Trace radioactivity from Japan likely over the Western U.S. today

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:11 PM GMT on March 18, 2011

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Traces of radioactive substances emitted by Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant will likely arrive over the Western U.S. today, carried by the prevailing west to east winds that have blown over the Pacific Ocean during the past week. Rainfall is expected over California this weekend, and it is likely that the rain will wash radioactive particles out of the air to the surface in quantities that will be detectable at several locations. I want to strongly emphasize that the radioactivity from Japan arriving over the U.S. over the next few days poses absolutely no threat to human health, and is present in only miniscule quantities. The radioactive plumes from Japan have had seven days to dilute over a 5000+ mile journey, and have been subject to deposition to the ocean due to gravity and rainfall along the way. Natural radiation is present in our environment every day, and the extra radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant will cause much less than a 1% increase this background radiation. Radioactive particles from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 were detected in North America ten days after that event, and caused no harmful effects. The radiation from Japan over U.S. during the next week should be at levels even lower than the Chernobyl fallout.


Figure 1. Backward trajectories for the air arriving at the surface (red line) and 300 meters altitude (blue line) in San Francisco, California on Saturday, March 19, at 11am PDT. According to the latest run of the GFS model, the air arriving in San Franciso tomorrow will have originated near the surface in northern Japan last Saturday, when radioactive emissions from the Fukushima nuclear plant began. The radioactive particles arriving in California will be in trace quantities, and will have no harmful effects on human health. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

Radioactive plumes emitted from Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant continue to move offshore to the east over the Pacific Ocean today, thanks to predominantly west winds blowing at 5 - 15 mph. These winds are being driven by the clockwise flow of air around a surface high pressure system centered just southeast of Tokyo. As this high pressure system moves northeastwards, parallel to the Japanese coast, today through Saturday, winds will gradually shift to the southwest, keeping the radiation from the Fukushima plant blowing out to sea. As the winds shift to southwesterly, the sinking air over Japan will be replaced by rising air, and radioactive emissions will begin being lifted high in the atmosphere. Since there is less friction aloft, and the high speed winds of jet stream increase as the air moves higher in the atmosphere, this radiation will undergo long-range transport. Latest trajectory runs using NOAA's HYSPLIT model (Figures 2 - 4) show that radioactivity emitted today could wind up over Alaska after five days, and radioactive particles emitted on Saturday could make it to California by late next week. I've made trajectory plots for the next three days assuming two possible release altitudes--a surface-based release near 10 meters, which should be the predominant altitude in the current situation, and a higher release altitude of 300 meters, which might occur if there is an explosion and major fire. However, the 5-day trek to Hawaii and California is 4000 - 5000 miles, and a tremendous amount of dispersion and dilution of the radioactive plume will occur. Given the current levels of radiation being emitted, any radioactivity reaching Hawaii or the U.S. may be difficult to detect, and will not be a threat to human health. Keep in mind also that the most dangerous radionuclide to human health in the radioactive plume--Iodine-131--has a half life of eight days, so will be reduced by at least 30% after 5 days of travel time.

Of much greater concern is the possibility of dangerous level of radiation over Japan. The next period of onshore winds that will blow radioactivity inland over Japan may occur beginning on Saturday night (U.S. time), continuing through Sunday, according to the latest run of the GFS model. The latest HYSPLIT trajectories show winds on Sunday may carry radiation from the disaster site southwards over Tokyo. A low pressure system is expected to bring considerable rain to Japan on Sunday, and this rain is likely to remove most of the radioactivity from the air where rain and radioactivity are both present. The winds associated with this low are difficult to predict at this time, since the winds will be light and variable.


