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 Neapolitan:


Another interesting tidbit about that year: except for a Cat 1 storm in mid-June and a very short-lived Cat 2 in mid-July, the season saw little activity until the second week of August, when things really took off. A Cat 3 storm formed on the 13th, then a Cat 3 and two Cat 4 storms were initiated on the 15th.

Yes, that's triplets: three cyclones born in one day (and four in a three-day period). Imagine this blog. If you want to. ;-)
Yep, like popcorn, lol!
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I have to say the storm that blew up on top of St. Petersburg, FL was impressive 40-50 mph winds pushed three boats off there mooring and one headed right into a another large boat the other two headed for the sea wall were there seating right now.

We had pea size hail with lots of lightening.

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Quoting sailingallover:

Anita/Bill last year..
Anita was suppose to go north or over us as a hurricane, Bill south of us as a TS
They switched places over the course fo 3 days..
Bill a monster cat 5 to our north Anita fizzeled to our south..
I spent a week in the mangrove creeks of Culebra...

I remember, yeah.
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4330. IKE
Quoting 1900hurricane:

I believe 1998 had 3 majors: Bonnie, Georges, and Mitch, correct?


Bonnie is listed as peak winds of 115 mph....yeah...you're right it wound up....14-10-3.
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Quoting Levi32:


Ah....I'm not learned up on pre-1900 seasons lol. I was thinking of the parade of 4 storms in 1995 with a 5th on the way. It was the worst African wave train ever observed.
Got it. I goes to the same point... development can go off like popcorn at the height of the season and it really hasn't started yet.
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Quoting LowerCal:


I was thinking of 1893 for this reason:

9. Most hurricanes ever in one day: On August 22, 1893, four hurricanes were occurring simultaneously: storm #3 approaching Nova Scotia, Canada, storm #4 between Bermuda and the Bahamas, storm #6 northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and storm #7 west of the Cape Verde Islands. Storm #4 would end up making a direct hit on New York City as a Category 1 hurricane two days later and storm #6 ending up hitting Georgia and South Carolina as a Category 3 hurricane (the "Sea Islands Hurricane") and killing 1000-2000 people. The only other known date with four hurricanes occurring at the same time was September 25, 1998, when hurricanes Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl were in existence. Link


Another interesting tidbit about that year: except for a Cat 1 storm in mid-June and a very short-lived Cat 2 in mid-July, the season saw little activity until the second week of August, when things really took off. A Cat 3 storm formed on the 13th, then a Cat 3 and two Cat 4 storms were initiated on the 15th.

Yes, that's triplets: three cyclones born in one day (and four in a three-day period). Imagine this blog. If you want to. ;-)
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4327. Levi32
Quoting sailingallover:
HAHAHA.. don't push it Dude :)... maybe one there will be the Levi method for predicting the early formation of tropical storms weeks in advance...


Haha, well the funny thing is that we already have the ability to do that at times. Not specific dates and storm tracks but we can get a pretty good idea of when the Atlantic will burst in activity a couple weeks in advance, especially during pronounced El Nino and La Nina years.
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Levi32 and 1900 have mail
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4325. Drakoen
Quoting Levi32:


Just had to say that the CFS is far from reliable on anything. It had a red-hot winter painted for Alaska next winter which won't pan out and did you see its summer forecast for the CONUS LOL? Fail.....can't fail harder than that on a climate model.

Forecast from MAY 13th for the summer:



Reliable with the MJO.
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4324. angiest
Did anyone realize Bonnie will go down in the record books? Rarely does a tropical cyclone in the Gulf never make landfall in the Gulf, and Bonnie certainly was not a TC at the time whatever was left of her did hit land.
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Quoting IKE:
I think Dr. Masters is calling for 4 majors in 2010.

1998 wound up 14-10-2.....


