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 MiamiHurricanes09:
Model is junk? The model isn't "junk" it just tends to overdo intensity, it is a pretty good model for forecasting the conditions that are forecasted to be around at system at a given time.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaa keep telling yourself that. I trust that model about as far as I can kick a mule across a field. It is total junk in my eyes. Give me a satellite loop and I can tell you what the environment is around the system without the SHIPS model input.
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Quoting Levi32:


HWRF is mostly trash. It has a poleward bias in track and it's always overdone on the intensity, yet is often underdone in the wind/pressure relationship.

It seems to handle epac storms better, tho. (I think that was the HWRF, at least)
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Quoting Levi32:


HWRF is mostly trash. It has a poleward bias in track and it's always overdone on the intensity, yet is often underdone in the wind/pressure relationship.
Agreed.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21098
Quoting JFLORIDA:
"natural cycle" or not GW will be more of a detriment to the peoples of the planet than all the tropical systems combined ....

You said it, now you Prove it.
Member Since: April 13, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 744
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


120 HR NEAR 19N 51W NEAR CAT 3


109 kts. is above a cat 3. 100 kts. is a cat 3.
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7279. angiest
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Model is junk? The model isn't "junk" it just tends to overdo intensity, it is a pretty good model for forecasting the conditions that are forecasted to be around at system at a given time.


And I think I mentioned it in the context of the probability for development, not the initiation of advisories.

If it were junk, I doubt NHC would mention it in storm discussions.
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Quoting Levi32:


HWRF is mostly trash. It has a poleward bias in track and it's always overdone on the intensity, yet is often underdone in the wind/pressure relationship.


Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Model is junk? The model isn't "junk" it just tends to overdo intensity, it is a pretty good model for forecasting the conditions that are forecasted to be around at system at a given time.

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7277. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


120 HR NEAR 19N 51W NEAR CAT 3
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imo 90L at 8 20%, Antilles Disturbance 10%.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
90L is starting to pull away from the ITCZ, expect major convection loss as it does so, then it will start sustaining itself.


I agree. And once it completely does pull out, we should expect development to take place.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31862
Quoting catastropheadjuster:
DrM, would you please change the blog back to the tropics? So we can put a stop to this GW bull hockey, not everyone believes in it and some like i just think it's a cycle we are going thru.
We have a wave out there that is very interesting and would like to hear what you have to say about it.
Thank You,
Sheri

Hey Sheri I believe Dr Masters is off for the week and thats why we have not had a change in the Blog....

Taco :o)
By the way I "Totally Agree" with you 100%
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Quoting Weather456:


SHIPS always overstate intensity.

SHIPS should be used to get a general idea of the environment ahead of a system rather than for initial intensity.


Yeah, I don't doubt the system has a chance of becoming a strong hurricane. I just don't believe it will happen as quickly as the SHIPS and even the HWRF are forecasting. If this were totally independent of the ITCZ, then I might be more inclined to believe them.
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7270. Levi32
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
HWRF going too northward...strength is possible but a bit overdone.

120 hours.






HWRF is mostly trash. It has a poleward bias in track and it's always overdone on the intensity, yet is often underdone in the wind/pressure relationship.
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Quoting catastropheadjuster:
DrM, would you please change the blog back to the tropics? So we can put a stop to this GW bull hockey, not everyone believes in it and some like i just think it's a cycle we are going thru.
We have a wave out there that is very interesting and would like to hear what you have to say about it.
Thank You,
Sheri


OMG reporte... I mean seconded. ;) Well said.
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7268. Bonz
Good evening from S. Florida. I take one day off from the blog and an invest forms?
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

Based on SHIPS? Are you serious...that model is junk. Wait 24 hours for the models to get their act together on this system.
Model is junk? The model isn't "junk" it just tends to overdo intensity, it is a pretty good model for forecasting the conditions that are forecasted to be around at system at a given time.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21098
Quoting btwntx08:

yea


You know who that is right?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31862
7265. Drakoen
Quoting Drakoen:


Okay the new GFS has made nice improvements in skill level, but its handling of the deep tropics is poor; I guess I should have been more specific in my post in it being terrible with the tropics which is my main focus. Looking at the power point the new GFS has problems with the QBO and has had an increase in the negative bias winds in the tropics. The new GFS is also weaker with the African easterly Jet compared to the previous GFS and according to international desk they think the new GFS and ECMWF are too weak with the strength of tropical waves.
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90L is still way to far south for development in the next 24-48 hours. it will move out of the ITCZ but got to give it time. Going to be a fun one to watch but we are still a few days away.
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7263. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
INV/90/L
MARK
7.9N/31.3W
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For those out there who mess with Patrap...remember..."Hooper drives the boat"...and YOU ain't Hooper.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
The SHIPS intensity model has been over-doing intensity big time this season. It kept wanting to make Bonnie a 60mph TS in the Gulf when it dissipated into an open wave. I wouldn't take the SHIPS' word until we have a developed system when it will perform better.


SHIPS always overstate intensity.

SHIPS should be used to get a general idea of the environment ahead of a system rather than for initial intensity.
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Quoting muddertracker:
81 knots is bout 94 mph, let's hope the ships is being generous with 90l.