Figure 2. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Friday, March 18, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. The plume emitted near the surface (red line) stays trapped near the surface for 4 days then lifted to 4 km, but the plume emitted at 300 meters is lifted to 5 km altitude after 2 1/2 days by the rising air associated with the approaching low pressure system. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Saturday, March 19, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system and lifted to 4 - 5 km altitude. The plumes are predicted to move over California and Mexico at high altitude. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 4. One-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 100 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Sunday, March 20, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught northerly winds, and the two lower altitude plumes move over Tokyo by 6 UTC on Monday, March 21. This is a low confidence forecast, as winds are expected to be light and somewhat variable on Sunday over Japan. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

Resources
Seven-day weather forecast for Sendai near the Fukushima nuclear plant

The Austrian Weather Service is running trajectory models for Japan.

Current radar loops from the Japan Meteorological Agency

Jeff Masters

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Well, I miss Grothar...he needs to get his old self on here...! OOPs.....lol
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
Posted at GoComics on March10th, the day before the SendaiEarthquake
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
It's funny...



How come he never made part two Dufus? There must have been a lot of Vnemployment in Hollywood
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
It's funny...



LOL, ya got me on that one :P
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


ty, but cannot accept! There are many good techs on here, it boils down to who feels like trying to help at that particular moment ;-)


Well...in that case...DontAnnoyMe = Kindest Top Blog Tech..;}
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
Quoting EYEStoSEA:
DontAnnoyME = Top Blog Tec....:)


ty, but cannot accept! There are many good techs on here, it boils down to who feels like trying to help at that particular moment ;-)
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DontAnnoyME = Top Blog Tec....:)
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
It's funny...

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Quoting TampaSpin:
Good evening all! I have a new computer and i agree i cant read half of the post on this blog as some postings you can only read half of the post.


The problem is the image in post 396 - too wide.

Tools/compatibility view fixes it.

Also, it's better to show 50 comments/page vs. 200, as the problem disappears by itself on your next page.



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Interesting....

What are the odds? US nuke plants ranked by quake risk
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Far cry from those stone tablets you and Moses found isn't it? By the way, tell the truth, wasn't it really you who dropped that third tablet?


Ha, I have never been so insulated (spelled correctly) in my whole life. I am not nearly the vintage of those you reference :)






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Green Energy News

New Technique Enables Much Faster Production of Inexpensive Solar Cells
ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2011) — TU Delft has demonstrated that the speed at which inexpensive solar cells are produced can be increased by a factor of ten -- and that this can be achieved without any detriment to the energy yield of the cells. This will almost certainly result in a further reduction in the price of the cells, which are made of amorphous silicon...
Link

Electric Grid Reliability: Increasing Energy Storage in Vanadium Redox Batteries by 70 Percent
ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2011) — Though considered a promising large-scale energy storage device, the vanadium redox battery's use has been limited by its inability to work well in a wide range of temperatures and its high cost. But new research indicates that modifying the battery's electrolyte solution significantly improves its performance. So much so that the upgraded battery could improve the electric grid's reliability and help connect more wind turbines and solar panels to the grid.

Link

E. Coli Engineered to Produce Record-Setting Amounts of Alternative Fuel
ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2011) — Researchers at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a way to produce normal butanol -- often proposed as a "greener" fuel alternative to diesel and gasoline -- from bacteria at rates significantly higher than those achieved using current production method...

Link
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9821
.
Time for me to go to bed. I wrote something and posted it before I realized you weren't who I was thinking of when I wrote it. DOH!

loses something when the joke is about the wrong person :|
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Good evening all! I have a new computer and i agree i cant read half of the post on this blog as some postings you can only read half of the post.


This site was built around FireFox prettymuch. Try it, free ya know, and works well. Site performance can vary from one browser to another. It even works well on this 2002 vintage old laptop I am tuning up for the critters. Hey it was a 2.8 Ghz then :)
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Quoting xcool:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8eB-vn23bw

check this outt




Sign of California Quake to Come

, make lots of sense, jmo


Geeez....scary stuff, and Cavuto is known to have more credible guest than most. Cavuto is my favorite newscaster.
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
You can't make this stuff up. Depressing.
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Issue 6, March 2002

Catastrophic Events in the History of Life: Toward a New Understanding of Mass Extinctions in the Fossil Record - Part I


David B. Weinreb
Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry & Geology and Geophysics, Yale University
weinreb@jyi.org

This article is Part One of a two-part series exploring the historical changes in the theories of extinction and evolution.

