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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3532. 7544
thanks if you look at the cmc the wave at 14 / 47 is the one that develops first

as a storm

3526. Waltanater 10:33 AM EDT on July 28, 2010
Where? : 9N and 24W
When? : NOW

yep agree there
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3531. NEwxguy
Ahhhh,good to see the blob watching is back in full swing,looks to be a few areas to watch in the coming week,and the CV train looks like its pulling out of the station.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15079
Seems like that is expanding just a little, but will probably mount to nothing.
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A lot of dry air out there but, the Caribbean is getting alot of moisture mixing in quickly....need to watch the Caribbean for sure.
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Tropical Update July 28th. 2010
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Quoting HIEXPRESS:
Hurr 2, 1949, just visiting, not doomcasting.
Ouch!




That storm was the last time Palm Beach County was struck by a major hurricane.
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Where? : 9N and 24W
When? : NOW
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Interesting area/wave at 14N 47W.
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Quoting 7544:
so with all the models in play when and where can we see the next invest to track


I'd say in 72 hours.
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Hurr 2, 1949, just visiting, not doomcasting.
Ouch!
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3521. WxLogic
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Lets not discount the new GFS untill time passes and we gain some statisitics on it's performance (summer-winter eval timeframe). Of course the ECMWF is going to be continually improved also. I will say I don't think the new GFS will leapfrog the ECMWF.


Of course... jeje...
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Blog people- check out blob at 9N and 24W...IR...possible contender down the road? Nothing in front of it to inhibit.
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Looks like a LOW at some level is going to form South of Jamicia! Not sure if it will be an ULL, MidLL or maybe even a surface Low in time.
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3518. 7544
so with all the models in play when and where can we see the next invest to track
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The blog's head was crooked?
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Oil tanker damaged by freak wave, not 'terrorist attack'
Ship's owners originally reported an explosion in the Strait of Hormuz


Japan's shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines' tanker M. Star was damaged by a freak wave near the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
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3515. jpsb
Quoting Neapolitan:


Lots of bannable activity (see #6) on the blog this morning--which honestly doesn't bother me so much--yet nobody wants to actually discuss the topic of the blog entry itself anymore? I guess I apologize to any who were bothered by yesterday's sometimes heated back-and-forth, for there were some commenters on both sides who definitely crossed the lines of propriety, decorum, and netiquette (and paid for their actions with a ban). But Dr. Masters obviously brought up GW for a reason...and I personally can't think of much that's more fascinating, or of more immediate concern, than talking about the future of our planet. (Not to mention, of course, that--Dr. Gray notwithstanding--there's likely to be a strong correlation between warming seas and increased tropical activity.)

I mean, I'm perfectly happy to just lurk and wade through the stream of "Good morning!" and "You've got mail!" posts, but if someone here cares to actually re-open the discussion on Dr. Masters' profound blog entry, I'll be here. Just sayin'...

Very nicely stated, I think were are on opposite sides of the debate, but your comment is right on. Dr Masters is one of the few I take seriously and respect. I am certain he does not have a problem with folks debating the issue in a civil and inteligent fashion, after all he brougth the topic up for a reason or two.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1010
Morning all!

I see the blog has it's head on straight again and we are back to talking about the weather!

Thanks everyone!

Looks as if the season will take off soon!
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3513. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
Quoting WxLogic:


Hope the next code changes puts GFS closer to its competitor (Fall 2011) in long range forecasts. :)


Lets not discount the new GFS untill time passes and we gain some statisitics on it's performance (summer-winter eval timeframe). Of course the ECMWF is going to be continually improved also. I will say I don't think the new GFS will leapfrog the ECMWF.
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Gottcha Gramps...it's a new day
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Trying to determine which specific location a storm will affect when it hasn't even formed yet is pointless. The models are more useful at this stage with indicating that the environment is becoming more favorable to allow these types of systems to develop....and hints at the general steering pattern which will likely be in place to steer such systems.
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Quoting indianrivguy:


hmmm, seems that it "ought" to be Fosters time at your house Aussie :)



Yep.. Its already tomorrow morning about 12:30 am best I acn figure...
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3507. Patrap


..nuttin.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
The road less traveled...is a wild ride
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Com'n right up Aussie...
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Quoting AussieStorm:

can i have a cuppa tea please


hmmm, seems that it "ought" to be Fosters time at your house Aussie :)
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Quoting NttyGrtty:
Morn'n everyone...coffee?

can i have a cuppa tea please
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15749
Morn'n everyone...coffee?
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3499. WxLogic
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Naw, just switching names, parallel is now operational. Next new parallel is scheduled for Fall 2011 at which time they will switch again.


Hope the next code changes puts GFS closer to its competitor (Fall 2011) in long range forecasts. :)
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Quoting angiest:


The models are starting to indicate a storm forming over the next 1-2 weeks but I don't think there is anything to indicate an eventual destination. At this long range the most likely track looks to be toward the Caribbean but from there we don't know yet. And it could wind up not forming.


Thank you kindly.
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Quoting greentortuloni:
For my credibilitys sake, I would like it noted that I am lurking - but since the blog is headed where it is suposed to go and I only comment on GW, I have my mouth firmly shut. Hopefully next spring I will finally get my models up and running and try a few actual forecasts next season.


Lots of bannable activity (see #6) on the blog this morning--which honestly doesn't bother me so much--yet nobody wants to actually discuss the topic of the blog entry itself anymore? I guess I apologize to any who were bothered by yesterday's sometimes heated back-and-forth, for there were some commenters on both sides who definitely crossed the lines of propriety, decorum, and netiquette (and paid for their actions with a ban). But Dr. Masters obviously brought up GW for a reason...and I personally can't think of much that's more fascinating, or of more immediate concern, than talking about the future of our planet. (Not to mention, of course, that--Dr. Gray notwithstanding--there's likely to be a strong correlation between warming seas and increased tropical activity.)

