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 ShenValleyFlyFish:


pure opinion, no supporting data, dubious linkage -3


Bingo...I can say the sky is purple and drips Johnny Walker but until I can prove it one way or the other...though it would be nice if that theory were true

LOL
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3783. Levi32
Do we really have to keep talking about GW.....I don't care if it's the topic of the blog entry. It's hurricane season and I don't like it. The blog entry itself is off topic.....at least it comes during a quiet period but nobody can talk about anything else in here. I'll probably not post in here today if you guys keep this up. It's impossible to discuss anything else with all the arguing going on.
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Quoting Levi32:
Strong vorticity max analyzed along the wave axis this morning:



I'm puzzled as to why the NHC hasn't identified this as a tropical wave yet.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


In short, do you believe the climatologists and meteorologists of GISS and NASA are in a conspiracy? To do what, exactly?


It's simple to answer this one! Follow the money!!!

NASA and GISS are one in the same. Who funds NASA? The Fed!

What does the Fed want? Cap and Trade taxation. How do they justify it? With data obtained from NASA.

The principle behind this despicable conspiracy is equally simple. Fed dangles funding under NASA's nose, but with stipulations. Funding will be granted with the express understanding that NASA will provide "proof" in the form of "data" that AGW is a force that is only stoppable by the Fed.

It is sickening. Libs SUCK!
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3778. Patrap
From Dr. Masters entry above,




What about the modelled impacts?

Most of the focus has been on the global mean temperature trend in the models and observations (it would certainly be worthwhile to look at some more subtle metrics – rainfall, latitudinal temperature gradients, Hadley circulation etc. but that’s beyond the scope of this post). However, there are a number of subtleties here as well. Firstly, what is the best estimate of the global mean surface air temperature anomaly? GISS produces two estimates – the met station index (which does not cover a lot of the oceans), and a land-ocean index (which uses satellite ocean temperature changes in addition to the met stations). The former is likely to overestimate the true global surface air temperature trend (since the oceans do not warm as fast as the land), while the latter may underestimate the true trend, since the air temperature over the ocean is predicted to rise at a slightly higher rate than the ocean temperature. In Hansen’s 2006 paper, he uses both and suggests the true answer lies in between. For our purposes, you will see it doesn’t matter much.
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3776. xcool
ha rob
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3775. Levi32
Strong vorticity max analyzed along the wave axis this morning:

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The wave the ECMWF seems to develop is currently at around 8W.
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Quoting Hurricanes12:
To all these people talking about GW: Seriously, is that discussion going to get you anywhere but ranting and arguing? There is no point discussing the possible events further. It only leads to upset people with bad attitudes with uncivilized comments.



I don't think anyones ranting. This barely rates as an argument. Just a discussion.

But I gotta go. Later.
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 549
3770. jpsb
Quoting Skyepony:


To answer 2 first.. Hanson's tax idea isn't one for the globe over but a better idea then the fleasing of us by the energy companies/law makers are currently trying for in the US.

His proposal calls for a “simple, honest” carbon fee, collected from fossil-fuel companies upon the first sale at the mine, wellhead or port of entry.

Ya'll can argue all day about CO2 causing global warming, it doesn't matter.. It's proven that the oceans are absorbing a huge amount of CO2 that we are dumping in the atmosphere & that is turning the ocean more acidic & rapidly. It will kill our oceans as we know them if we don't stop...well if the oil we keep dumping in them doesn't kill them 1st. Mountain top removal is ugly & a death sentence to communities. There is only so many mountain tops & oil.. Air pollution from coal power plants has been blamed on 30,000 deaths in the US alone per year. Globally air pollution last year caused 2 million early deaths.. We need to get away from a carbon run society for many reasons..


CO2 levels last 500 million years.




"Fig. 4 reveals that CO2 levels have mostly decreased for the last 175 My. Prior to that point they appear to have fluctuated from about two to four times modern levels with a dominant period of about 100 My."
http://www.pnas.org/content/99/7/4167.full
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Quoting angiest:


I've seen CMC try to develop stuff out there several times in recent weeks. But nothing ever does.


I noticed the ECMWF shows some lows of interest out there on the 00z run.
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its sad when you notice its before noon and the heat index is above 95degrees

(not a rant about GW just saying its hot outside and the fact that there is rain to the south east and west of me but sunshine where im at means its steamy hot)
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Pouch Name: PGI20L Official Name: Initial Center Point: 13N 40W

Notes:

From yesterday, the potential issues for today appeared as if
they would be: (1) development at the lower levels on the
southwest side of the previous pouch and (2) establishment of a
wave on the southeast side of the previous pouch. Indeed, small
blobs of convection are on the western side ~40W and TPW shows
high values to the east ~30W. For today, I will identify PGI20L
with the convection, which lines up with the surface and 650-hPa
analyses, but I'll have to keep an eye on the wave to the east
as well.
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3765. Levi32
A tropical wave along 22W in the eastern Atlantic is exhibiting very strong and well-defined low-mid level turning this morning. The wave is at a perfect latitude for potential development, just north of 10N, far enough north for the Coriolis effect to aid good spin and yet far enough south to not get embedded in a dry airmass. There is some dry air coming off with this but almost every strong wave does pull dry air off the African continent to its north, and this dry air has far less punch that it did with the preceding waves which got completely dried out. This may have a chance, and has the mark of a trouble-maker.