Introduction: Who shall live?


humour quoteThe history of life, as Charles Darwin taught us over a century ago, is a struggle for survival. New organisms emerge and flourish because they are somehow better equipped for their environments than the creatures they replace. Extinction is evolution's way of weeding out those who are simply not able to compete with more specialized or more advanced organisms.

For the last 600 million years, this is how the saga of life unfolded: new forms gradually evolved and replaced more archaic, less successful forms, eventually driving them into extinction. Nearly every organism that has ever existed is now extinct.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128654
Quoting twincomanche:

Yes if they don't have someone on to balance. Further if their content is so great they don't need to be sucking my blood. Someone will fund them.....George Soros perhaps?


If you thought they were balanced it would be okay to fund them then? And if they don't have great content?
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
And some studies suggest that cyanide, in minute amounts are good for you too. And nicotine, and strychnine , and ...
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Good evening all! I have a new computer and i agree i cant read half of the post on this blog as some postings you can only read half of the post.
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563. xcool

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8eB-vn23bw

check this outt




Sign of California Quake to Come

, make lots of sense, jmo
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Always interesting stuff on solar 24
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128654
561. xcool


;
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Japan NHK TV
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128654
Record-Breaking 2010 Eastern European/Russian Heatwave



The 2010 heatwave (see at the right side of this picture) shattered all the records in terms of the deviation from the average temperatures. (Credit: ETH Zürich)

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2011) — An international research team involving ETH Zurich has compared the hot summers of 2003 and 2010 in detail for the first time. Last year's heatwave across Eastern Europe and Russia was unprecedented in every respect: Europe has never experienced so large summer temperature anomalies in the last 500 years.

The summer of 2010 was extreme. Russia was especially hard hit by the extraordinary heat: in Moscow, daytime temperatures of 38.2°C were recorded and it didn't get much cooler at night. Devastating fires caused by the dry conditions covered an area of 1 million hectares, causing crop failures of around 25%; the total damage ran to about USD 15 billion. Even though passengers were also collapsing on trains in Germany in 2010 because the air-con units had failed in the heat, the general perception is still that the summer of 2003 was the most extreme -- among Western Europeans at least. An international research team involving ETH Zurich has now compared the two heatwaves and just published their findings in Science.

Area fifty times bigger than Switzerland

The 2010 heatwave shattered all the records both in terms of the deviation from the average temperatures and its spatial extent.


Link
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9821
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Quoting Patrap:
Chicxulub Impact Crater, Yucatan





WOW..some terrific images...TY :)
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
548, did ya see what 1169 did as it slid around the corner. Wow!

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Chicxulub Impact Crater, Yucatan






Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128654
The point, Grothar, is the power outages.
As long as manufactured power is required to maintain those plants, this is a bad idea.
adios amigos.
day is done.
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Quoting twincomanche:


These guys are more nuke nuts, not a very credible scientific group. I am talking about the guy that was interviewed.


So because you think they are nuke nuts the network that interviews them should be de-funded?
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Quoting Chicklit:
The River Bend plant outside of Baton Rouge in Louisiana, according to the NRC, has an 87 percent chance of a station blackout. That's when you lose the normal connection to the grid, the connection to the emergency diesel generators, and the batteries are exhausted. There's an 87 percent chance that that scenario will lead to core - reactor core melt at the River Bend plant.

So it is - we are vulnerable. The exact scenario might not be the same, the earthquake and tsunami, but River Bend is vulnerable to hurricanes. We have plants on the West Coast that are vulnerable to earthquakes.

On the East Coast and the northeast you have ice storms and northeasters. In the southeast you have hurricanes that his Florida and the Gulf Coast.

So we might not find it following the exact same script, but we could end up with the exact same ending.


