Loop Current Eddy cuts off; oil danger to Keys now greatly reduced

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:24 PM GMT on May 28, 2010

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A major ocean current re-alignment is underway the Gulf of Mexico right now, and the new configuration that is developing greatly reduces the threat of oil entering the Loop Current and affecting the Florida Keys and U.S. East Coast. As I explain in my Loop Current Primer, the Loop Current is an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and past the western Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream. With current speeds of about 0.8 m/s, the Loop Current is one of the fastest currents in the Atlantic Ocean. Every 6 - 11 months, the top bulge of the Loop Current cuts off, forming a 250-mile diameter circular eddy in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. This clockwise-spinning eddy is filled with warm water from the Loop Current, and is called a Loop Current Eddy. The main body of the Loop Current then takes a fairly direct eastward path from the Yucatan Channel to the Florida Keys.

Over the past two days, surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico have aligned to form a Loop Current Eddy, as seen in the analysis of surface currents done by the U.S. Navy (Figure 1, and see also a 30-day animation of the eddy forming.) It remains to be seen if the deep water currents have followed suit, and a stable Loop Current Eddy cannot exist until the deep water currents also cut off into a clockwise-rotating ring of water at depth. A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is out over the Gulf of Mexico today dropping expendable buoys and current probes to determine if a stable Loop Current Eddy has formed. Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecast Service has a nice discussion on the Loop Current Eddy formation.


Figure 1. Comparison of surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico on May 19 (top) and May 27 (bottom) as simulated by the HYCOM model. On May 19, the Loop Current made a large northward loop into the Gulf, and was able to transport oil from the near the spill location southwards through the Keys. By May 27, this loop had cut off, and new oil moving southwards from the spill will now be trapped in the clockwise rotating Loop Current Eddy that is cut off from the Loop Current. Note on the west side of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas, there is an old Loop Current Eddy that cut off from the Loop Current in July 2009. This eddy cut off in the same location as this week's eddy, and has drifted west-southwestward at 3 - 5 km per day over the past ten months. Image credit: U.S. Navy.

If the eddy does remain in place, it will greatly reduce the chances of oil making it to Cuba, the Florida Keys, and beyond. Any oil moving southwards from the spill location will now become entrained in the eddy, and will move in a 250 mile-wide clockwise circle in the east-central Gulf of Mexico. A small portion the oil will get shed away from the eddy's periphery and make it into the Loop Current and waters surrounding the eddy, but the concentrations of oil doing so will be small. Keep in mind, though, that during the first 1 - 2 months that a Loop Current Eddy forms, it is common for the eddy to exchange substantial amounts of water with the Loop Current, and in some cases get re-absorbed into the Loop Current. A 1-year animation of the Loop Current shows that the last Loop Current Eddy, which cut off in mid-July 2009, experienced a 2-week period in early August when it re-attached to the Loop Current. A significant portion of any oil entering the eddy during a period of re-attachment will be able to enter the Loop Current and flow past the Keys.

One bad result of the eddy breaking off is that now we have an extra source of heat energy for passing hurricanes during the upcoming hurricane season. Loop Current eddies have high-temperature water that extends to great depth, and hurricanes passing over such eddies often undergo rapid intensification. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005 both underwent rapid intensification as they passed over warm Loop Current eddies in 2005. The formation of a Loop Current Eddy during hurricane season means that a much greater portion of the Gulf of Mexico has deep, warm water capable of fueling rapid intensification of hurricanes.

