Storms of My Grandchildren by Dr. James Hansen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:34 PM GMT on July 26, 2010

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"Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity" is NASA climate change scientist Dr. James Hansen's first book. Dr. Hansen is arguably the most visible and well-respected climate change scientist in the world, and has headed the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City since 1981. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Dr. Hansen greatly raised awareness of the threat of global warming during his Congressional testimony during the record hot summer of 1988, and issued one of the first-ever climate model predictions of global warming (see an analysis here to see how his 1988 prediction did.) In 2009, Dr. Hansen was awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society, for his "outstanding contributions to climate modeling, understanding climate change forcings and sensitivity, and for clear communication of climate science in the public arena."

Storms of My Grandchildren focuses on the key concepts of the science of climate change, told through Hansen's personal experiences as a key player in field's scientific advancements and political dramas over the past 40 years. Dr. Hansen's writing style is very straight-forward and understandable, and he clearly explains the scientific concepts involved in a friendly way that anyone with a high school level science education can understand. I did not find any scientific errors in his book. However, some of his explanations are too long-winded, and the book is probably too long, at 274 pages. Nevertheless, Storms of My Grandchildren is a must-read, due to the importance of the subject matter and who is writing it. Hansen is not a fancy writer. He comes across as a plain Iowan who happened to stumble into the field of climate change and discovered things he had to speak out about. And he does plenty of speaking out in his book.

James Hansen vs. Richard Lindzen
Dr. Hansen's book opens with an interesting chapter on his participation in four meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney's cabinet-level Climate Task Force in 2001. It seems that the Bush Administration was prepared to let Dr. Hansen's views on climate change influence policy. However, Dr. Richard Lindzen, whom Hansen describes as "the dean of of global warming contrarians", was also present at the meetings. Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously. Hansen observes that "U.S. policies regarding carbon dioxide during the Bush-Cheney administration seem to have been based on, or at a minimum, congruent with, Lindzen's perspective." Hansen asserts that Lindzen was able to do this by acting more like a lawyer than a scientist: "He and other contrarians tend to act like lawyers defending a client, presenting only arguments that favor their client. This is in direct contradiction to...the scientific method." Hansen also comments that he asked Lindzen what he thought of the link between smoking and cancer, since Lindzen had been a witness for the tobacco industry decades earlier. Lindzen "began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Alarmism
Global warming contrarians often dismiss scientists such a Dr. Hansen as "alarmists" who concoct fearsome stories about climate change in order to get research funding. Dr. Lindzen made this accusation at Cheney's Climate Task Force in 2001. However, Dr. Hansen notes that "in 1981 I lost funding for research on the climate effects of carbon dioxide because the Energy Department was displeased with a paper, 'Climate Impact of Increasing Carbon Dioxide,' I had published in Science magazine. The paper made a number of predictions for the 21st century, including 'opening of the fabled Northwest Passage', which the Energy Department considered to be alarmist but which have since proven to be accurate." If you read Dr. Hansen's book and listen to his lectures, it is clear that he is not an alarmist out to get more research funding by hyping the dangers of global warming. Hansen says in his book that "my basic nature nature is very placid, even comfortably stolid", and that nature comes through very clearly in Storms of My Grandchildren. Hansen's writings express a quiet determination to plainly set forth the scientific truth on climate change. He has surprisingly few angry words towards the politicians, lobbyists, and scientists intent on distorting the scientific truth.

The science of climate change
The bulk of Storms of My Grandchildren is devoted to explanations of the science of climate change. Hansen's greatest concern is disintegration of the gerat ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica causing sea level rise: "Once the ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continuously changing for centuries. Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain." Hansen is concerned that evidence from past climate periods show that the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica can melt quickly, with large changes within a century. For example, sea level at the end of the most recent Ice Age, 13,000 - 14,000 years ago, rose at a rate of 3 - 5 meters (10 - 17 feet) per century for several centuries. Hansen is convinced that just a 1.7 -2°C warming, which would likely result if we stabilize CO2 at 450 ppm, would be a "disaster scenario" that would trigger rapid disintegration of the ice sheets and disastrous rises in sea level. Hansen advocates stabilizing CO2 at 350 ppm (we are currently at 390 ppm, with a rate of increase of 2 ppm per year.)