Its also 900mb (5000-8000 ft or so)winds, which is going to be a good 15-20% stronger than surface level.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
"natural cycle" or not GW will be more of a detriment to the peoples of the planet than all the tropical systems combined realistically as climate is them all combined plus any weather phenomena occurring in the warming, now modeled, climate.

I dont see why things cannot be discussed concurrently as a good 70-80 percent of the blog is small talk and repetition with no bearing on anything whatsoever.

Please leave and dont return if it is too much for you to allow others to voice their concerns reasonably in a forum.


Hi GW man!
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90L is starting to pull away from the ITCZ, expect major convection loss as it does so, then it will start sustaining itself.
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Quoting angiest:
7227 - Looks like they may need to increase the likelihood of development in the next 48 hours by quite a bit, based on what SHIPS says...

Based on SHIPS? Are you serious...that model is junk. Wait 24 hours for the models to get their act together on this system.
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DrM, would you please change the blog back to the tropics? So we can put a stop to this GW bull hockey, not everyone believes in it and some like i just think it's a cycle we are going thru.
We have a wave out there that is very interesting and would like to hear what you have to say about it.
Thank You,
Sheri
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HWRF going too northward...strength is possible but a bit overdone.

120 hours.




Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21098
Haha -- doing good -- trying to get back in the routine of watching the storms, invest, etc.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


HWRF makes it a Major Hurricane!? :o
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7249. Drakoen
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Before you try, convict and execute the new GFS, you may want to look at some data


Okay the new GFS has made nice improvements in skill level, but its handling of the deep tropics is poor; I guess I should have been more specific in my post in it being terrible with the tropics which is my main focus. Looking at the power point the new GFS has problems with the QBO and has had an increase in the negative bias winds in the tropics. The new GFS is also weaker with the African easterly Jet compared to the previous GFS and according to international desk they think the new GFS and ECMWF are too weak with the strength of tropical waves.
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The SHIPS intensity model has been over-doing intensity big time this season. It kept wanting to make Bonnie a 60mph TS in the Gulf when it dissipated into an open wave. I wouldn't take the SHIPS' word until we have a developed system when it will perform better.
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Quoting zoomiami:



I don't normally get into the who said what on the blog - but several people have made the comment that Pat makes derogatory comments about Florida and/or the Florida bloggers. To my knowledge, I have never seen Pat make such blanket comments. He also goes out of his way to post information that is relevant for many areas, not just his. Hate to see people blamed for something that aren't guilty of.
I agree. I think what some people may be reacting to is the somewhat overly Florida-centric posts of some of the bloggers on here. While it is recognized that Florida has a very strong presence here on Dr. M's blog, there is also another dozen or so states and many countries that are at risk from north Atlantic tropical cyclones.

As for Pat... There are not that many bloggers that are as even-handed and level-headed as him. It doesn't matter if a TC is going to impact Florida, Mexico, Louisiana, or the Outer Banks... he is going to post the info he has for it.
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Quoting muddertracker:
81 knots is bout 94 mph, let's hope the ships is being generous with 90l.

It's in a very favorable environment, so I would question if it's underestimating
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7244. WxLogic
Good evening...

My goodness this AM the 2 areas that were being discussed now have probabilities and one is already an invest 90L which GFS develops briefly.
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


No they aren't! Remember Bonnie was in a straight forward steering environment :-b



Yes, you are right about that. I was commenting on the development of Bonnie, and the track. People wonder why those of us in Florida get skittish when it looks like something might pop. Bonnie went from nothing to a named storm, to ashore in about 28 hours. Fortunately it did not intensify, but its even chances that something coming across the gulf stream could. There was no time to prepare, and if it had been a cat 1 it would not have been a nice day.

In the blog during Bonnie someone posted several storms in the last 10 years that have done the same thing. Even with all of our new technology you still have to pay attention.
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Poll:

Next TWO:

Caribbean Wave:
A)0-10%
B)10-20%
C)20-30%
D)30-40%
E)Greater than 40%

90L
A)10-20%
B)20-30%
C)30-40%
D)40-50%
E)Greater than 50%
Probably no development of either feature in the next 48 hours since 90L has to detach itself from the ITCZ completely and PGI20L needs to get to the more favorable western Caribbean. IMO, I would leave both numbers the same (90L at 20% and PGI20L at 10%).
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21098
81 knots is bout 94 mph, let's hope the ships is being generous with 90l.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


The way that the hurricane is tilted looks like Hurricane Bill.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bill.A2009231.1415.250m.jpg
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7237. angiest
7227 - Looks like they may need to increase the likelihood of development in the next 48 hours by quite a bit, based on what SHIPS says...
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Poll:

Next TWO:

Caribbean Wave:
A)0-10%
B)10-20%
C)20-30%
D)30-40%
E)Greater than 40%

90L
A)10-20%
B)20-30%
C)30-40%
D)40-50%
E)Greater than 50%


Caribbean Wave: 10% or 20%

90L: IMO 30%, probably 20% though
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31862
So the entire sentence should read:

Cloud tops have warmed over the past few hours which is an indication of diurnal minimum and that the system is becoming independent of the ITCZ.
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7234. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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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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