If the WindSat pass from earlier this morning was accurate, this is only one small hop from a tropical depression, in all honesty. However, as with most things, we will want to see consistency in such a presentation before drawing big conclusions. These things have a tendency to fall apart on you even when they look perfect, but this is by far the most impressive wave I have seen in the eastern Atlantic so far this season, and is the first one to increase in convection and organization more than 24 hours after leaving Africa.

See my blog for more info.

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3763. angiest
Quoting extreme236:
Also, looks like the EPAC could finally see some life again.


I've seen CMC try to develop stuff out there several times in recent weeks. But nothing ever does.
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3762. IKE
Quoting Diplomacy:
Well then, so much for that model ''upgrade'', huh, Ike? It'll never change.


It kills whatever is out there.
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3761. Patrap
When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself. Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering. Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored.

Soooo,

Pllllllltttttttttttttttttttttttt,......
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Quoting Skyepony 3729: "Ya'll can argue all day about CO2 causing global warming, it doesn't matter.. It's proven that the oceans are absorbing a huge amount of CO2 that we are dumping in the atmosphere & that is turning the ocean more acidic & rapidly. It will kill our oceans as we know them if we don't stop"

Discover Magazine had a great article on this last year....it is not only the acidity, if the ocean becomes saturated we are in big time trouble as the additional CO2 will remain in the air...although by that time, we should be dead anyway
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TROPICAL DISCUSSION - INTERNATIONAL DESKS
NWS HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL PREDICTION CENTER CAMP SPRINGS MD
634 AM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

PRELIMINARY DISCUSSION FOR PUERTO RICO AND THE USVI. AN ELONGATED TUTT NOW EXTENDS NORTH OF PUERTO RICO/VIRGIN ISLANDS...ACROSS
HISPANIOLA TO A CLOSED LOW SOUTHWEST OF JAMAICA. THE TROUGH ALOFT SEPARATES THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE FROM THE SUBEQUATORIAL RIDGE...AS THE LATTER CONTINUES TO BUILD INTO THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN. THE LOW OVER THE CENTRAL/WESTERN CARIBBEAN WILL DETACH FROM THE TUTT AXIS AND UNDER INFLUENCE OF THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE TO THE NORTH IT IS TO
CONTINUE WEST INTO CENTRAL AMERICA. THE RIDGE IS TO ALSO FAVOR FORMATION OF A NEW LOW TO THE NORTH-NORTHEAST OF THE LEEWARD ISLANDS EARLY IN THE CYCLE...WITH FEATURE TO PERSIST INTO THE
WEEKEND. AT LOW LEVELS A COUPLE OF PERTURBATIONS ENTERED OR ARE
ABOUT TO ENTER THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN ISLANDS...WITH GLOBAL GUIDANCE SHOWING MOISTURE SURGING THROUGH 30-36 HRS (THURSDAY
MORNING) AND THEN DECREASING BY 60-72 HRS AHEAD OF THE NEXT WAVE IN THE LOW LEVEL EASTERLIES.

DURING THE NEXT 12-18 HRS THE MODELS CONTINUE TO SHOW MOSTLY LIGHT RAINFALL AMOUNTS ACROSS THE FORECAST AREA...AND IN A REVERSAL FROM
PREVIOUS RUNS THE HIGH RESOLUTION GUIDANCE IS NO LONGER SHOWING ORGANIZED CONVECTION ON THE INTERIOR WESTERN PORTIONS OF PUERTO RICO. THIS COMES AS A SURPRISED AS WE ARE STARTING TO SEE AN INCREASE IN AVAILABLE MOISTURE AND BETTER UPPER DYNAMICS. BUT...THEY CONTINUE TO SHOW A GRADUAL INCREASE IN MOISTURE AND FAVORABLE UPPER DYNAMICS THROUGH THURSDAY FOLLOWING WAVE
PASSAGE...WITH MOST INTENSE EXPECTED ON THE CARIBBEAN WATERS AND INTO THE USVI. EXPECTING WEATHER CONDITIONS TO DETERIORATE AND
BECOME MORE ACTIVE INTO THE WEEKEND UNDER INFLUENCE OF THE DEEPENING/INTENSIFYING TUTT PATTERN ALOFT AND WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE NEXT WAVE.