Another of Hansen's main concerns is the extinction of species. He notes that studies of more than 1,000 species of plants, animals, and insects have found an average migration rate towards the poles due to climate warming in the last half of the 20th century to be four miles per decade. "That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails (isotherms) have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. If greenhouse gases continue to increase at business-as-usual rates, then the rate of isotherm movement will double in this century to at least seventy miles per decade."

Hansen's other main concern is the release of large amounts of methane gas stored in sea-floor sediments in the form of methane hydrates. If ocean temperatures warm according to predictions, the higher temperatures at the sea floor may be enough to destabilize the methane hydrate sediments and release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 - 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Solutions to the climate change problem
Dr. Hansen is a controversial figure, since he has stepped outside his field of expertise and become an activist in promoting solutions to the climate change problem. He devotes a chapter called "An Honest, Effective Path" in the book to this. His main theme is that we need to tax fossil fuels using a "fee-and-dividend" approach. All of the tax money collected would be distributed uniformly to the public. This carbon tax would gradually rise, giving people time to adjust their lifestyle, choice of vehicle, home insulation, etc. Those who do better at reducing their fossil fuel use will receive more in the dividend than they will pay in the added costs of the products they buy. The approach is straightforward and does not require a large bureaucracy, but currently has little political support. Hansen is vehemently opposed to the approach that has the most political support, "Cap-and-trade": "Cap-and-trade is what governments and the people in alligator shoes (the lobbyists for special interests) are trying to foist on you. Whoops. As an objective scientist I should delete such personal opinions, to at least flag them. But I am sixty-eight years old, and I am fed up with the way things work in Washington." Hansen also promotes an overlooked type of nuclear power, "fast" reactors with liquid metal coolant that produce far less nuclear waste and are much more efficient than conventional nuclear reactors.

Quotes from the book
"Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger--unaware how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise."

"In order for a democracy to function well, the public needs to be honestly informed. But the undue influence of special interests and government greenwash pose formidable barriers to a well-informed public. Without a well-informed public, humanity itself and all species on the planet are threatened."

"Of course by 2005 I was well aware that the NASA Office of Public Affairs had become an office of propaganda. In 2004, I learned that NASA press releases related to global warming were sent to the White House, where they were edited to appear less serious or discarded entirely."

"If we let special interests rule, my grandchildren and yours will pay the price."

"The role of money in our capitals is the biggest problem for democracy and for the planet."

"The problem with asking people to pledge to reduce their fossil fuel use is that even if lots of people do, one effect is reduced demand for fossil fuel and thus a lower price--making it easier for someone else to burn...it is necessary for people to reduce their emissions, but it is not sufficient if the government does not adopt policies that cause much of the fossil fuels to be left in the ground permanently."

"I have argued that it is time to 'draw a line in the sand' and demand no new coal plants."

"The present situation is analogous to that faced by Lincoln with slavery and Churchill with Nazism--the time for compromises and appeasement is over."

"Humans are beginning to hammer the climate system with a forcing more than an order of magnitude more powerful than the forcings that nature employed."

"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."

"After the ice is gone, would Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I've come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty."

"One suggestion I have for now: Support Bill McKibben and his organization 350.org. It is the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice."

Commentary
James Hansen understands the Earth's climate as well as any person alive, and his concern about where our climate is headed makes Storms of My Grandchildren a must-read for everyone who cares about the world their grandchildren will inherit. Storms of My Grandchildren retails for $16.50 at Amazon.com. Dr. Hansen's web site is http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting NEwxguy:


wow,if I went back to the beginning of todays blog and did that,I could read the whole blog in 10 seconds


yeah, wouldn't be must about the tropics to read if we did that...
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Quoting Dropsonde:
I can't believe pages upon pages of sniping instead of the daily blob watch. The CMC is cooking up a full-blown hurricane from either the wave at 30W or the one just coming off Africa. Isn't that interesting at least from a speculative point of view, like what it signifies regarding the start of the Cape Verde season?



ok.. Im still new and stupid.. I looking at the grid.. 30W..(just bear with me) Just clue me in this once and I will get it forever!!!!
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2181. Michale
Quoting weathersp:


Valid points, but one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is that "are we, in the modern industrial age, expediting a process that would occur naturally?" If that answer is yes than you also have to ask the question "Is it possible to expedite it to a point in which it becomes un-natural". While in the Earth's history we may have exceeded this level of C02 and perhaps beyond, the question is about the rate in which that occurred. I think we not only have to look at the line and how far it can go... but at what slope it is going up at.


