Early 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecasts

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:22 AM GMT on April 07, 2011

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Hi everybody, this is Dr. Rob Carver filling in for Dr. Masters. 

A continuation of the pattern of much above-average Atlantic hurricane activity we've seen since 1995 is on tap for 2011, according to the latest seasonal forecast issued April 6 by Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University (CSU). They are calling for 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes. An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. The new forecast is nearly identical to their forecast made in December, which called for 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes. Only six seasons since 1851 have had as many as 17 named storms; 19 seasons have had 9 or more hurricanes. The 2011 forecast calls for a much above-average chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S., both along the East Coast (48% chance, 31% chance is average) and the Gulf Coast (47% chance, 30% chance is average). The Caribbean is forecast to have a 61% chance of seeing at least one major hurricane (42% is average.) Five years with similar pre-season November atmospheric and oceanic conditions were selected as "analogue" years that the 2011 hurricane season may resemble: 2008, 1999, 1996, 1955, and 2006.  The first four years listed all had neutral to La Niña SST's during hurricane season, while 2006 had El Niño SST's.  The average activity for these years was 12.6 named storms, 7.8 hurricanes, and 4.8 major hurricanes.

This year, the forecasters have introduced a new statistical model for their  April forecasts.  There are four components in this model:

1. Average sea-level pressure in March around the Azores in the subtropical Atlantic.

2. The average of January through March sea-surface temperatures (SST's) in the tropical Atlantic off the coast of Africa.

3. Average sea-level pressure in February and March for the southern tropical Pacific ocean west of South America.

4. Forecasts of September's SST in the tropical Pacific using a dynamical model from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) 

The first two components are loosely linked together.  Statistical studies have shown that a weaker subtropical high near the Azores, combined with warmer SST's off the coast of Africa in March are associated with weak winds near the surface and aloft from August to October.  This decrease in wind speeds reduces wind shear which can disrupt forming storms.  These March conditions also are associated with warmer SST's in August to October, which is also favorable for more tropical storms.   For this forecast, the first component is strongly favorable for increased hurricane activity, while the second component is weakly negative.

The last two components represent the changes in sea-surface temperature and sea-level pressure that are the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  Briefly speaking,  El Niño conditions (warm sea-surface temperatures) are not favorable for Atlantic hurricanes.  For more info on ENSO and hurricanes, Jeff has this article.

Using the ECMWF model as guidance (see Figure 1), the CSU group believes that SST's in the tropical Pacific will be neutral (less than 0.5°C from normal).  This would have a small negative effect on hurricane activity.  However, the tropical Pacific sea-level pressure shows that the atmosphere looks like a La Niña event is still going on.  This is strongly favorable for Atlantic hurricane activity in the CSU group's model.

Figure 1. Forecasts of El Niño conditions by 20 computer models, made in March 2011. The ECMWF forecast used by the CSU group is represented by the dark orange square.  The forecasts for August-September-October (ASO) show that 5 models predict El Niño conditions, 7 predict neutral conditions, and 5 predict a weak to moderate La Niña. El Niño conditions are defined as occurring when sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific off the coast of South America ( the "Niño 3.4 region) rise to 0.5°C above average (top red line). La Niña conditions occur when SSTs in this region fall to 0.5°C below average. Image credit: Columbia University.

How accurate are the April forecasts? While the formulas used by CSU do well in making hindcasts--correctly modeling the behavior of past hurricane seasons--their April hurricane season forecasts have had no skill in predicting the future. This year's April forecast is using a new system and has not yet produced a verified forecast.  The scheme used in the past three years successfully predicted active hurricane seasons for 2008 and 2010, but failed to properly predict the relatively quiet 2009 hurricane season. A different formula was used prior to 2008, and the April forecasts using that formula showed no skill over a simple forecast using climatology. CSU maintains an Excel spreadsheet of their forecast errors ( expressed as a mathematical correlation coefficient, where positive means a skilled forecast, and negative means they did worse than climatology) for their their April forecasts. For now, these April forecasts should simply be viewed as an interesting research effort that has the potential to make skillful forecasts. The next CSU forecast, due by June 1, is the one worth paying attention to. Their early June forecasts have shown considerable skill over the years.


