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 weathermanwannabe:


Some of us had to go ahead and "clock in" at 8:00........... :)



LOL
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
3283. IKE
Remaining Quiet in the Atlantic Basin

Jul 28, 2010 6:32 AM


As has been the case for the past several days, the Atlantic Basin remains void of any tropical systems. A tropical wave near 63.5 west is enhancing showers and thunderstorms from the central Lesser Antilles southward to Trinidad and Tobago. The environment ahead of this feature is less than favorable in the eastern Caribbean, due to a large area of drier-than-normal air. No development is anticipated in the coming days.

A tropical wave near 40 west continues to produce a large arcing cloud mass that extends to north of 20 north. The Saharan dust that was ahead of this feature is showing signs of dissipating, which could lead to an enhancement of showers and thunderstorms as it moves closer to the Lesser Antilles by Friday. Computer forecast information continues to show this wave might create a large area of clouds, showers and thunderstorms over the western Caribbean by early next week. Otherwise, there are no features at this point that would be considered for tropical development. We expect no tropical development across the Atlantic Basin through at least Friday.

By AccuWeather Meteorologist Justin Povick
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting earthlydragonfly:
what happened???


Some of us had to go ahead and "clock in" at 8:00........... :)
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what happened???
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
It looks like it's back to the tropcs today! That wave around 40W is really starting to get active with strong thunderstoms
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I remember all of that with StormTop back then.... Now is Stormtop = Hurrikat5?
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
Quoting aquak9:
global warming anyone ????????

(whacks hunkerdown upside the head with oily snapper)


LMAO
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
On the weather front, I am awaiting Dr. M's take on the pending "setting" and position of the A-B high for the Summer as we head into August and September which he usually addresses around this time. I've been watching it for the past few weeks and there seems to be a pretty strong trend towards ridging which might not leave a lot of room for recurvature during the peak of the season.....We will just have to see what happens with it but not looking too good right now IMHO for the Antilles and parts to the West.
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Quoting aquak9:
no troughs in the pic YET, mcluvin. That can change.

Futuremet, ya gave me a good laugh.

Link


My God that is really a funny read...
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
3273. aquak9
mcluvin- go for it. We're all here to learn. :)
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3272. IKE
Quoting mcluvincane:


Come on guys I'm just trying to do a little forecasting this year. I have taken all the knowledge that this blog brings and put it to use. Its just what I see IMO.


You probably know this...but, I wouldn't jump on board the ECMWF yet. I have seen it spin up a long-range system and then about drop it on the next run.

If it shows it for a couple of more runs it's probably going to happen.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting hunkerdown:
come on, you are talking if if if if if and with all that inaccuracy, accuracy of timing with regards to pattern setup???? global warming anyone ????????


Come on guys I'm just trying to do a little forecasting this year. I have taken all the knowledge that this blog brings and put it to use. Its just what I see IMO.
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3270. IKE
Quoting hunkerdown:
come on, you are talking if if if if if and with all that inaccuracy, accuracy of timing with regards to pattern setup???? global warming anyone ????????


LOL! Please...no GW debates. I'm so sick of the arguing.

Heck...I'm wishcasting an invest just to avoid GW.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
3269. aquak9
global warming anyone ????????

(whacks hunkerdown upside the head with oily snapper)
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


That really is starting to come inline with what the CMC is calling for....
probably a cmc generated satellite image :)
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Quoting hunkerdown:
and now, the wow caster...



LMAO.... WOW Caster....
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
3266. aquak9
no troughs in the pic YET, mcluvin. That can change.

Futuremet, ya gave me a good laugh.

Link
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Quoting mcluvincane:


Fish storm by no means IMO..looking at the long range steering pastterns if this storm does form it doesn't bode well for PR, Bahamas or the eastern sea board. No troughs to weaken the ridge to the north!
come on, you are talking if if if if if and with all that inaccuracy, accuracy of timing with regards to pattern setup???? global warming anyone ????????
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Quoting jasoniscoolman2010x:
wow..


That really is starting to come inline with what the CMC is calling for....
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
Quoting aquak9:
hi ike. Well I know, fish storms can cause problems for folks on ships. We've discussed other names for them, but fish storms it is.