You make a good and valid point...

Let's assume, for the moment, that humankind has the power to actually affect the planet's climate..

Let's further postulate that, in the 1970s that humans were so fearful of a new ice age, that they took immediate and drastic steps to heat up the planet.

Where would that put us today??

My point is simple.. Humans simply do not know enough about the planet and it's climate to go frak'ing around with things, even assuming they actually have the power to do so..

Doesn't it make sense to be 1000% absolutely certain before taking, what could be, irrevocable steps and that might, quite probably, actually make things worse??
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Just reading the first sentence of this blog made me chuckle. I had a feeling there would be many posts today.

Anybody here ever read The Population Bomb? I'd shelve this one along with that one...that is if I had either of these titles.

edited to add...just thought of another one. The Late Great Planet Earth. That one my mother believed and we were taught Jesus was coming back in the 80s as a result of that book. I'd shelve all three of these together.
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2179. NEwxguy
Quoting Floodman:


I think I said this about two pages ago: No one knows how to have a discussion anymore...politics, weather, climate, it matters not...everyoine has the idea that they're right and anyone with a differing viewpoint is wrong and apparently a mortal enemy...LOL


Yeh,I'm still amazed at how personal a GW discussion gets,certain individuals just lose control,lol,theres some great drugs out there to help with this.
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Quoting HarleyStormDude52:
any chance a tall of any suprise stuff in the GOM? what do you think? Im ready for some action ha!!


Nothing of note in the entire Basin right now and should be quiet for the next few days. The only surface feature that could fire up anything would be the old frontal boundary off the mid-Atlantic coast if it could spin up a low at the tailend but even that is unlikely.
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Quoting Michale:



Wasn't it Dr Jones of the ERU (AGU??? something like that) who said that there has been no appreciable global warming since 1998??


There are those pesky facts again...


As just pointed out, Dr. Jones didn't exactly say that. Here are the relevant parts of the BBC interview:

BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

Phil Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

BBC: How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?

Phil Jones: I'm 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 - there's evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.
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"In 1988, Hansen predicted dire warming over the next decade -- and he was off by 300%. Why in the world should we listen to the same doom and gloom lies from him today?"

That is incorrect, or at least not comprehensive. Hansen produced three projections. One was indeed dire (A), one was pretty conservative (C), and one was middle of the road (B). The observed temperature since then has trended fairly close to the "B" scenario, but slightly on the "C" side.
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I can't believe pages upon pages of sniping instead of the daily blob watch. The CMC is cooking up a full-blown hurricane from either the wave at 30W or the one just coming off Africa. Isn't that interesting at least from a speculative point of view, like what it signifies regarding the start of the Cape Verde season?
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2173. help4u
AMEN!!!!APOCALYPSE-INDUCED MISANTHROPIC ENVIRONMENTAL NERVOUSNESS!!
Member Since: September 18, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1256
2171. IKE
Quoting HarleyStormDude52:
any chance a tall of any suprise stuff in the GOM? what do you think? Im ready for some action ha!!


Just my opinion...I think it's going to be the 2nd week in August, or later, before it picks up in the ATL.

I'll be surprised if Dr. Gray keeps his total at 18 when he issues an update in 8 days. Maybe he lowers it by 1 or 2.
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2170. NEwxguy
Quoting IKE:


I just skip over the GW posts. I haven't read a one of them. Good time to put this on here though....tropics are s-l-o-w.


wow,if I went back to the beginning of todays blog and did that,I could read the whole blog in 10 seconds
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2169. Michale
Quoting Floodman:


JFlorida...a denier baited him and you know how that boy is...he got wound up and said somethings he shouldn't thave


You don't see any problem with calling someone a "denier"??? A slur usually reserved for deniers of the Holocaust..

