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 mcluvincane:


And what on hear makes you thing of Dick Cheney. You just mad cause all the Democrats are way down in the polls. Its OK. I'm a tea party member and pray that we get all these far left liberals out if office


dr masters blog talks about cheneys global warming task force. that is what on hear made me thing of him.
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Quoting mcluvincane:

LMAO Im Mcluvin your handle name! Good stuff.

Morning WU bloggers and haters!
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831. IKE
Quoting StormW:


LMAO!

Why, it's Mr. Haliburton!


LOL.
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830. beell
Tail end of the cold front of the NC/SC border.
A little spin on this RUC chart-not the best product for offshore.


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Quoting mcluvincane:


And what on hear makes you thing of Dick Cheney. You just mad cause all the Democrats are way down in the polls. Its OK. I'm a tea party member and pray that we get all these far left liberals out of office
Member Since: June 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1339
Quoting NttyGrtty:
If only everyone would write a book on climate change and which administration listened and which scientist was ignored and pouted and which scientist wasn't and bragged...if there were more books like that, oh wouldn't the world be a better place?


i feel like its like this, there is a giant f5 tornado coming down the street to wipe out the whole town. but instead of everyone going tornado, run! half the people are going "ts not a real tornado, its a liberal cry baby illusion", and the other half are going "its not a real tornado, its tea party drama" and in the mean time the tornado is wiping the earth to obliteration.
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826. IKE
"""Remember, I like to hunt!"""

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Quoting twhcracker:


and i am sick and tired of hearing about things that remind me of dick cheney but hey, if it will help save mankind....


And what on hear makes you thing of Dick Cheney. You just mad cause all the Democrats are way down in the polls. Its OK. I'm a tea party member and pray that we get all these far left liberals out if office
Member Since: June 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1339
Quoting StormW:


Is this a start?
2004


Wow, I never knew Frances was a Cat 4 at one time... and I live in West Palm, interesting.
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as for argentina, when i grew up in the fla panhandle, in the fifties, we only got to wear pants, and not a skirt, if it was below freezing. it would be below freezing a lot. now i guess you could argue that since it was around 10 degrees for two weeks in the panhandle last winter, that its not warmer. but it is warmer. we dont have a winter anymore. we have these freak hard freezes for a few days and then its like 80 degrees at christmas, 80 degrees all winter except for two weeks of ten degrees. thats just bizarre. the weather this year has been completely bizarre.
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SLU - great numbers! and a good rationale for them!
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Quoting FLdewey:


It's everything I always knew you never wanted.
If only everyone would write a book on climate change and which administration listened and which scientist was ignored and pouted and which scientist wasn't and bragged...if there were more books like that, oh wouldn't the world be a better place?
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Quoting mcluvincane:
dear Dr Masters, please do away with the GW topic. I am so sick and tired of hearing about stuff that reminds me of Al Gore.


and i am sick and tired of hearing about things that remind me of dick cheney but hey, if it will help save mankind....
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817. Wots
Quoting 10Speed:


... Try to explain to someone in Argentina right now that we're experiencing global warming.


Good morning all. I live in Argentina. It is true that we are experiencing a very cold winter, as you can see in todays first page in one of our main newspapers; www.lanacion.com.ar
but that is after we had one of the warmest June in decades.
As I understand, we experience GW in two ways, we are steadily losing our glaciers in the Andes, with the exception of the famous Perito Moreno glacier which is advancing while the rest of the glaciers in the region lost as much as 25 km in the recent century. But on a yearly basis, we have more extreme winters and summers, according to the ENSO. We even had snow in Buenos Aires after 80 years. Some regions of our country now have more rain an can sustain crops and cattle, while others suffer heavy desertification. Changes are evident, some for good, others, most, for worse. It was sad to read days ago when (was it that JB guy?) someone stated that our winter was a sign of global cooling instead of GW. How can some people deny what is evident?
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"Once ice sheet disintegration begins in earnest, our grandchildren will live the rest of their lives in a chaotic transition period."


does anyone know how close the ice sheet is to meltdown? i mean is it like at 20%, 40%, 60 %.... what?
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The news media portrays thing negatively on global warming. However, Los Alamos and MIT are working on nuclear and solar efficiencies that will trump current versions completely...
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Is that blow up off the east coast something to keep an eye on? I believe Levi said something bout a front coming off and might create some "homegrown mischief"
Member Since: June 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1339
Energy Policy

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

Yes... and even though I myself am in the natural gas business PLEASE do not use this relatively clean resource for power generation but rather conserve it wisely!