I believe 1998 had 3 majors: Bonnie, Georges, and Mitch, correct?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11683
4321. xcool
4315. TampaSpin 8:11 PM GMT on July 28, 2010
ready set go!
kaboom
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
4320. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:
The reliable CFS paints a good picture of the upward MJO returning to our basin by August first and becoming the predominant phase as we go through August and into September.



Just had to say that the CFS is far from reliable on anything. It had a red-hot winter painted for Alaska next winter which won't pan out and did you see its summer forecast for the CONUS LOL? Fail.....can't fail harder than that on a climate model.

Forecast from MAY 13th for the summer (June-July-August:

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Quoting Levi32:


Think we should name it? Leviathan sounds catchy.

HAHAHA.. don't push it Dude :)... maybe one there will be the Levi method for predicting the early formation of tropical storms weeks in advance...
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It was the worst African wave train ever observed.

My observation was the polar opposite. Pure awesomeness. Felix was the perfect storm.
Over a week of solid surf.s
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4317. Levi32
Quoting angiest:


I was thinking 95 as well, but it was 3 hurricanes and one TS, right?


Maybe....I didn't know he was asking about the other year with 4 hurricanes...I thought it was just 4 simultaneous storms.
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4316. Drakoen
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Drakoen, can a perturbation in the ITCZ can become organized and develop?


Yes
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ready set go!
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4314. Levi32
Quoting weatherguy03:


Again, long range forecasts..LOL La Nina favors the MJO staying close by, but so far this season the long range MJO forecasts have stunk. I am taking it week by week.


They've stunk because they keep wanting to make the MJO behave but it can't behave in a year like this. It's been in the Atlantic 90% of the time so far and it should stay that way. There's almost no forecasting to be done lol.

90 days of MJO, hasn't even really touched octants 4-8:

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4313. angiest
Quoting Levi32:


Ah....I'm not learned up on pre-1900 seasons lol. I was thinking of the parade of 4 storms in 1995 with a 5th on the way. It was the worst African wave train ever observed.


I was thinking 95 as well, but it was 3 hurricanes and one TS, right?
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1995-five named storms at the same time
1998-four hurricanes at the same time
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4311. Levi32
Quoting LowerCal:


I was thinking of 1893 for this reason:

9. Most hurricanes ever in one day: On August 22, 1893, four hurricanes were occurring simultaneously: storm #3 approaching Nova Scotia, Canada, storm #4 between Bermuda and the Bahamas, storm #6 northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and storm #7 west of the Cape Verde Islands. Storm #4 would end up making a direct hit on New York City as a Category 1 hurricane two days later and storm #6 ending up hitting Georgia and South Carolina as a Category 3 hurricane (the "Sea Islands Hurricane") and killing 1000-2000 people. The only other known date with four hurricanes occurring at the same time was September 25, 1998, when hurricanes Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl were in existence. Link


Ah....I'm not learned up on pre-1900 seasons lol. I was thinking of the parade of 4 storms in 1995 with a 5th on the way. It was the worst African wave train ever observed.
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Drakoen, can a perturbation in the ITCZ can become organized and develop?
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Quoting Diplomacy:
im very intruiged by the ECM's behavior this afternoon, therefore, i'll prob. be staying up tonight, awaiting the 3am run, if that one continues to show zilch, then i'll take that as a trend, meaning, forget about the carib. system. conversely, if brings back the carib system, then i'll be left speechless. you see, that's why im gonna stay awake to see it, promises to be very curious. anyone gonna keep me company? ^_^


NO
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Quoting reedzone:


2008
See comment 4297.
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Quoting StormW:


From the NHC Glossary:

Invest:
A weather system for which a tropical cyclone forecast center (NHC, CPHC, or JTWC) is interested in collecting specialized data sets (e.g., microwave imagery) and/or running model guidance. Once a system has been designated as an invest, data collection and processing is initiated on a number of government and academic web sites, including the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (UW-CIMSS). The designation of a system as an invest does not correspond to any particular likelihood of development of the system into a tropical cyclone; operational products such as the Tropical Weather Outlook or the JTWC/TCFA should be consulted for this purpose.