NPRDiscussionMarch18
River Bend? That's as vulnerable to hurricanes as Atlanta. No where near the coast.

Yeah, they could lose the power feed due to one, or with any other major weather event, but nothing like in an immediately coastal area. Properly maintained and tested diesel generators, along with batteries, should work great for them there.

(No, no surge is going to reach 100 miles inland and 100 feet above sea level.)
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omg exhausted. (thank goodness the coffee is made.)
appreciate the little things! the moments with your family and loved ones. A brief time when everything seems clear. A time when there is no trouble with anyone in your life.
All of these things see and appreciate!
blessed be the Japanese who are suffering now beyond what anyone thought possible just one week ago.
goodnight.
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www.solarham.com


Solar Update / Photo Gallery
03/18/2011 by Kevin VE3EN at 15:00 UTC
Comment on Message Board

Solar Update - Another new sunspot has formed rapidly, this time in the northern hemisphere. Currently there is not yet a chance for strong solar flares. Sunspot 1173 which is located in the southern hemisphere remains quiet.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128654
Quoting Grothar:
Just saw some images of the workers at the plant in Japan, (zoom lens,no doubt) They are some brave souls. The world, as well as Japan, owes them our deepest respect and admiration.


Indeed, they are the Hero's of the day! The world is grateful!


On another note, for those interested, and for a brief distraction.

Messenger, made orbit last night at 9. At least there is some good news. Hopefully more to follow on all fronts.



NASA Messenger mission homepage.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/ index.html
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Quoting twincomanche:

Another reason why NPR should be de-funded.


??
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The number of dead keeps rising, but the number missing consistently stays around the 10000 mark. Frightening!
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Quoting oceanbug:
Hi, everyone. I've been lurking a lot and greatly appreciate the good information and great humor around here. The quote button didn't work for me, either, but it's the first time I tried.

Grothar found, "The official count of dead and missing in the quake and tsunami soared above 17,000, making this Japan's worst disaster since World War II."

I just saw this at the BBC website:

0131: The confirmed death toll from the quake and tsunami has risen to 7,197, according to Japan's National Police Agency, and another 10,905 people are listed as missing.

If all the missing have died, then that would be a realistic number, sadly.



works for me
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Tried to edit; not good at that, either. Just noticed the number Grothar quoted was the combined dead and missing. Doh.
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Hey Guys, NPR (National Public Radio, you know, the station that Congress is trying to cut funding for? Had a great discussion today about the matters at hand. Excerpt below and link attached.)

March 18, 2011 As continued attempts are made to cool the reactors and spent fuel rod pools at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility, host Ira Flatow and guests discuss the state of the deteriorating nuclear facility. Plus, a look at where radioactivity might travel as it leaves the plant, and how it might affect those in its pathway.

IRA FLATLOW: Let me introduce my guests: Joe Palca, science correspondent at NPR. He joins us from NPR headquarters in Washington. Thanks for talking with us, Joe.

JOE PALCA: Hi, Ira.

FLATOW: Good to talk to you.

FLATOW: David Lochbaum is director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is a nuclear engineer, and he has worked as a safety trainer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He joins us by phone. Thanks for being with us today.

Mr. DAVID LOCHBAUM (Nuclear Safety Project Union of Concerned Scientists): Good afternoon, Ira, thank you.

FLATOW: You're welcome. David Brenner, professor of radiation and biophysics and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center. He joins us by phone from the U.K. Welcome back to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

Professor DAVID BRENNER (Columbia University): Pleasure to be here again.

....
PALCA: Hey, Ira, it's Joe here. I just wanted to - there was one thing you said as we were starting out that kind of I wanted to clarify a bit, and that is this notion that the near-misses didn't result in accidents, and that was a lucky thing.

I think lucky in the generic sense, but I've talked to a lot of plant engineers, and, I mean, they know that accidents or mistakes or unforeseen things will happen, and they feel that it's not luck that takes care of these problems so much as adequate planning.