Even Bill last year, cat 3, nice looking storm. Glad to see it fish.

We may have plenty of activity in Aug, but I just don't see it being too bad for us humans till late aug- sept.


Fish storm by no means IMO..looking at the long range steering pastterns if this storm does form it doesn't bode well for PR, Bahamas or the eastern sea board. No troughs to weaken the ridge to the north!
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3260. IKE
Quoting futuremet:


Well said!

Ike is a downcaster, but a reasonable one. He never tries to contradict actual data. Hurrkat is a true downcaster.Regardless if people wants a storm to form or hit them, it makes no difference.


Alex was an impressive system.

I would be inclined to believe the ECMWF on an upcoming system. I doubt it drops it on the next run, but I wouldn't be shocked if it backed off some or was even stronger.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting hunkerdown:
may have been blackened but there was no oil needed in the pan, the fish came with its own.


We got there around 11:30 and there was a line out the door when we left around 1:00.....Nice to see the tourists in town and the local places pretty packed....Now is a good time to keep supporting your local establishments on the Gulf as much as you can to help them recover........You can always order a steak if that is your thing.
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we need a storm real bad...

the conversation is dull.
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and now, the wow caster...
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Quoting futuremet:


Well said!

Ike is a downcaster, but a reasonable one. He never tries to contradict actual data. Hurrkat is a true downcaster.Regardless if people wants a storm to form or hit them, it makes no difference.
reasonable downcaster
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Quoting KoritheMan:


IKE, I don't see why it matters. I will also admit that I love to experience tropical cyclones first hand, but I also realize the catastrophes they bring, and I would never wish for that. I doubt xcool would either.

In a sense, we're all "wishcasters". Some of us just prefer to wish them away, rather than the other way around. But we all share a common morality, I think, and that entails caring immensely about what our fellow man has to suffer through because of hurricanes, and because of that empathy and compassion, take action to help them out.

The important thing to remember is that, very few of us actually want to experience a hurricane so badly to the point where we forget about the suffering of others. I know that isn't true for me, and I'd bet for many others as well.

As you've said before, it's the weather and there's nothing any of us can do about it. The only thing we can do is hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and assist others in any way we can during and after these catastrophes.


Well said!

Ike is a downcaster, but a reasonable one. He never tries to contradict actual data. Hurrkat is a true downcaster.Regardless if people wants a storm to form or hit them, it makes no difference.
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


The grouper wasnt blackened... You should have looked a tad bit closer
may have been blackened but there was no oil needed in the pan, the fish came with its own.
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3252. IKE
SYNOPSIS FOR CARIBBEAN SEA AND TROPICAL N ATLC FROM 07N TO 22N
BETWEEN 55W AND 65W
530 AM EDT WED JUL 28 2010

.SYNOPSIS...WEAK HIGH PRES N OF THE AREA WILL SHIFT TO E OF
THE BAHAMAS THU THROUGH SUN. A TROPICAL WAVE FROM 17N62W TO
10N64W IS MOVING W AT 12 KT. THE WAVE WILL MOVE TO NEAR 66W BY
EARLY THIS EVENING...NEAR 68W/69W BY LATE TONIGHT...74W THU
NIGHT...TO NEAR 80W LATE FRI NIGHT...AND ACROSS THE REMAINDER OF
THE WESTERN CARIBBEAN INTO SAT MOVING W OF THE AREA LATE SAT
INTO SUN. A TROPICAL WAVE IN THE CENTRAL ATLC IS EXPECTED TO
APPROACH 55W THU...AND CONTINUE ACROSS THE TROPICAL N ATLC ON
THU...THEN ENTER THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN LATE FRI AND SAT...AND
THE CENTRAL CARIBBEAN SUN.


SYNOPSIS FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO
430 AM CDT WED JUL 28 2010

.SYNOPSIS...A 1021 MB HIGH NEAR 28N87W WITH A RIDGE W TO THE NE
TEXAS COAST WILL CHANGE LITTLE OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS. A TROUGH
WILL MOVE INTO THE FAR NE PORTION FRI THROUGH SUN.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
3250. WxLogic
Currently ECMWF has model support from GFS Prod (stronger disturbance), GFS Para (in line with ECMWF), and CMC. They're all expecting for the disturbance to be organized enough by 120HR w/ some varying degrees in organization thereafter.