Figure 2.
Accuracy of long-range forecasts of Atlantic hurricane season activity performed by Phil Klotzbach and Bill Gray of Colorado State University (colored squares) and Tropical Storm Risk, Inc. (colored lines). The CSU team's April forecast skill is not plotted, but is less than zero. The skill is measured by the Mean Square Skill Score (MSSS), which looks at the error and squares it, then compares the percent improvement the forecast has over a climatological forecast of 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. TS=Tropical Storms, H= Hurricanes, IH=Intense Hurricanes, ACE=Accumulated Cyclone Energy, NTC=Net Tropical Cyclone Activity. Image credit: TSR.

2011 Atlantic hurricane season forecast from Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.

The  British  private  forecasting  firm  Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.  (TSR),   issued  their  2011  Atlantic hurricane season forecast on April 5. They are also calling for  a  very  active  year: 14. 2 named storms, 7.5 hurricanes, and 3.6 intense hurricanes. We would round that to 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes.   This  compares to their forecast issued in December of 15.6 named storms, 8.4 hurricanes,   and intense hurricanes. TSR predicts a 55%  chance  of  an  above-average  hurricane season, 28% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 17%  chance  of  a  below normal season. TSR bases their April forecast on predictions  that  sea  surface temperatures this fall in the tropical  Atlantic  will  be  above  about  0.08°C above average, and trade  wind  speeds  will  be  about 0.2  m/s  slower  than average.  The decrease in the trade wind speeds is favorable for enhanced hurricane activity, while the forecast SST's are expected to be neutral for hurricane activity.

TSR puts their skill level right next to the forecast numbers: 13% skill above chance at forecasting the number of named storms, 11% skill for hurricanes, and 10% skill for intense hurricanes. That's not much skill, and really, we have to wait until the June 1 forecasts by CSU, NOAA, and TSR to get a forecast with reasonable skill.

Rob's critiques of the April forecasts
I have to note that Jeff and I wrote this article together.  He wrote the general framework before the forecasts were issued, while I wrote the details based on the actual forecasts.  So the preceding text is a joint production.  However, I have a few observations to make that are my responsibility alone.

First, I am disappointed that the CSU group has changed forecast models only after three seasonal forecasts.  This makes it very difficult to assess the skill of the current forecast using past performance.  This is very important for forecast users, and they do it everyday.  For example, I tend to discount a forecast of rain if it comes from a source that over-forecasts rain (The boy who cried wolf problem).

In the documentation that came with the April forecast, the CSU group argue that the hindcasts show the new forecast model has skill.  However, I think hindcasts are a poor substitute for real forecasts in understanding the skill of a statistical forecast model, like that of the CSU's group.  As Jeff noted, the previous forecast model did well with the hindcasts and yet had mixed results with the actual forecasts.  This does not give me confidence that the new forecast model will be superior to the previous model.

From a philosophical viewpoint, I am inherently cautious about statistical forecast models like the one used by the CSU group.  Essentially, they look at what happened in the past and use that to predict the future.  However, for making forecasts, we assume that the relationships in space and time between the predictors (such as the average March sea-level pressure around the Azores) and the predictands (Atlantic hurricane activity) does not change as we move forward in time.  In a world with climate change, that's a tricky assumption to make.

In any event, it is customary in the meteorological community to continue running older forecast guidance models after the introduction of newer models.  This allows forecasters and forecast users to leverage their knowledge of the forecast skill of the older model and gain insight into the forecast skill of the new model.  The CSU group really should have included the forecast from the previous statistical forecast system in this forecast.     

I am uneasy with some of the methodology choices made in implementing the forecast model.  Data for the first three predictors was obtained from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), NOAA's newest and most advanced reanalysis product.  However, CFSR data for 2010 and 2011 has not been released yet, so the CSU group used NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis (NNR), NOAA's first-generation reanalysis, to fill in the gaps.  Due to differences in design, resolution, etc., CFSR and NNR can have different depictions of the state of the atmosphere.  So using NNR's March 2011 average SLP instead of CFSR's could alter the forecast in unexpected ways.  It would be interesting to see how CFSR's 2010-2011 data changes the results. 

In any event, we will have to wait and see what the Atlantic hurricane season of 2011 brings.

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Quoting aspectre:
Now that was interesting. Went onto GoogleMaps to check out 38.267n141.033e (the port town of Sendai), then used the Satellite view on a whim...
...and the overhead shots clearly showed the wreckage from the magnitude9.1earthquake as I shifted the map and zoomed in.
I'm impressed. Didn't realize that GoogleMaps updated their satellite photos so frequently.

