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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Quoting IKE:


Translated into plain English.....the truth...it isn't working.


The guy that "leaked" the current shut down said they had maintained about 10% of the drilling mud in column...

My understanding was that this wasn't going to be a continuous process and that they were going to stop the process every now and again to recheck pressures and reassess the condition of the pipes and BOP
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The effects of a very strong upward motion MJO.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting leo305:


so why haven't they classified it as a TD yet


Look at the South side of the center. Not truly closed off
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654. xcool
whats good news ??
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
sorry forgot the link
Link
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11236
Quoting kmanislander:
90E @ 16:17 today



so why haven't they classified it as a TD yet
Member Since: April 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1753
they are talking about what i saw on cnn at this very minute
Member Since: May 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 39
Nice cloud signature associated with 90E.

20:45 UTC - 4:45 PM EDT
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
the ROV are cleaning off mud from time to time so I have a feeling you may have see that. Leaks look normal and there was a lot of extra debris and mud, could have been cleaning.
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648. IKE
Quoting DentalPainDMD:


yea the oil probably wont reach north texas...no need to worry.

In other news the NYtimes reports ops have been suspended again. link


Translated into plain English.....the truth...it isn't working.
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Quoting Floodman:


While wall outlets put out "dirty power", generators are a little worse. You're better off charging things like computers and running them off battery power


I hear ya on that. Generators are similar to what the power companies do on a smaller scale. I have toasted chargers using an inverter, that was not a good thing. For those who legally back feed a house, try to balance the load on the generator at the panel. That will help it live longer and work better. TGIF all :)
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
646. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
565. Skyepony

I believe in that case LGEM (Logistic Growth Equation Model) is the intensity model, which at this time is using BAMM for track. If you compare LGEM and BAMM for errors, they are the same.


The BAMM & LGEM models heads the same way as the CMC..

Drak~ your right, I thought I'd posted the LGem. I need to do the preseason bookmark clean up.
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90E @ 16:17 today. Still a bit of a convergence line on the South side of the COC.

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CNN just hinted that BP delayed revealing ops stopped yesterday by 16 hrs b/c of concerns over stock price. I bet the call it quits now that the markets are about to close (and a nice long wkend)
Member Since: May 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 39
90E moving NE at 1 MPH.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
this if for all the bloggers that can't see the movement of 90-E goo or at all

WARNING WARNING THE TROPICAL FLOTERS ARE DOWN
at curent time use the E-Pac or W Atl
Sat
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11236
Now they've got an ROV with a tool going after something on the top side of the BOP, but below the bent riser.
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Quoting Drakoen:
90E is barely moving at all


655

WHXX01 KMIA 281901

CHGE77

TROPICAL CYCLONE GUIDANCE MESSAGE

NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL

1901 UTC FRI MAY 28 2010



DISCLAIMER...NUMERICAL MODELS ARE SUBJECT TO LARGE ERRORS.

PLEASE REFER TO NHC OFFICIAL FORECASTS FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE

AND SUBTROPICAL CYCLONE INFORMATION.



EAST PACIFIC OBJECTIVE AIDS FOR



DISTURBANCE INVEST (EP902010) 20100528 1800 UTC



...00 HRS... ...12 HRS... ...24 HRS. .. ...36 HRS...

100528 1800 100529 0600 100529 1800 100530 0600



LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON

BAMS 12.8N 94.5W 13.3N 94.0W 13.5N 93.6W 13.9N 92.9W

BAMD 12.8N 94.5W 13.6N 94.1W 14.4N 93.4W 15.3N 92.5W

BAMM 12.8N 94.5W 13.4N 93.8W 14.0N 92.8W 14.6N 91.8W

LBAR 12.8N 94.5W 13.5N 94.1W 14.4N 93.7W 15.7N 92.6W

SHIP 30KTS 35KTS 39KTS 44KTS

DSHP 30KTS 35KTS 39KTS 36KTS



...48 HRS... ...72 HRS... ...96 HRS. .. ..120 HRS...

100530 1800 100531 1800 100601 1800 100602 1800



LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON

BAMS 14.4N 92.5W 16.1N 92.4W 17.1N 92.7W 16.8N 93.1W

BAMD 16.4N 91.9W 19.6N 90.4W 22.9N 85.8W 24.3N 78.2W

BAMM 15.5N 91.3W 17.9N 90.8W 20.0N 89.6W 21.0N 87.5W

LBAR 17.6N 91.1W 22.7N 87.3W 27.2N 80.2W 29.5N 72.8W

SHIP 47KTS 47KTS 41KTS 38KTS

DSHP 30KTS 27KTS 27KTS 27KTS



...INITIAL CONDITIONS...