Oil spill update
Light offshore northwesterly winds are expected to blow over the northern Gulf of Mexico today through Saturday, resulting decreased threats of oil to the Louisiana shore, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA. These offshore winds may be able to transport oil southwards into the Loop Current Eddy that just formed; a streamer of oil moving southeastward into the Loop Current Eddy is visible in yesterday's NASA MODIS imagery (Figure 2). Winds will shift to onshore out of the south on Saturday night, then shift to southwesterly by Tuesday. The long-range forecast from the GFS model indicates continued southwesterly winds all of next week. If this forecast verifies, we will see our greatest chances yet of significant amounts of oil reaching the beaches of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico taken at 2:55pm EDT Thursday May 27, 2010, by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. Thin streaks of oil can be seen moving southeast and then southwest around the eastern side of the new Loop Current Eddy. Image credit: NASA.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post Wednesday with answers to some of the common questions I get about the spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
NOAA trajectory forecasts
Deepwater Horizon Unified Command web site
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Central American disturbance
The Atlantic is currently quiet, with none of our reliable global forecast models predicting tropical cyclone development over the next 6 days. There is an area of disturbed weather (90E) just off the Pacific coast of Mexico that will be a major concern for southern Mexico and much of Central America over the next 3 - 4 days. The disturbance will bring heavy rains to Central America during the weekend, potentially bringing serious flooding rains to portions of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. NHC is giving the disturbance a high (>60% chance) of the disturbance developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. Wunderbloggers Weather456 and StormW have more on the tropics.


Figure 3. Satellite image of the Central American disturbance 90E this morning.

Join the "Hurricane Haven" with Dr. Jeff Masters: a new Internet radio show
Beginning next week, I'll be experimenting with a live 1-hour Internet radio show called "Hurricane Haven." The show will be aired at 4pm EDT on Tuesdays, with the first show June 1. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. Some topics I'll cover on the first show:

1) What's going on in the tropics right now
2) Preview of the coming hurricane season
3) How a hurricane might affect the oil spill
4) How the oil spill might affect a hurricane
5) New advancements in hurricane science presented at this month's AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology
6) Haiti's vulnerability to a hurricane this season

I hope you can tune in to the broadcast, which will be at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. If not, the show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I'll be back with at least one update over the coming 3-day Memorial Day weekend. Have a great holiday!

Jeff Masters

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2206. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


I'm from Southern Ontario. I track tropical cyclones because their remnants often affect our area. I've been tracking them for about half of my life.
iam from newfoundland moved to southern ont 83 where iam from its called the grave yard of the atlantic all storms or most anyway comes there i have been to the flemish cap as a 9 year old boy with my grandfather an experience i will take with me when i leave
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54339
Quoting Levi32:


Morning 456.


Good Afternoon
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2204. Patrap
Quoting IKE:
From the NY Times...Latest Attempt by BP to Plug Oil Leak in Gulf of Mexico Fails

Just posted 10 minutes ago.


They musta be lurking Ike
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2203. Levi32
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
ok guys let get something clear I highly doubt that TS AGATHA when it crosses over that it will go to Florida looking at the steering maps it looks like the obvious track would be the Caribbean don't believe me well look then



Steering currents do shift more northward into the Gulf of Mexico beyond 3 days, but anything moving in there would likely get shaved by the subtropical jet.
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2202. pottery
Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
To those who find it important to see BP ROV feed at current time and date, go here:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/live-rov-video

(I guess they haven't got the memo to be a part of the vast military/industrial/government coverup...)

What I am seeing there is from the 26th.
The only "live" feed I can find (that I can access) is the CNN one.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24383
2201. Levi32
Quoting Weather456:
Thankfully, the eruption of Pacaya has initiated evacuation south of the Volcano, so reduce the cost of lives by a potentially thick mudslide.


Morning 456.
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ok guys let get something clear I highly doubt that TS AGATHA when it crosses over that it will go to Florida looking at the steering maps it looks like the obvious track would be the Caribbean don't believe me well look then

Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12147
2199. IKE
From the NY Times...Latest Attempt by BP to Plug Oil Leak in Gulf of Mexico Fails

Just posted 10 minutes ago.

From the article....

"The technician working on the project said Saturday pumping has again been halted and a review of the data so far is underway after engineers failed again to restrict or plug the well.

Right now, I would not be optimistic,the technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the effort. But he added, that if another attempt at the junk shot were to succeed, that would turn things around.