They're quick, alright; they actually updated the maps for the tsunami zone within three days of the quake.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13265
I guess I should go find a weather blog somewhere.
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532. Jax82
In the end, living in America is great. Look at the all the uprising in middle east, we dont deal with that here. We enjoy so much and are free to do what we want (thanks to our troops). Granted its not a perfect system but there really isnt one. The house is Republican, the senate is Democrat, and so as long as their is split power it will be very difficult to get things passed. Imagine if the democrats controlled the house, senate and presidency, or the same for the republicans...we probably wouldnt be having this discussion right now. Just something to think about.
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WTI Crude Oil
$111.56 1.26

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530. Skyepony (Mod)
All that flooding in southern Thailand has now hit the zoo hard. More than 100 animals died. Crocodiles are on the loose..
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The results of this last election are not yet final but we already see people celebrating exactly like the Democrats celebrated when the Democrats won control of Congress and when Obama was elected. Now the conservatives are acting the same way, as if some huge change has just occurred and the "Republican are going to save us!" When has either party ever saved us?! Seriously folks. The Republicans are just as responsible for the nightmares we find ourselves in as the Democrats!

I'll be amazed if there has been much more turnover than usual, which is typically about 15%. This means that 85% of the same people that have betrayed out trust so many times we can't count are sill in office! From what I've heard, most of the turnover will have occurred because about 40 people decided to retire.

Once the results are final I'll bet, of all the incumbents that ran, most of them got to keep their jobs. Even if there is a bit more turnover than usual, we still threw away another golden opportunity to hold them ALL accountable. WE wasted yet another chance to FIRE THEM ALL!

In the next election the powers-that-be will do their best to fixate everyone's attention on the totally controlled presidential race. Most everyone will ignore the heart of the problem, the Congress and become all caught up in the presidential contest. The powers-that-be will once again con everyone into believing the most important thing is who the El Presidente is. Folks, it's a CON. The Congress has more power than the executive branch and . . .



The President has no Constitutional authority to do most of the things they claim they can do. They can only ask the Congress to do what they want. The Congress could have stopped everything that's happening; the wars, the Wall Street takeover, the TRILLION DOLLAR defense budget they just passed. Our so-called representatives have sold us out so many times it makes my head spin and what do we all do? We not only let them keep their jobs, but you watch, they will most likely give themselves a raise, like they always do, for the fine job of screwing us they've done over the last two years. The way we hold our representatives accountable is to let them keep their $174,000 a year jobs so they can stick it to us for another two years! In case you're wondering, that's $14,500 a month! And you watch. One of the first things they will probably do in the next Congress is to give themselves another raise! Last time they immediately gave themselves a $4,500 a year raise. When was the last time you got a raise like that?

Listen. If we are ever going to get a grip on our government, we're going to have to start acting like the employers that we are. The Congress critters work for US, not the central bankers and transnational corportions. What would you do If you owned a company and none of your employees listened to you, they lied to you, didn't do the jobs you gave them to do, and in fact, were actually working for your competition and selling your company down the river as fast as they could? I don't think you'd keep them on and give them a raise!

Well, that's exactly what we've been doing, only in this case, your company is our Federal Government, and your employees are the 435 members in the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate, virtually all of them working for the transnational corporations (the competition) and they have already achieved a hostile takeover of our government on every level and are using the powers of our own government against us in order to take over our entire nation.

What the heck happened to that thing called "the wisdom of the American people?" You don't reward employees that betray you. YOU FIRE THEM! It's the most obvious and immediate remedy. And you don't worry that their replacement may turn out to be as bad. In fact, it's much less likely the replacements will be as bad when they know you will not tolerate such things, that you will not hesitate to fire anyone that lies and betrays your trust. Employees are far more likely to toe the line and actually do their jobs as best they can when they know they can't get away with anything less.

Of course, no analogy is perfect. This one breaks down in the sense that a company couldn't actually fire everyone all at once unless the entire company shut down. Lucky for us, our Congress isn't engaged in actually producing goods or services (the bureaucracies Congress has set up handle all government services). All Congress does is enact laws and authorize spending. It's just the legislative branch of government. We could easily go without any new laws authored by "corporate/special interest" for quite some time. So in this case, firing a large number of traitorous Congressional employees is imminently doable and quite frankly is the only thing we can do to slam the brakes on the corporate driven freight train that is railroading all of us into a nation ruled by corporate colonialism.