LATCUR = 12.8N LONCUR = 94.5W DIRCUR = 45DEG SPDCUR = 1KT

LATM12 = 12.6N LONM12 = 94.7W DIRM12 = 44DEG SPDM12 = 1KT

LATM24 = 12.5N LONM24 = 95.0W

WNDCUR = 30KT RMAXWD = 85NM WNDM12 = 25KT

CENPRS = 1005MB OUTPRS = 1010MB OUTRAD = 200NM SDEPTH = D

RD34NE = 0NM RD34SE = 0NM RD34SW = 0NM RD34NW = 0NM



$$

NNNN
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Drakoen, are you still on?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting Floodman:


Looks like Wednesday's feed...I don't see a great deal of difference. They may have increased the flow a little based on the pressure readings and you're seeing more overflow...then again it could be the end of the world...


yea the oil probably wont reach north texas...no need to worry.

In other news the NYtimes reports ops have been suspended again. link
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Quoting Ossqss:
I had not heard of issues with electronics and a generator. I have heard of issues with inverters for they put our a square wave that can do damage to certain equipment.


While wall outlets put out "dirty power", generators are a little worse. You're better off charging things like computers and running them off battery power
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Mmm, possible strong tropical cyclone in Arabian Sea... Next week, PHET will be with us

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Quoting JLPR:


That's the last thing I'll think of doing lol!
Wont risk my baby (laptop) XD And sadly one the power goes down, so does my modem, so yep, bye, bye internet. XD I'll tell my experience and share photos once the power is stable again. ^^
I love tracking storms even if there's a hurricane on top of me. I think it's in my blood. LOL.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
XtremeStormJunkies Update:

The full-scale portable power test of the live severe webcam is now at 6 hours with no interruption in any service.

All bluetooth devices, which are operating on their own, internal batteries are still functioning well.

The webcam system (computer, cell phone, and wireless 3G broadband card) are still fully operational and running off the "main batt."

You can see the progress of this full-scale portable power test by going to our media call-out URL of 7674u.com

It's starting to get a bit ridiculous now! My "little bluetooth" device is still transmitting with the video stream!
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Quoting Chicklit:
Yeah, just before the storms, I usually make a batch of chili, some soup, and of course either cookies or brownies or both.
Hearty food and treats for the weary are much appreciated in such times!


Smart lady!
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I had not heard of issues with electronics and a generator. I have heard of issues with inverters for they put our a square wave that can do damage to certain equipment.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
18z Surface Analysis indicates that 90E should continue its northeastward drift off into Guatemala.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
630. IKE
Quoting FIU2010:


that's an impeccable model, ain't it, ike?


Yeah...the best.
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yea i dont see a new leak...looks the same to me as well.
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628. JLPR
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Smart. I also want to get a generator that way if the power goes out I can still be on the blog during the hurricane, lol.


That's the last thing I'll think of doing lol!
Wont risk my baby (laptop) XD And sadly once the power goes down, so does my modem, so yep, bye, bye internet. XD I'll tell my experience and share photos once the power is stable again. ^^
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Yeah, just before the storms, I usually make a batch of chili, some soup, and of course either cookies or brownies or both.
Hearty food and treats for the weary are much appreciated in such times!
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Quoting Drakoen:
90E is barely moving at all
It just looks like a slight northeastward motion. Maybe 1 or 2 MPH.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting DentalPainDMD:
actually you can see the NEW LEAK under the ROV by view the CNN feed here


Looks like Wednesday's feed...I don't see a great deal of difference. They may have increased the flow a little based on the pressure readings and you're seeing more overflow...then again it could be the end of the world...
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I expect atleast a TD by 10 eastern

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Quoting FloridaTigers:
I've always wondered, if a storm survives the trek over Central America/Mexico, does it retain its name from the basin of origin? I know storms get new names when they deteriorate and regenerate, but what about if it stays above TS level?


National Hurricane Operations Plan, Chapter 3

3.3. Numbering of Tropical and Subtropical Cyclones.

The following rules apply for tropical cyclones passing from one basin to another: Retain the name if a tropical cyclone passes from one basin into another basin as a tropical cyclone; i.e., advisories are continuous. An unnamed tropical depression will also retain its number (e.g. Tropical Depression Six-E remains Tropical Depression Six-E) if it crosses into another area of responsibility. For unnamed tropical depressions moving from west to east across 180, CPHC will use the associated Joint Typhoon Warning Center%u2019s (JTWC) number and indicate JTWC in parentheses following the number. For named systems, CPHC will use the associated RSMC Tokyo name and provide the associated JTWC number in parentheses.
Within a basin, if the remnant of a tropical cyclone redevelops into a tropical cyclone, it is assigned its original number or name. If the remnants of a former tropical cyclone regenerate in a new basin, the regenerated tropical cyclone will be given a new designation.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
95% Chance of becoming TD 1-E
60% Chance of becoming a Tropical Storm Agatha
20% Chance of becoming a Hurricane Agatha.

