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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4184. IKE
Quoting weatherguy03:


Most models will on the long range. But to show something rather substantial on one run of the Euro and then nothing on the next is not that normal. But I gave my reasoning before on why it may be doing that. Again, long range models are for entertainment purposes only..LOL


I agree...that's a drastic difference.
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12z Euro still shows a strong reflection of this wave, just a lot further north. Give it time to lock in.

Member Since: June 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 53
Well bob its was good seeing you and getting your opinion which i agree 100%.I like many others thought should have been a feature blogger on this blog it would have been great,.But what this blog has turned into i bet your glad you are not lol.WEll ike see you later got a meeting to hold and i see the romperoomers are poofing me for telling the truth lol.Once again good to see you bob take care ike.
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Quoting IKE:


I think there's a variable or variables that no one can predict, that can hinder or help a season total.

I think there's been at least one this season...too much high pressure. I agree with you about the SAL. It doesn't seem excessive compared to what I remember about prior seasons.




You and me are together...I'm 13-7-4 and have been for about 4 months. I'm sticking with it til Nov. 30th.



Also the MJO, where it has been good, across the Western and Cen. Caribbean and GOM, it hasnt really made it into the MDR just yet.
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Quoting hcubed:


So is there any call to cap-and-tax sources of methane?

Usually, ranchers list how many head of cattle or horses they have.

Looks like they're lookin' at the wrong end...


Now THAT'S funny!
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4179. SLU
The ECMWF is having some serious consistency issues.

Meanwhile the new GFS seems to have been "over-updated" since it tends to downplay the weather in the tropics a bit.





A downcaster's dream.
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4178. IKE
Quoting weatherguy03:


I believe that has been the problem. I dont think its been the dust. Except for that one big push about a week or so ago, its been pretty normal.


I think there's a variable or variables that no one can predict, that can hinder or help a season total.

I think there's been at least one this season...too much high pressure. I agree with you about the SAL. It doesn't seem excessive compared to what I remember about prior seasons.


Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
I am still going for 13-7-3 by November 30, Ike.


You and me are together...I'm 13-7-4 and have been for about 4 months. I'm sticking with it til Nov. 30th.

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Quoting reedzone:


I've seen the EURO do this many times before it either drops or locks on to the storm. The 00Z will be interesting, I have a good confidence on it reviving the wave again. It did the same thing with Alex before it locked on to it, had a Hurricane hitting LA, then the next run had a small, weak low hitting TX, then back to a bigger event the next run.


Was looking for alittle more from you. But I guess that will suffice for now.
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4176. Levi32
Quoting Drakoen:


There is no wave at 25W.


What? It's at 22W and there is a wave.
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Quoting IKE:
I thought the ECMWF would be weaker on this run. It does flip-flop long range until it locks in, but I wasn't expecting little to nothing.

I'll guess it shows slightly more on the next run, but not near like it showed on today's 00Z run.


Most models will on the long range. But to show something rather substantial on one run of the Euro and then nothing on the next is not that normal. But I gave my reasoning before on why it may be doing that. Again, long range models are for entertainment purposes only..LOL
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Ya ever wonder if the good Jeff Masters sometimes throws a blog out there just to see what it will drag up?
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4170. Drakoen
Quoting AllStar17:


What do you think about the 25W wave? TIA!


There is no wave at 25W.
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4169. hcubed
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


It's a handle from a person known to get darstic sometimes.


Wow. The new filter I bought really works...

Didn't even see that he HAD a new handle.
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Quoting weatherguy03:


What was your reasoning behind expecting nothing on this run??


I've seen the EURO do this many times before it either drops or locks on to the storm. The 00Z will be interesting, I have a good confidence on it reviving the wave again. It did the same thing with Alex before it locked on to it, had a Hurricane hitting LA, then the next run had a small, weak low hitting TX, then back to a bigger event the next run.
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Quoting Levi32:


Well no, because it's not being compressed. That's higher air pressure. Surface convergence along the wave axis results in lower air pressure because the air rises and gets taken out the top faster than the bottom. The heating takes place through the release of latent in the thunderstorms.

sorry bad word choice..
My understanding is the boundry layer of the wave in an area of convergence causes compression/friction which then feeds the low pressure of the wave with warmer expanding air which then rises where lower atmospheric pressure then causes further expansion/Convection and condensation giving up more heat as water changes state from vapor to liquid which causes the air to rise further bringing in more air at the base. Compression being relative to a closed system friction is a better word since we are dealing with flow in an open system.

ref: since we are soooo into this these days..
http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/1520-0469(1973)0301509:AGOTCT2.0.CO;2
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:
hey flood,

How is the blood pressure today?


Not too bad...I came to the realization that it's all pretty ridiculous; in a hundred years we'll all be dead and the daily average temperature in the US will be 98 anyway, so why worry? LOL

How's things w'you, d'fly? By the way, I've been meaning to tell you for about two years: your avatar rocks!
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4165. IKE
I thought the ECMWF would be weaker on this run. It does flip-flop long range until it locks in, but I wasn't expecting little to nothing.

I'll guess it shows slightly more on the next run, but not near like it showed on today's 00Z run.
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Quoting IKE:


I'm surprised you are adjusting. I don't blame you though.

Has there been too much high pressure this season, so far? I was expecting more than 2-1-0 on July 28th.