There are people we have elected to Congress who have been there 10, 20, 30, 40, even over 50 years! Our Congress has been betraying our trust and selling us out for generations. They not only suffer no consequences for what they've done; they've benefited greatly from their wheeling and dealing. They take an oath to protect our best interests and defend our rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and yet they make a mockery of that oath.


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Now that was interesting. Went onto GoogleMaps to check out 38.267n141.033e (the port town of Sendai), then used the Satellite view on a whim...
...and the overhead shots clearly showed the wreckage from the magnitude9.1earthquake as I shifted the map and zoomed in.
I'm impressed. Didn't realize that GoogleMaps updated their satellite photos so frequently.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting jeffs713:
The catch is... it will never happen. Congress has to approve that, and just like they approve raises for themselves nearly every time its proposed, they won't approve anything that actually makes them work, or do something "right".


Congress will keep working during the shutdown. I agree they shouldn't be paid but they will be working. Our President, on the other hand....

At the very least, by midnight tonight, they should be able to pass a temporary measure that funds military payroll and freezes Congressional pay during any shutdown.

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Alert! Government out of Control


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many enlisted families live paycheck to paycheck. I doubt any of them were saving for any luxury cruises...

but still, saving is always better than spending.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
Here's my experience from 1995: There are some excepted federal employees that will continue to work. Pay checks will come AFTER a budget is passed. ALL military will continue to work. They will all get paid as scheduled on 15 April but all following pay checks will come after a budget is passed. Non-excepted federal employees MAY get back paid after a budget gets passed IF congress specifically authorizes it. They did in 1995. Also, every financial institution and local company where I was in 1995 floated all active duty military until they were retractively paid. Old retired veterans with disability like me will get retired and disability checks on time.
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523. Skyepony (Mod)
In Little Rock, Ark., National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Koch said he worries about how a shutdown could affect his family, including his two children. He said he'd still report to work for business as usual — but he wouldn't get a paycheck until the shutdown ended. He's putting more into savings to prepare, he said.

"I was actually saving up for a Caribbean cruise, but that money may actually be used to live on. It's certainly more important to make sure we can get the bills paid and provide for our family," he said.
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Quoting RitaEvac:

I agree. and IMO, its not congress that is the root of the problem. They are just the symptom. The root is corporate lobbying. The only people who don't understand that lobbying is, in effect, legal bribery is the people who are being lobbied. Lobbying has nothing to do with making government more transparent, or empowering the will of the people. Lobbying is all about making a single viewpoint the dominant one. Its a collection of single-issue voters, who could care less about everything else.
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I bought this sign in 2007


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and they shouldn't get to eat salmon and asparagus, and they should hafta do their own laundry.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
The catch is... it will never happen. Congress has to approve that, and just like they approve raises for themselves nearly every time its proposed, they won't approve anything that actually makes them work, or do something "right".
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Quoting jeffs713:

He who has the guns makes the rules. ;)

IMO, Congress shouldn't get paid, and they should not be allowed to leave their offices and the Capitol area until something is hammered out. No weekend visit to the family, no trips back home. They don't get it fixed, they don't get any fun.
AMEN to that!!
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Quoting snotly:


And dangerous... look up Roman history. Soldiers always got paid first. For a good reason.

He who has the guns makes the rules. ;)

IMO, Congress shouldn't get paid, and they should not be allowed to leave their offices and the Capitol area until something is hammered out. No weekend visit to the family, no trips back home. They don't get it fixed, they don't get any fun.
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FireCongress.Org
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Quoting aquak9:
hey- I could be wrong, I am wrong a lotta times.

Damn if they don't pay the military. That's messed up.


And dangerous... look up Roman history. Soldiers always got paid first. For a good reason.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Federal workers (outside of congress/rep & vitals like boarder patrol) won't get a check for this time til maybe after it is over. On the eve of being a furloughed family here.


Check out the bird rising just north of Lake O this morning.

The WPB TDWR radar had several of the "poofs" this morning too.

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511. Jax82
Quoting aquak9:
hey- I could be wrong, I am wrong a lotta times.

Damn if they don't pay the military. That's messed up.