*I think that 90E will be classified as TD 1-E in the next 6 hours.
I agree TD1E coming up shortly.
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Quoting Chicklit:

Not a good idea to run electronic equipment, including tv, off a generator. You'll liable to ruin your equipment. Better to use battery power for that, if you've got a laptop or use your phone.
Oh I didn't know that. Thanks for he heads up. I have a battery charged charger for my phone so I can post through my phone without running out of power, good! LOL.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Definitely another leak from the BOV now!
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
95% Chance of becoming TD 1-E
60% Chance of becoming a Tropical Storm Agatha
20% Chance of becoming a Hurricane Agatha.

*I think that 90E will be classified as TD 1-E in the next 6 hours.

Same here. Now we just have to wait for the NHC to classify it. :)
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Looks like their moving the ROV to get a better view right now.
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90E is barely moving at all
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they are showing both views on CNN (tv) right now
Member Since: May 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 39
Quoting Chicklit:
Re: Hurricane Preparedness.
Okay, I'm convinced that now's the time to take preparations seriously (I live on a barrier island along east central Florida's coast). So this weekend (starting today already), I've begun to sort through the stuff in my hurricane shelter (downstairs) in order to make room in case I need it. I know everyone says "evacuate;" however, I have too many pets to reasonably do this and this house is constructed with a shelter. Also, I'm pretty high up in some dunes with about an acre of oaks around me so do have some protection. Anyway, I am now putting things in order, will get some more plastic containers this weekend, and make sure that I have a couple of blue tarps, a couple rolls of duct tape, cleaning supplies, etc. and will be making up plastic, sealed boxes. One will have paper goods like paper towels, tp, and a medical kit, duct tape, cleaning supplies etc. go in another. One will be a dry clothing box. And one will be a food box. This will help to shorten my preparations and if and when a storm does arrive here. Also, being prepared myself means I'll have time to be sure all of my shutters get put up and I can also help my neighbors, including my 83-year-old mother who lives across the street! Nothing's perfect. We've got to take stock of what we have (and don't have) and work within the parameters. I'm probably two blocks from the ocean and the highest point around here. That kind of scares me but the house is heavy beam on top (first floor thirty feet over solid concrete structure below). I'm admittedly getting nervous, though, reading through the predictions for this season!
This is a good weekend to do it.

I was going to rotate my hurricane supplies this week. But I found when i opened my trunk, that I borrowed more supplies than I realized over the winter. I think I've developed an addiction to freeze dried strawberries! On the otherhand, it looks like I went a little overboard with the emergency supplies of dog treats and bones. And I really can't explain why I thought my goats would need 5 pounds of dried figs...
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Smart. I also want to get a generator that way if the power goes out I can still be on the blog during the hurricane, lol.

Not a good idea to run electronic equipment, including tv, off a generator. You'll liable to ruin your equipment. Better to use battery power for that, if you've got a laptop or use your phone.
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Also Alma and Arthur of 2008.


Yeah, I was just using this current case as an example. Even though I don't think this will happen.
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actually you can see the NEW LEAK under the ROV by view the CNN feed here
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Nice... I'm giving 80% that this will become a named storm.

I don't really see it moving to the NE, indicated by the map though...
95% Chance of becoming TD 1-E
60% Chance of becoming a Tropical Storm Agatha
20% Chance of becoming a Hurricane Agatha.

*I think that 90E will be classified as TD 1-E in the next 6 hours.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Hey MiamiHurricanes09 you have my hand in this forecast of yours my forecast is somewhat aslong the same lines you know it would be great Cayman Hurricane Center and MiamiHurricanes09 doing analyses and forecasting
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


It gets renamed. Sometimes, if I remember correctly, they get unofficially referred to both names. ex. "Agatha-Alex"


Also Alma and Arthur of 2008.
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Quoting FloridaTigers:
I've always wondered, if a storm survives the trek over Central America/Mexico, does it retain its name from the basin of origin? I know storms get new names when they deteriorate and regenerate, but what about if it stays above TS level?


It gets renamed. Sometimes, if I remember correctly, they get unofficially referred to both names. ex. "Agatha-Alex"
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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.