We need fast nukes like Dr. Hanson proposes.

Unfortunately nuclear waste disposal is non existence. Yucca Mountain was shut down thanks to NIMBY.

Also, why have dividends? Germany back in the 80's just forced people to do something that would ultimately SAVE MONEY.

So, Germany now has a balance of payments surplus while the US has a deficit.

Wake up America... independent of AGW our high energy intensity is killing our economy.

Energy conservation is the CONSERVATIVE thing to do (please don't adopt Gore and Obama's high carbon lifestyle!)
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SLU: Did you read the tropical discussion this morning? Cyclonic rotation on the 32 degree wave. Still SAl'ed though. However, it does seem as thought it's about time for fireworks season part 2 in August.
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dear Dr Masters, please do away with the GW topic. I am so sick and tired of hearing about stuff that reminds me of Al Gore.
Member Since: June 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1339
Oh good, a climate change blog...morn'n everyone
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SLU IS IT devaju again. next tueday will be 30 yrs hurricane Allen struck St Lucia
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805. SLU
Quoting msphar:
Sorry Gator, that doesn't address my two questions. I'll repeat: How many waves will Africa produce between now and Nov 30th,

What pecentage of those waves will reach TC levels ?

Anyone ? I like to hear some considered opinions...


Generally, Africa emits about 50 - 75 tropical waves per year. Considering we're in an active season, about 40 - 50 more tropical waves are possible between now and November. So far this year we've had 29 tropical waves with the 30th about to emerge.

On average, 10% - 15% of the waves become tropical cyclones. Active Cape Verde seasons tend to have the higher percentages.
Member Since: July 13, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 5057
Quoting msphar:
I watch the waves. I've been watching them for years. I have an estimate for both questions, but I'd like to see some other answers as well. Here is a hint: Waves tend to be spaced at about 20 degrees apart.

interesting, msphar WUMail me your estimates please. That is really neat.
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From all the reading Ive been doing, October will not be "shutting down" for this hurricane season. In fact we could see activity into December of this year.
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Thanks Ike, I'll address it to him directly.
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800. SLU
There continues to be strong and consistent model support for some fireworks next week.


Member Since: July 13, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 5057
799. IKE
Quoting msphar:
I watch the waves. I've been watching them for years. I have an estimate for both questions, but I'd like to see some other answers as well. Here is a hint: Waves tend to be spaced at about 20 degrees apart.


Weather456 has your answer. I've seen him post info on here answering your very question.
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I watch the waves. I've been watching them for years. I have an estimate for both questions, but I'd like to see some other answers as well. Here is a hint: Waves tend to be spaced at about 20 degrees apart.
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Quoting msphar:
Sorry Gator, that doesn't address my two questions. I'll repeat: How many waves will Africa produce between now and Nov 30th,

What pecentage of those waves will reach TC levels ?

Anyone ? I like to hear some considered opinions...

I do not believe that the science of meteorology has come far enough to be able to forecast how many waves their will be between now and NOV, nor do I believe it has come far enough to determine what percentage of those waves will become TC's. If I am wrong someone please correct me, thanks.
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Morning all,
Global Waming !! dont get me started on this subject.
global warming is happening within and outer meanibg atmospheric conditions due to gases, we are all guilty of this, the blame game will go on forever the very persons who are blaming the industries are guilty, why do you ask? well for one dont we all use airconditioning two we all drive vehicles, three dont most if not all use some form os disposable cup/plate etc, most products we enjoy in our homes are made through processes that emit gasses or pollutants so it is interesting for me to see these people get up and start to argue, over the past year there has been a move to now start doing more and less talking but it only emerges it 's ugly head when there is a disaster or some weather phenomenon and then the panic button is pushed we all have to start now or soon it will be over maybe not in my lifetime but certainly my kids and grand kids, so people lets get it on stop buying products that we dont need that goes through the process that emits gasses,buy solar products to conserve energy less dependency on oil and oh !! my theory on the oil is it's there for a reason it is a barrier from the earth core that produces that very hot stuff called LAVA oil is a natural lubricant and does not trans fer heat from one object to another , just take a look at the amount of earthquakes that are now happening around the world, some where in the USA or the Caribbean another disater is lingering "be prepared"
anyway thats my rant this AM.
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October shutdown sounds fine. It make the season prediction numbers even harder to hit.
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Quoting Surfcropper:


no, you said FIRST ice age...as in like billions of years ago...who the heck would know that?! lol