Now, what we've heard in this particular scenario is that nobody actually - they may have planned for an earthquake, and they may have planned for a tsunami, but it seems as if they may not have planned for an earthquake and tsunami of the magnitude that they were faced with.

And so you would say, well, they were unlucky that their planning wasn't adequate, but I don't think it's always luck that, you know, prevents problems from occurring. These are things that engineers tell you they think about all the time, and when problems occur, and they're solved, they say, well, see, it worked; not, oh my goodness, we were lucky.

FLATOW: David, would you agree with that?

Mr. LOCHBAUM: Well, to some extent. I mean, in 1996 I wrote a book about spent fuel pool issues and where loss of power could cause an overheating problem, which causes the inability of the workers to deal with the situation. That's all described in chapter nine of that book.

No one in the United States or Japan did anything about that problem. So to say that, you know, we didn't anticipate this is not really true. The fact that we didn't react to the known problem is true, and Japan is paying a high price for allowing that known safety hazard to go unresolved.

FLATOW: Charles Ferguson, what's your take on all of this?

Mr. FERGUSON: Well, yeah, I'm agreeing with a lot that Joe and Dave are saying. But I think another issue, and we might get into it a little bit later, I don't want to necessarily preempt, but a question of the plant design itself.

Five of the six reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi are of this boiling water reactor Mark One-type design, and concerns were raised as far back as 1972, one year after reactor unit one at the plant began operations, that that particular design had some serious design problems. And concerns were yet again raised throughout the 1970s and even into the 1980s.

And I know Dave has done some work directly on that type of model plant, and we have 23 of similar type designs operating right now in the United States, roughly a quarter of our reactor fleet in the United States.

FLATOW: Does anybody think that any - this kind of accident has the potential to happen in this country?

Mr. LOCHBAUM: This is Dave. I would say so. The primary challenge that was faced in Japan was the loss of power that lasted longer than anybody anticipated.

If you look at studies that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has performed in this country as recently as 2004, our reactors, which have less battery capacity than Japan does, has a very high chance of getting into the same situation.

The River Bend plant outside of Baton Rouge in Louisiana, according to the NRC, has an 87 percent chance of a station blackout. That's when you lose the normal connection to the grid, the connection to the emergency diesel generators, and the batteries are exhausted. There's an 87 percent chance that that scenario will lead to core - reactor core melt at the River Bend plant.

So it is - we are vulnerable. The exact scenario might not be the same, the earthquake and tsunami, but River Bend is vulnerable to hurricanes. We have plants on the West Coast that are vulnerable to earthquakes.

On the East Coast and the northeast you have ice storms and northeasters. In the southeast you have hurricanes that his Florida and the Gulf Coast.

So we might not find it following the exact same script, but we could end up with the exact same ending.


NPRDiscussionMarch18
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Hi, everyone. I've been lurking a lot and greatly appreciate the good information and great humor around here. The quote button didn't work for me, either, but it's the first time I tried.

Grothar found, "The official count of dead and missing in the quake and tsunami soared above 17,000, making this Japan's worst disaster since World War II."

I just saw this at the BBC website:

0131: The confirmed death toll from the quake and tsunami has risen to 7,197, according to Japan's National Police Agency, and another 10,905 people are listed as missing.

If all the missing have died, then that would be a realistic number, sadly.
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New York Times Forecast for Plume's Path Animation

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/16/sci ence/plume-graphic.html

Link

A forecast by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization shows how weather patterns this week might disperse radiation from a continuous source in Fukushima, Japan. The forecast does not show actual levels of radiation, but it does allow the organization to estimate when different monitoring stations, marked with small dots, might be able to detect extremely low levels of radiation. Health and nuclear experts emphasize that any plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States.

Health and nuclear experts emphasize that radiation in the plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States, even if hints of it are ultimately detectable. In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 spread around the globe and reached the West Coast of the United States in 10 days, its levels measurable but minuscule.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9821

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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.