BP said Saturday it would not comment on the technician assertions. Officials have said they will continue the process into Sunday before they declare it a success or failure."
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting SavannahStorm:
Someone mentioned that they are now considering a "pipe-pinching" procedure when all other options are off the table. It would involve carefully placed explosive charges destroying the blowout preventor and sealing the pipe. BP is apparently leaving this as a last option because it would mean the Deepwater Horizon project would be permanently lost and they would have to start from scratch to get any more oil from the deposit. So once again, it comes down to $$, because BP doesn't want to lose a well they can still extract oil from.


At this point BP needs to do WHATEVER it takes to stop the oil flow. This is an ecological nightmare and it will get worse before they can clean this mess up.

BP is being called many names beside British Petroleum!!!
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Thankfully, the eruption of Pacaya has initiated evacuation south of the Volcano, so reduce the cost of lives by a potentially thick mudslide.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
Quoting Patrap:



We can send a Florida team down with snorkels maybe to squeeze it shut with there amazing Political Powers,..

Lord knows some of yas got nuff wind.

LOL
LMAO Worth a shot....Don't drink mine. I'm gonna drink em' my dang self.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


I'm from Southern Ontario. I track tropical cyclones because their remnants often affect our area. I've been tracking them for about half of my life.
Miami, born and raised. Love it down here, except for the occasional system here in there.
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2194. Levi32
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


I'm from Southern Ontario. I track tropical cyclones because their remnants often affect our area. I've been tracking them for about half of my life.


I only get them after complete extratropical transition. Mostly typhoons from the west Pacific.
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Quoting Levi32:


I was born here and never left. Never even been out of the state.
Wow, well, I've got to go, see everyone later today.
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Scattered showers and thunderstorms associated with Agatha are mainly over Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Belize. Expect Agatha to continue ENE motion at approximately at 5 mph.

15:45 UTC - 12:45 PM EDT
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Quoting Levi32:


I was born here and never left. Never even been out of the state.


I'm from Southern Ontario. I track tropical cyclones because their remnants often affect our area. I've been tracking them for about half of my life.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Someone mentioned that they are now considering a "pipe-pinching" procedure when all other options are off the table. It would involve carefully placed explosive charges destroying the blowout preventor and sealing the pipe. BP is apparently leaving this as a last option because it would mean the Deepwater Horizon project would be permanently lost and they would have to start from scratch to get any more oil from the deposit. So once again, it comes down to $$, because BP doesn't want to lose a well they can still extract oil from.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2189. Patrap
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
enjoy ya crazy bastard and have a cold one on me


U betcha KOTG..

I like watching Fire in a Pit with a Bud,..er, weiser.


I stand relieved.

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Quoting AllStar17:


Not according to the NHC:
"SINCE AGATHA WILL BE MOVING SLOWLY OVER VERY WARM SSTS OF AT LEAST
30C AND WITHIN A REGION OF LOW VERTICAL WIND SHEAR...ADDITIONAL
STRENGTHENING SEEMS REASONABLE. THE SHIPS MODEL IS INDICATING A
NEAR 40 PERCENT CHANCE OF RAPID STRENGTHENING DURING THE NEXT 24
HOURS...AND THIS POSSIBILITY WILL BE CLOSELY ASSESSED FOR THE NEXT
FORECAST PACKAGE IF THE RECENT CONVECTIVE DEVELOPMENT TREND
CONTINUES INTO THE AFTERNOON HOURS WHEN THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY
OFTENTIMES WEAKENS."


Not a good thing! A possible rapidly intensifying tropical system, laden with plenty of moisture heading ENE at 5 MPH.

I pray and hope the people of far SW Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador are ready for not only torrential rain but strong winds :o(!!
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2186. Levi32
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Wow, from Alaska. Where is he now, I doubt he has interest in tracking tropical cyclones if he's in Alaska.


I was born here and never left. Never even been out of the state.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
If the remnants of Agatha survive the Central America crossing, a new storm could theoretically impact anywhere from western Louisiana to Puerto Rico. Most likely trajectory is western Cuba and southwestern Florida.