Yet you DO see a problem when someone compares the fanaticism of the AGW proponents to the fanaticism of religious zealots..

Hmmmmmm Interesting...
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Anyone interested in speaking about the tropics can head over to my blog, it'll be moderated but I doubt I'll be able to post.
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Quoting NEwxguy:
We all know what side of the fence Dr Masters falls as far as GW,but he puts these blogs hopefully to have people comment on the material he presents in the blog,but watching todays comments,hardly anyone touched on the subject in the blog.So it was an empty and useless day here in Tropical blog land.Someone has way too much time on their hands.


I think I said this about two pages ago: No one knows how to have a discussion anymore...politics, weather, climate, it matters not...everyoine has the idea that they're right and anyone with a differing viewpoint is wrong and apparently a mortal enemy...LOL
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Quoting Michale:


Wasn't it Dr Jones of the ERU (AGU??? something like that) who said that there has been no appreciable global warming since 1998??

There are those pesky facts again...


That is *not* what Jones said. What he said is that the warming that has occurred isn't statistically significant. IOW, the observed warming over that time period cannot be reliably attributed to AGW, mainly due to the limitations of statistics. He could have phrased it better, which would have prevented misquotes like the above from occurring...maybe.
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any chance a tall of any suprise stuff in the GOM? what do you think? Im ready for some action ha!!
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It's not scientifically valid to consider the topic of climate without considering the effect that our relatively advanced species has and will do, be it something that effects both adding or subtracting CO2. One could argue that we add through burning fossil fuels that wouldn't be burnt if we didn't exist, and we subtract by mitigating factors like pollution control scrubbers in smokestacks, that wouldn't exist if our species hadn't grown smart enough to invent them. It's arrogant to avoid the topic of homo sapiens alltogether. All species are involved in the climate.
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Quoting Twinkster:
Global Warming if true is speculative. We are taking data that we have obtained from satellite over the last 30 years and trying to make it seem that what ever data we have over 30 years gives us enough knowledge to say humans are causing global warming


Last time I checked the earth has a history of around 6 billion years and there have been time periods of warm and cold

cold such as the ice ages and warm such as the carboniferous period in which co2 levels were drastically higher than they are today. The carboniferous period and the decay of the large forests from that time period give us todays fossil fuels. Realistically the co2 we are giving off from burning fossil fuels is only a mere fraction of the co2 present in that time period.

I don't want to make this a political issue but many assign categories for who or who does not believe global warming

democrats(liberals)- believe in global warming
republicans(conservatives)- don't believe in global warming

I consider myself a democrat and i don't believe in global warming because the facts that the IPCC, politicians, and whatever yoiu want to consider al gore don't add up

don't make global warming a political issue

Last time i checked 30 years of reliable observable data based on satellite is only .0000005% of earth's history


Are you really going to base your conclusion off of the skewed facts that you just posted?? Man I hate to be critical but, your post is the epitome of ignorance. Saying that global warming conclusions have only been based on 30 yeears of satellite data is like trying to argue that the earth is only six-thousand years old..its really just ignorant. I am NOT going to detail all of the methods that are used ofor obtaining data on global warming. However, I will heavily reccomend that you do some research on the subject before you come in here and base your ignorant arguement on pure hog-wash and partial facts...Go learn all of the FACTS surrounding the subject then you can come up with a much more eduacated conclusion and maybe you wont look so ignorant when you post your opinions on global warming in a public place.
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good to see you dnuora ezcyclone!!!!,hows the van???,ready for the next TC threat I hope!!!!
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2160. IKE
Quoting HarleyStormDude52:


He just wanted to spur some good debate.. I am not GW fan but that ok too...It just got a bit heated an some out of bounds just like it does with the "tropical" discussions and forecasts/opinions at times..


I just skip over the GW posts. I haven't read a one of them. Good time to put this on here though....tropics are s-l-o-w.
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Quoting HarleyStormDude52:


He just wanted to spur some good debate.. I am not GW fan but that ok too...It just got a bit heated an some out of bounds just like it does with the "tropical" discussions and forecasts/opinions at times..