Floodman was probably there, maybe he can tell us?
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Quoting msphar:
Sorry Gator, that doesn't address my two questions. I'll repeat: How many waves will Africa produce between now and Nov 30th,

What pecentage of those waves will reach TC levels ?

Anyone ? I like to hear some considered opinions...
As many as the atmosphere wants to produce any more would be total speculation.
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On Methane Hydrates

First, since CH4 is short term 80 times more powerful as a GHG than CO2, not 20 to 25 times. It does decrease rapidly to 20 times over 100 years owing to the short half life.

The major threat from hydrate disassociation is in Siberia. This would be a catastrophic event.

Seabed hydrates, however, most researchers do not think that they would be affected. Temperatures on the seabed are influenced by thermal heat flux from the deep earth and not surface temperatures.

Note what is contributing lots of methane to the atmosphere from this simple wiki I found

Link

Siberian hydrates are the real threat.
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791. IKE
Quoting msphar:
Sorry Gator, that doesn't address my two questions. I'll repeat: How many waves will Africa produce between now and Nov 30th,

What pecentage of those waves will reach TC levels ?

Anyone ? I like to hear some considered opinions...


Cape Verde season usually starts shutting down by October.

An expert on here could give you the number of waves.


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Sorry Gator, that doesn't address my two questions. I'll repeat: How many waves will Africa produce between now and Nov 30th,

What pecentage of those waves will reach TC levels ?

Anyone ? I like to hear some considered opinions...
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BOC again...

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Quoting MahFL:
Florida just had one of it's coldest winters for a while, but all the other winters were warmer than normal, some I recall no 32 F temps in Orange Park at all, whereas even 10 years ago we had them often. ergo...global warming.


10 years is an insignificant measure of time. Take any 30-40 period over the last 10,000 years and you will find that on average it is warmer than today. The actual temperature trend according to ice cores is that we are in a decline (over the last 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 600 years). There have been dozens upon dozens of times the temperature has been much hotter or cooler over a span of years.
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Good morning, weather weenies.
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Quoting msphar:
good morning, one of the issues not addressed in any thing I have read recently concerning the coming season, is the time factor. We are running out of time for this season to grow to the mega production that so many have predicted. Consider the African wave situation. How many African waves will come into the MDR between now and Nov. 30th? Of those waves, how many will produce ? Get these two numbers right and you could predict the major component of the season.

this issue has been addressed ad nasueum. The simple answer from what I understand and what everyone has said is below


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Quoting Dr. Masters: Dr.Lindzen was able to confuse the task force members enough so that they never took Dr. Hansen's views seriously.


Finally something that wasn't Bush's fault.
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784. IKE
Quoting msgambler:
Good Morning Ike


Morning....

Quiet across the Atlantic Basin

Jul 27, 2010 7:18 AM


The Atlantic Basin is void of any organized tropical systems. Disturbed weather from the northwest Caribbean into the western Gulf of Mexico is being caused by a weakening upper level low pressure area located in the central Gulf of Mexico interacting with an upper level high pressure area near the Yucatan. This upper air pattern is not favorable for tropical development but it will continue to support widespread showers and thunderstorms from the Yucatan into eastern Texas and eastern Mexico. Another weakening upper level low over the eastern Caribbean is above a large area of drier than normal air covering the central and eastern Caribbean. So, we see an unusual lack of clouds over the eastern Caribbean and over much of the Lesser Antilles. Two poorly organized tropical waves over the central Atlantic are encountering drier than normal air and show no organized thunderstorms. Computer forecasts show no low level features emerging across the Atlantic Basin through at least Friday. Note it's not unusual for late July to be quiet. However, often a period of quiet during late July and early August is followed by a much more active tropical pattern during La Nina years.

By AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski, updated by Brian Wimer
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About

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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