I believe that has been the problem. I dont think its been the dust. Except for that one big push about a week or so ago, its been pretty normal.
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The ECMWF backed down on this run...as expected. None of the models have a good handle on this system, and until they do, they'll keep switching. I do believe the ECMWF will show a system next run, however.
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Report me for what being a american and voicing a opinion?If you are not a wishcaster then why do you bash ike for being a realist, or any model that does not show development?once again if your 20 i still say you have a good boss who lets you stay on a computer all day .
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Drakoen, which model should we look to more after the new GFS collapse and the EURO drop for any development in the Atlantic?
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
Well their is a voice of sanity and a real forecaster hey bob how are you.and Ike you get rid of brownsville tx the wishcaster now jfv wants you to sell shower curtains lol.as far as the tropics to quote the old 70"s song nothing from nothing is nothing 2-1-0 and the beat continues.


POOF with you there, sir.
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Quoting Diplomacy:
gang, im amazed at how it literally shows absolutely nothing for the next 10 days, i mean wow. It looked like a january run out there, lol, :). which is good news, great news ike


The EURO will likely revive the storm on its next run, this is normal for the EURO tro go from something to nothing, usually goes back to asomething on the next run.
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Quoting Surfcropper:


Over or under?


I was rather High because I saw signs in June of a very active mid to late July. So, I will be undercutting.
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So... I think that July was a bust overall.
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4154. IKE
Quoting weatherguy03:


Right now I don't see it happening this week or next. Conditions just aren't right yet. Now the second week of August that could change. Again long range forecasts are tough. They are pointing to it getting active finally, we will see. I will be the first one to admit I thought conditions would be much better during the later part of July and that hasnt happened. I for one do not believe this season will be a bust but I will be adjusting my numbers some on August 1st.


I'm surprised you are adjusting. I don't blame you though.

Has there been too much high pressure this season, so far? I was expecting more than 2-1-0 on July 28th.
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Quoting reedzone:


This is the normal for EURO trends.. It should have a Hurricane back on the 00Z, until it locks the storm, it will go back and forth from nothing to something. It's normal and I exzpected little to nothing on this run.


What was your reasoning behind expecting nothing on this run??
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Quoting extreme236:


Finally a third tropical wave emerged off the western coast of Africa Tuesday. It is currently showing no signs of development but does deserve to be monitored later this weekend as it does contain some healthy showers and thunderstorms.


That one looks the most impressive out of all of them. Typical for the weather channel to say "no development" for the best looking system.
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Really wish the doc would update his blog. I would really love to see his intake to the models.
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HPC Extended Forecast Discussion

Excerpt:

ACROSS THE TROPICS...THERE ARE A QUARTET OF SYSTEMS WHICH WERE
COORDINATED WITH NHC AT 16Z...TWO IN THE ATLANTIC AND TWO IN THE
PACIFIC...WITH HPC AND NHC POINTS WITHIN TWO DEGREES...120
NAUTICAL MILES...IN ALL CASES WHICH LED TO A COMPROMISE BETWEEN
THE TWO SETS OF POINTS BEING AGREED UPON. IN GENERAL...THE
CANADIAN WAS THE MOST BULLISH...WITH THE ECMWF THE FARTHEST NORTH
WITH THE WESTERNMOST NORTHEAST PACIFIC SYSTEM.


Day 7


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Quoting Diplomacy:
yes, bob. the itcz has been surpressed to the south, of late. however, its now back up to 10d egress north

Precisely, happy, 101.


One reason to watch those waves in the Eastern Atl. the next 3 to 5 days, but they need to sneak by before the A/B High builds South again next week.
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Quoting IKE:
168 hr. 12Z ECMWF....where is it?



This is the normal for EURO trends.. It should have a Hurricane back on the 00Z, until it locks the storm, it will go back and forth from nothing to something. It's normal and I exzpected little to nothing on this run.
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And I don't think shear should be a problem short term.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


It doesn't develop the system anymore.


Thank you. :)
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
bob good to see you. Now if you tell me this slow start is going to ramp up soon i will believe it.If you get a chance to reply id appreciate it.Good to hear from you Billy.


Right now I don't see it happening this week or next. Conditions just aren't right yet. Now the second week of August that could change. Again long range forecasts are tough. They are pointing to it getting active finally, we will see. I will be the first one to admit I thought conditions would be much better during the later part of July and that hasnt happened. I for one do not believe this season will be a bust but I will be adjusting my numbers some on August 1st.
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From TWC:

Tropical vacation
Brian Fortier, Lead Meteorologist, The Weather Channel
Jul. 28, 2010 11:37 am ET

A tropical wave passing through the southern Lesser Antilles continues to spark shower and thunderstorm activity. The wave is moving to the west between 10 and 15 mph which should bring it into the central Caribbean Thursday. Shower and thunderstorm activity may increase a little in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after the wave passes by tonight and Thursday. Further development of this wave is not expected.

Another tropical wave is moving through the eastern Atlantic. This wave may arrive in the Lesser Antilles Thursday night or Friday. Development of this wave is not expected over the next few days.

Finally a third tropical wave emerged off the western coast of Africa Tuesday. It is currently showing no signs of development but does deserve to be monitored later this weekend as it does contain some healthy showers and thunderstorms.
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Quoting hcubed:


What poster has a GOP avatar?

I haven't seen one...
LOL...look up
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4138. will45
Quoting hcubed:


What poster has a GOP avatar?

I haven't seen one...

i dont see it either.
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Dry air shouldn't be a problem with this wave.
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Quoting Snowlover123:
Hi! I was gone for a little while. What does the 12Z ECMWF look like?


It doesn't develop the system anymore.
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4134. IKE
Quoting IKE:
Just a slight difference on the 12Z ECMWF.

Sarcasm flag on.



Here's the eastern ATL view of the 12Z ECMWF through August 7th.
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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.