The dominant precipitation outflow pattern in the Caribbean appears to be east and northeast through the Mona Passage, then out into the Central Atlantic east of Bermuda, west of the Azores, east of Newfoundland, west of Greenland, then straight southwest toward Labrador.
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2184. Levi32
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Levi32, What's your location? I've always thought you're from Seattle for some reason.


Homer, Alaska.
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2183. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Patrap:
NOON..

Morning session over..time to fire up da grill..
enjoy ya crazy bastard and have a cold one on me
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54339
12z Surface Analysis
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2181. hydrus
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Wow, from Alaska. Where is he now, I doubt he has interest in tracking tropical cyclones if he's in Alaska.
He is going to college to study tropical meteorology. I think...
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2179. kingy
actually the oil flow looks faster than before. Is that even possible ? I really think that after two days of mud pumping and 2 junk shots we need to accept that topkill is fail. prepare for 2-3 months of more pollution and that assumes that we can trust BP with their next plan (and assume no canes interfere with drilling relief wells, which they surely will)
Quoting FIU2010:


his from palin's turf.
Wow, from Alaska. Where is he now, I doubt he has interest in tracking tropical cyclones if he's in Alaska.
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Quoting StormW:


I wouldn't put too much weight in the LBAR and BAMMS. LBAR is s Limited BARtropic model

Limited Area Sine Transform Barotropic (LBAR) Model

LBAR is a simple two-dimensional dynamical track prediction model. It solves the shallow-water wave equations initialized with vertically averaged (850-200 hPa) winds and heights from the GFS global model. An idealized symmetric vortex and a constant wind vector (equal to the initial storm motion vector) are added to the GFS global model analysis to represent the TC circulation. The model equations are solved using a spectral sine transform technique over an area near the TC. The lateral boundary conditions are obtained from the GFS forecast. LBAR includes no horizontal gradients in temperature (and as a consequence, no vertical wind shear), making the LBAR a relatively poor performer beyond 1-2 days or outside of the deep tropics.
May I ask a stupid question? Why would they use these models?
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2176. Patrap
NOON..

Morning session over..time to fire up da grill..
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2175. IKE
Quoting rarepearldesign:


It's utterly amazing how stupid they think people are.


Like reading the info below the live feed...

"Throughout the extended top kill procedure – which may take up to two days to complete - very significant changes in the appearance of the flows at the seabed may be expected. These will not provide a reliable indicator of the overall progress, or success or failure, of the top kill operation as a whole. BP will report on the progress of the operation as appropriate and on its outcome when complete.".....

Like changing the above from... up to two days to....a few days. To make it look more believable.

Press Conference...full of BS?...comin up!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Summary of Agatha
8:00 AM PDT (11:00 AM EDT)
15:00 UTC

LOCATION...13.1N 93.2W
ABOUT 170 MI...275 KM...WSW OF PUERTO DE SAN JOSE GUATEMALA
ABOUT 270 MI...440 KM...W OF SAN SALVADOR EL SALVADOR
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...40 MPH...65 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...ENE OR 60 DEGREES AT 5 MPH...7 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1003 MB...29.62 INCHES
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Levi32, What's your location? I've always thought you're from Seattle for some reason.
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Quoting TexasGulf:
For cleanup efforts and response, BP and even the Obama admin had better be careful. People are watching and cameras / news footage are covering the whole mess.

Having 300-400 "cleanup" people showing up wearing red, white & blue T-shirts and white plastic pants to "clean up" oil while the president is there doesn't fool anyone. The press saw them leave after the president left.

If there is hypocrisy, cheating, dog-n-pony shows and outright lying going on during the next few months while the coastal wetlands suffer and people's lives are ruined, people won't be fooled for long. Everyone involved (and I mean everyone) needs to take this seriously and get resources in place NOW.

Patience will wear really thin in the next few weeks as more communities are affected. When it starts washing up in Mobile Bay, Ala or onto the white beaches of Pensacola, Fl ... there will be little patience for more talk.