Given that currently there's an exiting SAL episode and that there might be between 1 to 3 more shots before next Monday (120HR) time frame then I'm more inclined with the ECMWF/GFS Parallel on its initial organizational state which might represent itself as a poorly organized system until it reaches the Windward/Leeward Islands before it encounters better atmospheric conditions.

Also, the MJO should still be on a little downward motion but entering into its positive phase late next week into the following week.
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3249. IKE
Quoting NotCircumventing:


One blogger had to be committed as a result of uber-fixation on Pat. Oh, sorry, I mean "Pat Pearson". Very eerie, it was.

I know I double locked my laptop last night when I went to bed!


I saw that part...or at least part of it. I shut my computer off. I'm not on here to argue with anyone.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting weathermanwannabe:


I flipped the fillet over to make sure it was not oil; looked good....... :)


lol
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
3247. IKE
Quoting aquak9:
hi ike. Well I know, fish storms can cause problems for folks on ships. We've discussed other names for them, but fish storms it is.

Even Bill last year, cat 3, nice looking storm. Glad to see it fish.

We may have plenty of activity in Aug, but I just don't see it being too bad for us humans till late aug- sept.


That's what I call them too.

Yeah...I remember Bill.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting earthlydragonfly:


The grouper wasnt blackened... You should have looked a tad bit closer


I flipped the fillet over to make sure it was not oil; looked good....... :)
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Good Morning. The Blog is out of control lately but always nice to see the calmer regulars in the early morning....Took a drive with the Wife along the Florida Gulf Coast yesterday from Panacea out to Indian Pass and had lunch in Apalachicola......Hot as hell out there but no oil in sight and the crab cakes and blacked grouper at the Apalachicola Grill were outstanding.......WW


The grouper wasnt blackened... You should have looked a tad bit closer
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
3243. aquak9
hi ike. Well I know, fish storms can cause problems for folks on ships. We've discussed other names for them, but fish storms it is.

Even Bill last year, cat 3, nice looking storm. Glad to see it fish.

We may have plenty of activity in Aug, but I just don't see it being too bad for us humans till late aug- sept.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3242. RJT185
GW Talk = Bad Blog Hangover. wow.

g'morning yinz!
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Quoting NotCircumventing:


OOZ Loop

Loopcaster.


Thank you
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
3240. MahFL
Today is the first day this year I read
"Fish Storm".
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3239. IKE
Quoting aquak9:
hi d'fly

yeah I was lurking last night, had to laugh...globs of testosterone flying every which-way. Yowza!

(fishstorm)


LOL.

That has led to many arguments in the past. Some don't like the use of fish storms. Some say to wait for more model runs...i.e. jumping the gun. A few will ask what it means.

Much arguing last night?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Good Morning. The Blog is out of control lately but always nice to see the calmer regulars in the early morning....Took a drive with the Wife along the Florida Gulf Coast yesterday from Panacea out to Indian Pass and had lunch in Apalachicola......Hot as hell out there but no oil in sight and the crab cakes and blacked grouper at the Apalachicola Grill were outstanding.......WW
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Quoting aquak9:
hi d'fly

yeah I was lurking last night, had to laugh...globs of testosterone flying every which-way. Yowza!

(fishstorm)


Good morning to you!
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683
3235. aquak9
hi d'fly

yeah I was lurking last night, had to laugh...globs of testosterone flying every which-way. Yowza!

(fishstorm)
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Quoting NotCircumventing:
One thing about this +240 image from the ECMWF ... notice the 1016 isobar is well of the east coast, and the 1014 is just barely nipping the coast of FL. And there is a trough moving off the east coast.

That system may, if 240 verifies, may end up getting curved back out if the trough picks it up. Otherwise wouldn't expect a huge westward path with the A/B high cenetered way up there in the Atlantic.



You got a link to that? does it have loops?
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 1683

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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.