I mean, I'm perfectly happy to just lurk and wade through the stream of "Good morning!" and "You've got mail!" posts, but if someone here cares to actually re-open the discussion on Dr. Masters' profound blog entry, I'll be here. Just sayin'...
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3496. IKE
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Naw, just switching names, parallel is now operational. Next new parallel is scheduled for Fall 2011 at which time they will switch again.


I know it's still the GFS, I'm just saying volume 1 is gone.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
3495. angiest
Quoting MrJoeBlow:
I just seen on TV a storm is going to develope off Africa and move towards the US of A. Is all that true? They say it hits in about 2-3 weeks. How they know that?


The models are starting to indicate a storm forming over the next 1-2 weeks but I don't think there is anything to indicate an eventual destination. At this long range the most likely track looks to be toward the Caribbean but from there we don't know yet. And it could wind up not forming.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
3494. Patrap
Banns will be dished out like Milk at Breakfast today if some take the road less traveled here again.,

U betcha
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125572
Quoting jpsb:
Emotions run high when to talk about depriving folks of food, shelter and mobility. Just imagine what the USA would look like if tomorrow fossil fuels disappeared? How many would have to die before we in the USA reached a stable population of 75 million or so? AGW calls for mankind to make unprecedented sacrifices based on very shaky science.

In the entire 4.5 billion years Earth's existence there has only been one episode of dangerous warming, that was 250 million years ago and caused by a massive volcanic eruption (Siberian Traps) plus a likely impact event. It is inconceivably that mankind can inflict as much damage to the environment as an eruption of the scale of the Siberian Traps. Just to put the Siberian Traps eruption into perspective the last great Yellowstone super eruption ejected 1 thousand km squared of stuff. The Siberian Traps eruption ejected 4 million km squared of stuff over a period of 1 million years. It was the equivalent of 4 Yellowstone super eruptions every year for 1 million years. I hardly think mankind is doing that kind of damage by heating homes and driving SUVs. Even that event did not drive the Earth Climate into runaway global warming (Venus). The Earth cooled once the eruptions stopped.

Is mankind warming the Earth burning fossil fuels an releasing CO2, possibility but his effects on the climate system are insignificant when compared to the natural forces at play.

And just what exactly is the Earth's proper temperature? How do we know that adding a little CO2 and creating a little warming is a bad thing? The more CO2 the more productive plant life becomes. Warm periods have produced an abundance of life whereas cold periods have done the opposite. Would a mile of ice on much of North America be a good thing? Not in my book.

At this point in time I see AGW as a tool being used by elitist globalist to gain economic and political power over what is left of the American and European middle class. The science is shaky but the naked power grab is as plan as day for all to see. Should we fold in this debate and allow our betters to determine just who gets to use energy and how much we will have given up our right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We will be serfs of the ruling class and we will be treated as such.

Before I give up all my rights I'd like to see some solid science indicative of a mass extinction event in the foreseeable future.
Shshshshhshhshshshshshhshh !!!!!!! Don't create another controvercy if you are oppose Dr. Masters inputs scientific views, opinions,etc. about GW, go somewhere else.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
I hope the Doc mentions that the ECMWF, GFS, CMC, and NOGAPS develop a potent system.


The precursor wave to this possible storm should emerge in 72 hours or so.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
I'm so glad everything is back to semi-normal around here - maybe its only because all those causing a ruckus were banned yesterday.

That was something - there was a troll infestation in the worse way.

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I just seen on TV a storm is going to develope off Africa and move towards the US of A. Is all that true? They say it hits in about 2-3 weeks. How they know that?
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I hope the Doc mentions that the ECMWF, GFS, CMC, and NOGAPS develop a potent system.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Is that what I think it means.


Through the 11day forecast period, IMO that would leave the entire east coast rather vulnerable depending on the strength of the shortwaves coming off the mean trough.
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Quoting extreme236:
I see the 00z ECMWF is onboard with developing a CV storm. It shows the system beginning to take shape in 120 hours.
Yep. It becomes a pretty strong system as it moves westward into the Caribbean (240 hours -- 999mb).
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If you look at the CMC and GEFS ensembles, you don't see a lot of spread in the tropical Atlantic days 1-7. CMC coalesces a strong system between 30-40W by day 6; the GEFS develops a weak system in the same area at roughly the same time but it doesn't come together and slowly lifts it up and over the Bermuda high as a wave or weak circulation. MSLP spread becomes very high in the CMC after day 9 (mainly since it develops a strong system and position variance between ensemble members will create large spreads).

Euro deterministic is similar to CMC through day 7 then bifurcates with its track for the developing system much further to the S into the Carib.

I encourage fellow bloggers to get to know ensembles. They are a source of probability data that can help you assess the likelihood of events, and whether or not weather itself is predictable with any confidence for specific locations over specific times.

This person has an unbelievably detailed weather page with nice ensemble and deterministic multi-model graphics...if you go to the "home page" its just so darned weather nerdish you'll be impressed.

Link
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Quoting ackee:
which models is best in forecasting tropical cyclone Genesis

A GFS
B CMC
C ECMWF
D NOGAPS


I believe and i could be wrong.....SKYE usually post the accuarcy of models often ....but it seems to me that the CMC has been the most Accurate thus far this year. The CMC has been the laugher in years past tho.
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Shucks...now my feelers are hurt...
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.