Too early in the am from NCEP to address some the issues being discussed here now about possible development next week per some of the models but their discussion next Monday should get real interesting if there is continued model support for a potential system headed their way in the longer-term.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 8712
To all these people talking about GW: Seriously, is that discussion going to get you anywhere but ranting and arguing? There is no point discussing the possible events further. It only leads to upset people with bad attitudes with uncivilized comments.
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3756. 47n91w
Quoting jpsb:
The Mayan Calender ends dec 21, 2012. However it is not really the calender that ends, calenders never really do end. It is just the largest cycle in a complicated system of cycles that ends. This particular cycle has ended before so it is not really all that big of a deal. just saying


I did some reading on this topic and came to the same conclusion - that their circular calendars reset and start over. I heard part of an interview with a Mayan professor in Mexico (was it on Discovery Channel?). He said he was tired of all the doomsday talk, but mentioned that if we really want to worry about a date, 2243 (or some far away year like that) should have us really frightened :)
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In short, do you believe the climatologists and meteorologists of GISS and NASA are in a conspiracy? To do what, exactly?


I don't like to think so. However people much more highly educated and smarter than myself do. I believe that more unbiaed and verifiable research is in order. It's too important to get wrong. I'm convince that that the issue is being used as a power-grab for some very unscrupulous types. On this note I'm done for a while as I gotta run errands.
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 549
Also, looks like the EPAC could finally see some life again.
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00z ECMWF shows a low south of the CV islands in 48 hours, which it further develops.
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Quoting btwntx08:
actually the wave the model develops is off the coast already not in africa


No it's not. It is still over Africa.
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3751. Patrap
From Dr. Masters entry above,


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




How can we tell how successful the projections were?

Firstly, since the projected forcings started in 1984, that should be the starting year for any analysis, giving us just over two decades of comparison with the real world. The delay between the projections and the publication is a reflection of the time needed to gather the necessary data, churn through the model experiments and get results ready for publication. If the analysis uses earlier data i.e. 1959, it will be affected by the cold start problem -i.e. the model is starting with a radiative balance that real world was not in. After a decade or so that is less important. Secondly, we need to address two questions how accurate were the scenarios and how accurate were the modelled impacts.
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Quoting NotCircumventing:
STOP THE INSANITY!


Now that we have some model support for development, please for the love of Susan Powter, can we not do the back and forth marathon GW posts?


"Is it safe?"
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
3749. Skyepony (Mod)
Doug~ I see it as freeing our hands from the power companies. Renewables are the new economy builder. Other countries are leaving us behind as we continue to suck the oil .... I'd assume we quit killing the old & young with air pollution & save our mountain tops regardless of what China does. & China does currently produce way more & better solar panel & wind turbines than the USA.
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Pouch Name: PGI21L Official Name: Initial Center Point: 16N 7W

Notes:

For this case, don't just look at the end of the track and
assume all is finished. Look at the fields, especially the
700hPa GFS & NOGAPS OW fields.
The 700/850 hPa pouch moves southwestward off of northwestern
Africa and initiates the development of an ITCZ circulation,
which then moves off to the west.
For today, I did NOT track the subsequent circulation!
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I believe the future system that these models develop is currently PGI21L
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3742. Ossqss
This guy?? Wow! - I am sure this will disappear quickly from view for most bloggers here :)

Liberal Environmentalist Pans Global Warming

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#3729...

Good post.
Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052
Quoting reedzone:
The CMC, GEM, NOGAPS, and the reliable EURO model now develop the wave off of Africa. It's reasonable and I expect more models to jump on because conditions are becoming favorable where the SAL is now lifting north, in fact, SAL should not be an issue with this wave. Things are moistening up and shear is on the decline. The NHC may mention it tonight if the EURO makes another aggressive run on the system. It takes it to the Caribbean which sounds reasonable to me do to the westward motion of the storms so far this year. Though I notice the EURO doesn't have a big high in the southeast at the time it has what appears to be Hurricane Colin nearing PR. This is all by observation. The NOGAPS keeps the storm weak as the CMC, like the EURO aggressively develops it, though it takes it out to sea. It's definitely something to watch now that the EURO has jumped on board. We might be seeing our first Cape Verde development this weekend.

agree; nothing to hold it back right now.
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I believe the system the models are developing is still over Africa and has not exited off of the coast yet.
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Discussing track at this point is speculative at this point, especially trying to pinpoint where this will go more than a week from now.
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3735. IKE
12Z GFS @ 132 hours.....not on-board in the EATL.




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I think we'll see a Hurricane Emily type track from 2005, except with a USA landfall farther west. Too far out though...
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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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