Nice, so I guess what makes one interesting enough? What if the system had long legs and red lipstick?
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Quoting Drakoen:
The reliable CFS paints a good picture of the upward MJO returning to our basin by August first and becoming the predominant phase as we go through August and into September.



Again, long range forecasts..LOL La Nina favors the MJO staying close by, but so far this season the long range MJO forecasts have stunk. I am taking it week by week.
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Quoting PRweathercenter:

Okay thanks, something to keep an eye on, i remember Hurricane Dean back in 2007, it had the hurricane going 100 miles north of us, then it kept readjusting. The storm eventually went about 200-250 miles south of us.

Anita/Bill last year..
Anita was suppose to go north or over us as a hurricane, Bill south of us as a TS
They switched places over the course fo 3 days..
Bill a monster cat 5 to our north Anita fizzeled to our south..
I spent a week in the mangrove creeks of Culebra...
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"Perturbation."


that was a common feeling during the AGW debates on here.
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Quoting Levi32:


1995.


I was thinking of 1893 for this reason:

9. Most hurricanes ever in one day: On August 22, 1893, four hurricanes were occurring simultaneously: storm #3 approaching Nova Scotia, Canada, storm #4 between Bermuda and the Bahamas, storm #6 northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and storm #7 west of the Cape Verde Islands. Storm #4 would end up making a direct hit on New York City as a Category 1 hurricane two days later and storm #6 ending up hitting Georgia and South Carolina as a Category 3 hurricane (the "Sea Islands Hurricane") and killing 1000-2000 people. The only other known date with four hurricanes occurring at the same time was September 25, 1998, when hurricanes Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl were in existence. Link
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4296. Levi32
Quoting sailingallover:

11 hours!! scat pics are always old by the time they are posted..but they are the surest way to see anything but a naked circulation and given it's progression it's YOUR wave..


Think we should name it? Leviathan sounds catchy.

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4295. Levi32
Quoting PRweathercenter:

Levi, What's your preliminary guess about this Cape Verde Wave?


Has a shot....but needs consistency both in satellite presentation and in model support. So far it's just one cycle of runs that we have supporting development with some backing off on the 12z. The pattern is evolving towards a very favorable one for African waves so these things will eventually start popping here soon. Whether this is the first one or not I don't know yet, but it should be watched very closely. The one between 45W and 50W also bears watching.
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Quoting Levi32:


That's actually more than 12 hours old now, but yes if that pass was accurate then it's only a little hop away from a depression, and it still looks good now, but I'd like to see it hold that presentation through tonight.

11 hours!! scat pics are always old by the time they are posted..but they are the surest way to see anything but a naked circulation and given it's progression it's YOUR wave..
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Further evidence the hurricane season of 1995 was awesome:

Link
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Storm, Drak

What would initiate or cause NOAA to classify a system as an offical invest?
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Quoting Levi32:


Notice how the greens creep into the Atlantic from the east instead of the west like they normally do, because the MJO is forced to move backwards back into the Atlantic from the same direction that it left. Every time it tries to go into the Pacific it turns tail and heads back the other way.


Levi, What's your preliminary guess about this Cape Verde Wave?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Good Afternoon!

hey there!!
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Quoting sailingallover:

Hot off the Satellite..pretty good circulation..more of a depression already..

Those winds are pretty strong now, i wonder if this thing will survive?
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4287. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:
The reliable CFS paints a good picture of the upward MJO returning to our basin by August first and becoming the predominant phase as we go through August and into September.



Notice how the greens creep into the Atlantic from the east instead of the west like they normally do, because the MJO is forced to move backwards back into the Atlantic from the same direction that it left. Every time it tries to go into the Pacific it turns tail and heads back the other way.

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4286. Drakoen
Quoting sailingallover:

Hot off the Satellite..pretty good circulation..more of a depression already..



Look closer, a convergence axis is just west of 20W with some cyclonic flow about the axis. Perturbation.
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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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