Same. Is anything interesting forecast to occur in the Tropics?
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Quoting ezcColony:


In 1988, Hansen predicted dire warming over the next decade -- and he was off by 300%. Why in the world should we listen to the same doom and gloom lies from him today?

What it boils down to is that he practices poor science. He has elevated himself into stardom using hyperbolic statements, such as coal cars should be looked upon as death cars. Despicable!!!


Odd that after all those years of "bad science" he was employed at NASA, you would think sombody would have removed him. or not listened to him at all.
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Quoting IKE:


He's on vacation. I doubt this blog gets updated until at least tomorrow.


He just wanted to spur some good debate.. I am not GW fan but that ok too...It just got a bit heated an some out of bounds just like it does with the "tropical" discussions and forecasts/opinions at times..
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Anyone interested in speaking about the tropics can head over to my blog, it'll be moderated but I doubt I'll be able to post.
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How bout this.. y'all who want to talk GW go here as that's the topic of Doc's blog and whoever wants to talk tropics can go to Tropics chat. -shrug-, just offering suggestions here folks!
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
Quoting CybrTeddy:
I wish the doc would make another blog soon.. GW is really annoying atm. We could seriously.. use a system.


yeah, I am ready for a new blog too....tropics.
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2153. IKE
Quoting srada:
Why Dr. Masters? Why did you do it??? WWWHHHYYYY??


He's on vacation. I doubt this blog gets updated until at least tomorrow.
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Quoting Floodman:


Beacuse you disagree with him?


In 1988, Hansen predicted dire warming over the next decade -- and he was off by 300%. Why in the world should we listen to the same doom and gloom lies from him today?

What it boils down to is that he practices poor science. He has elevated himself into stardom using hyperbolic statements, such as coal cars should be looked upon as death cars. Despicable!!!
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
I wish the doc would make another blog soon.. GW is really annoying atm. We could seriously.. use a system.


+1

Admin is striking blows little by little though so it's going to fizzle sooner or later.
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Quoting NEwxguy:
We all know what side of the fence Dr Masters falls as far as GW,but he puts these blogs hopefully to have people comment on the material he presents in the blog,but watching todays comments,hardly anyone touched on the subject in the blog.So it was an empty and useless day here in Tropical blog land.Someone has way too much time on their hands.


I would have loved too but it would get drowned out in here. I'll be back tommorow, I hope there is a new blog by then.
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2149. IKE
Tropical weather outlook for planet Earth....nothing in any basin.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



oops



a little GW is find but you guys need too no when too end it


ppl sure defend their beliefs
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


Looks like some of the models see something in the crystal ball in about 100hrs or so. So pretty speculative at this point but it does support what Storm W. update said. Things might be turning the corner from the lull.. The place gets pretty ugly when there is no content (swirls)..


You got that right...to be honest, I was lurking most of the day (kind of busy at work) but I get really tired of "smug with no data" types so I had to jump in...it's a nasty habit of mine and I really need to work on that, you know?
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2145. srada
Why Dr. Masters? Why did you do it??? WWWHHHYYYY??
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Quoting Floodman:


JFlorida...a denier baited him and you know how that boy is...he got wound up and said somethings he shouldn't thave



oops



a little GW is find but you guys need too no when too end it
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Ok... to the tropical weather! :D
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Quoting FLdewey:


LMAO... hey after these wowsers showed up today they make Huricanes101 look like a pretty cool cat. ;-)
LOL!
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2141. NEwxguy
We all know what side of the fence Dr Masters falls as far as GW,but he puts these blogs hopefully to have people comment on the material he presents in the blog,but watching todays comments,hardly anyone touched on the subject in the blog.So it was an empty and useless day here in Tropical blog land.Someone has way too much time on their hands.
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I wish the doc would make another blog soon.. GW is really annoying atm. We could seriously.. use a system.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
Quoting Tazmanian:



yup any one get banned yet if so oh?


JFlorida...a denier baited him and you know how that boy is...he got wound up and said somethings he shouldn't thave
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looks like a lot of commets are being re move
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LOL! Why did that comment repost itself?
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2136. xcool
do not personal attacks me.thanks
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
2134. xcool
Floodman anyway.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603

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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.