It's utterly amazing how stupid they think people are.
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2169. Patrap
Something wicketh cometh your way in the GOM..Like a cancer,it grows and Kills Land, water, Air ,and all Marine Life.

Fear it, but fear its creators and co-horts.

A call to defend the Coast is Blowing Like a June Cane.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
For cleanup efforts and response, BP and even the Obama admin had better be careful. People are watching and cameras / news footage are covering the whole mess.

Having 300-400 "cleanup" people showing up wearing red, white & blue T-shirts and white plastic pants to "clean up" oil while the president is there doesn't fool anyone. The press saw them leave after the president left.

If there is hypocrisy, cheating, dog-n-pony shows and outright lying going on during the next few months while the coastal wetlands suffer and people's lives are ruined, people won't be fooled for long. Everyone involved (and I mean everyone) needs to take this seriously and get resources in place NOW.

Patience will wear really thin in the next few weeks as more communities are affected. When it starts washing up in Mobile Bay, Ala or onto the white beaches of Pensacola, Fl ... there will be little patience for more talk.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2167. Asta
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


NHC has placed a document on their website Hurricanes and the Oil Spill: A Factsheet and Frequent Questions. That might answer some of your questions.

Thanks!!
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Quoting Asta:

Then NOAA should do it..
My question about the wind and oil is this:
How airborne can it get? and how far inland can it blow? Are we talking about concern over a 35mph or a 75mph storm??? and how much oil can a system carry with it??? how far?? anybody know any data or research on this?


NHC has placed a document on their website Hurricanes and the Oil Spill: A Factsheet and Frequent Questions. That might answer some of your questions.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11211
ok, I'm back Had to go take my blood pressure meds before I went off deep end....LOL
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Quoting StormW:


I wouldn't put too much weight in the LBAR and BAMMS. LBAR is s Limited BARtropic model

Limited Area Sine Transform Barotropic (LBAR) Model

LBAR is a simple two-dimensional dynamical track prediction model. It solves the shallow-water wave equations initialized with vertically averaged (850-200 hPa) winds and heights from the GFS global model. An idealized symmetric vortex and a constant wind vector (equal to the initial storm motion vector) are added to the GFS global model analysis to represent the TC circulation. The model equations are solved using a spectral sine transform technique over an area near the TC. The lateral boundary conditions are obtained from the GFS forecast. LBAR includes no horizontal gradients in temperature (and as a consequence, no vertical wind shear), making the LBAR a relatively poor performer beyond 1-2 days or outside of the deep tropics.
TY Storm, hope it continues to be wrong :)
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2162. Patrap
Quoting Asta:

They were all there its true Patrap..
but he only mentioned beaches.
He did not mention wetlands,
and he did not even set foot or visit the marshes. The photo op of him picking up a quarter sized tarball on a cleaned beach was, I think, extremely misleading.


U have a screw loose ..and keep posting..

Please.
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2160. IKE
Quoting kingy:
the oil cam is back live and it aint looking pretty.

I know they claim to have pumped a full boat load of mud down that well but the oil is back to full flow. From where I'm sitting they aint made a dent in that well and its still coming.


That's oil or my name isn't IKE.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
2159. Asta
Quoting Patrap:


LOL...I wunder why Fla, Gov.Crist was in Grand Isle then yesterday standing next to Jindal then?

Territorial peeing contest are for the LAMEST of minds.

.."Calamity knows no Borders,only mens Minds and maps do"..

They were all there its true Patrap..
but he only mentioned beaches.
He did not mention wetlands,
and he did not even set foot or visit the marshes. The photo op of him picking up a quarter sized tarball on a cleaned beach was, I think, extremely misleading.
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2158. leo305
I continue to fear what would happen of AGATHA survives and re develops and moves towards north Cuba/Florida.. imagine what would happen if it's left side decides to push the oil further into the loop current =S
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2157. IKE
Quoting JamesSA:
Yeah, that is oil. Oil rises, mud sinks.

I would say top kill has failed and they just haven't delivered the bad news yet.


They'll probably announce it at about 4 am Sunday when very few are paying attention.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858

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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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