal connection with USPS, but I appreciate them.

I spent a few years living in Africa and got to know how bad a postal system can function. The country where I was was very stable, safe, and holding it's own. Their postal system struggled to maintain offices in the smaller towns, did not make deliveries, charged 30 USD per month for a box, and the cost of a stamp for in-country delivery was close to 1 USD. And for that price, it may take a week or two to deliver.

Nevermind the service at the offices. Standing in line for an hour to pick up a package was normal. My desire to buy stamps was sometimes thwarted by looking at a half-hour line.

The shock of returning to the US blew me away when I returned. I actually wanted to hug the lady behind the USPS counter! You've no idea how nice it is to walk in and out of the post office in less than 3 minutes. And only 44c for a first class stamp?!?

Every time I open my mailbox out in a rural area, I whisper a thanks in amazement.

And the same could be said for banks here too. We forget how lucky we are.

EDIT: and Fed Ex blows my mind. They refuse to deliver at my house, although I see their trucks on the highway not 15 miles from my house. So when a package is shipped via Fed Ex, Fed Ex always drops it off at the nearest postal hub (300 miles away). At least UPS is able to deliver, and my UPS delivery guy even makes it in blizzards.
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Quoting Skepticall:


Plus my comments are hidden so you gotta unhide them to look so seems to me like yall are bored.


I have mine set on show all, Im pretty sure mine are hidden as well
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Quoting Skepticall:


But yet these graphs don't agree with yours. Plus why not put a percentage up there and not PPM makes it seem like so much more when the percentage is very low.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Using percentage is disingenuous and shows a lack of understanding of "steady state." You don't need a significant change in percentage of something to change the state of your observed reaction.
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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.