I was watching the house debate and vote yesterday, the military will get paid i'm pretty sure. By the way, did you know each house representative makes $174,000 a year?
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and will be paid retroactively once the department receives additional funding.

yeah, but "retroactive" don't fly with mortgage companies.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
With this whole shutdown, I have one simple, non-partisan question...

What ever happened to compromise? Isn't compromise one of the ideals this country was founded upon? Are the insolent children in Congress actually so full of themselves that they refuse to even consider compromise, and would rather put the health of the economy at risk over a talking point? Seriously?

Don't they realize that the difference in the cuts they are seeking (roughly $30 billion) is a drop in the bucket compared to our deficit? And something less than a drop in the bucket for our entire economy? What Congress is doing is akin to an office employee refusing to work because they don't have a scanner on their desk. Most companies I know of, if you pulled that, you would be looking for a new job that afternoon.

Its a travesty.
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508. Skyepony (Mod)
Federal workers (outside of congress/rep & vitals like boarder patrol) won't get a check for this time til maybe after it is over. On the eve of being a furloughed family here.


Check out the bird rising just north of Lake O this morning.
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Quoting aquak9:
hey- I could be wrong, I am wrong a lotta times.

Damn if they don't pay the military. That's messed up.


Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III Message to DOD Workforce on Potential Government Shutdown

Excerpt:


“If the government shuts down due to the absence of funding, the DoD will have no funds to pay military members or civilian employees for the days during which the government is shut down. However, both military and civilian personnel will receive pay for the period worked prior to the shutdown. Military personnel, and civilians occupying excepted status positions and required to work, are entitled to be paid for work performed during the shutdown, and will be paid retroactively once the department receives additional funding. Congress would have to provide authority in order for the department to retroactively pay non-excepted employees for the furloughed period.

“Military retirees and annuitants are not paid from annually appropriated funds, and therefore their benefits should continue without interruption.

Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 13 Comments: 10460
hey- I could be wrong, I am wrong a lotta times.

Damn if they don't pay the military. That's messed up.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
Looks like there will be a healthy storm event this weekend in parts of the US this weekend.
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From NBC's Luke Russert
On the eve of a possible government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of federal workers and members of the military are at risk of not collecting a paycheck until after Congress reaches a deal to fund the government.

But as of now, the people directly involved in bringing about a shutdown -- members of Congress -- will still continue to receive their pay as scheduled even if scores of other workers are furloughed.
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Or I should have said deferred. While the legislators would get paid as normal
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Quoting aquak9:
the military will get paid...that is one thing all sides agree upon.


Sorry if I was wrong, just going off what the media outlets we saying yesterday on all the news I watched.
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the military will get paid...that is one thing all sides agree upon.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
Quoting Jax82:


Hooray, til the next week, then another extension. Will they ever just approve the budget for the rest of the year? Probably not. Being a Fed employee must be stressful, not knowing if you are going to work and getting paid next week or not.

Yea and whats sad, the legislators will still be drawing a paycheck while the military will not be getting paid. They are off overseas risking their lives and their families are here at home trying to pay the bills and put food on the table. What wrong with that picture? nonetheless, the weather is nice here in OTowm this morning, going to start heating up.
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494. Jax82
Uhhhh and its going to be HOT the next few days. Way above average for the first coast. Normal highs should be 75-77 degrees.



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493. Jax82
Quoting aquak9:
gov't shutting down? not yet...they have a one week extension in the works.


Hooray, til the next week, then another extension. Will they ever just approve the budget for the rest of the year? Probably not. Being a Fed employee must be stressful, not knowing if you are going to work and getting paid next week or not.
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Quoting aquak9:
~gas-caster~


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gov't shutting down? not yet...they have a one week extension in the works.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
488. IKE

Quoting aquak9:
~gas-caster~
Government-shutting-down-caster.

It's 70.3 outside my window....
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~gas-caster~
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25504
486. Jax82
Quoting IKE:
  • Oil 1.48 Price/barrel
  • $111.78


Up, up and away she goes. With the summer coming, and hurricane season approaching, oil can only go higher. Which means less in our pockets, which means less to spend, which means, well you know the rest!
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Quoting IKE:

  • Oil 1.48 Price/barrel

  • $111.78


Well you are just a barrel of good news this morning. :)
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484. IKE
  • Oil 1.48 Price/barrel
  • $111.78
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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.

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