Arctic sea ice bottoms out near all-time low; August was Earth's 4th - 8th warmest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:11 PM GMT on September 17, 2011

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Arctic sea ice extent hit its minimum on September 9 this year, falling to its second lowest value since satellite measurements began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center . More than one third (35%) of the Arctic sea ice was missing this summer, compared to the 1979 - 2000 average. This is an area about the size of the Mediterranean Sea. The 2011 sea ice minimum was very close to the all-time record low set in 2007; in fact, the University of Bremen rated the 2011 loss the greatest on record. For the fourth consecutive year, and fourth time in recorded history, ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage.) Mariners have been attempting to sail these waters since 1497.

While the record low sea ice year of 2007 was marked by a very unusual 1-in-20 year combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss (including clearer skies, favorable wind patterns, and warm temperatures), 2011's weather patterns were much closer to average. The fact we pretty much tied the record for most sea ice loss this year despite this rather ordinary weather is a result of the fact that large amounts of thicker, multi-year ice has melted or been flushed out of the Arctic since 2007. As a result of the loss of this old, thick ice, both 2010 and now 2011 set new records for the lowest volume of sea ice in the Arctic, according the University of Washington PIOMAS model. Given the very thin ice now covering most of the Arctic, we can expect truly dramatic sea ice loss the next time 1-in-10 year or 1-in-20 year warmth and sunshine invades the Arctic. We are definitely on pace to see the Arctic virtually sea ice-free in summer by 2030, as predicted by several leading Arctic sea ice scientists. I expect we'll see more than half of the Arctic ice gone and the North Pole liquid instead of solid by the summer of 2020, and probably sooner.


Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent in 2011 (blue line) compared to the record low year of 2007 (dashed green line) and average (thick grey line.) Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center .

When was the last time the Arctic was this ice-free?
We can be sure the Northwest Passage was never open for ice-free navigation--particularly ice-free navigation for multiple years in a row--between 1900 and 2000, as we have detailed ice edge records from ships (Walsh and Chapman, 2001). It is very unlikely the Passage was open between 1497 and 1900, since this spanned a cold period in the northern latitudes known as "The Little Ice Age". Ships periodically attempted the Passage and were foiled during this period, and the native Inuit people have no historical tales of the Passage being navigable at any time in the past.

The Northwest passage may have been open multiple years in a row for ice-free navigation at some period during the Medieval Warm Period, between 1000 and 1300 AD. A better candidate was the period 6,000 - 8,500 years ago, when the Earth's orbital variations brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer than at present. Funder and Kjaer (2007) found extensive systems of wave generated beach ridges along the North Greenland coast that suggested the Arctic Ocean was ice-free in the summer for over 1,000 years during that period. Prior to that, the next likely time was during the last inter-glacial period, 120,000 years ago. Arctic temperatures then were 2 - 3°C higher than present-day temperatures, and sea levels were 4-6 meters higher.

However, it is possible that the recent summer low-ice conditions in the Arctic are unprecedented for the past 800,000 years, according to a 2011 press release by Project CLAMER, a European group dedicated to climate change and European marine ecosystem research. They found that a tiny species of plankton called Neodenticula seminae that went extinct in the North Atlantic 800,000 years ago has become a resident of the Atlantic again, having drifted from the Pacific through the Arctic Ocean thanks to dramatically reduced polar ice. The 1999 discovery represents "the first evidence of a trans-Arctic migration in modern times" related to plankton, according to the UK-based Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, whose researchers warn that "such a geographical shift could transform the biodiversity and functioning of the Arctic and North Atlantic marine ecosystems."

It is possible we'll have a better idea of historical ice-free conditions in the Arctic in the next few years. A new technique that examines organic compounds left behind in Arctic sediments by diatoms that live in sea ice give hope that a detailed record of sea ice extent extending back to the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago may be possible (Belt et al., 2007). The researchers are studying sediments along the Northwest Passage in hopes of being able to determine when the Passage was open during the past 12,000 years.

References
Belt, S.T., G. Masse, S.J. Rowland, M. Poulin, C. Michel, and B. LeBlanc, "A novel chemical fossil of palaeo sea ice: IP25", Organic Geochemistry, Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 16-27.

Funder, S. and K.H. Kjaer, 2007, "A sea-ice free Arctic Ocean?", Geophys. Res. Abstr. 9 (2007), p. 07815.

Walsh, J.E and W.L.Chapman, 2001, "Twentieth-century sea ice variations from observational data", Annals of Glaciology, 33, Number 1, January 2001 , pp. 444-448.

August 2011: Earth's 4th - 8th warmest on record
August 2011 was the globe's 8th warmest August on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated August the 4th warmest on record. Land temperatures during August were the 2nd warmest on record, and ocean temperatures were the 12th warmest on record. Ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean's Main Development Region (MDR) for hurricanes, from the coast of Africa to the coast of Central America between 10°N and 20°N latitude, were 0.8°C above average, the 4rd warmest August on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 6th or 3rd warmest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). For more details on global extremes during August, see the details from weather historian Christopher C. Burt.


Figure 2. Departure of temperature from average for August 2011. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Maria hits Newfoundland
Hurricane Maria hit Newfoundland, Canada yesterday afternoon near 3:30 pm local time as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. However, the hurricane's strongest winds were over water, and the storm brought very little in the way of strong winds or heavy rain to the island. Cape Race at the southeast tip of Newfoundland saw sustained winds of 41 mph, gusting to 54 mph at 3:30 pm Friday as the center of the storm passed. Winds in the capital of St. John's peaked at 37 mph, gusting to 46 mph, at 10:30 am local time. Maria's strike makes this Newfoundland's second consecutive year with a hurricane strike, something that has never occurred since hurricane record keeping began in 1851. Last year, Hurricane Igor killed one person on Newfoundland, and damage exceeded $100 million, making Igor the most damaging tropical cyclone in Newfoundland history.


Figure 3. Satellite image of Hurricane Maria taken at 12:15 pm EDT September 16, 2011. At the time, Maria was a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Image credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab.

Invest 97L
For the first day since August 18, we don't have a named storm in the Atlantic. However, we have a new area to watch. A tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa Friday and is now 300 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands is moving west at 10 - 15 mph. The wave has developed a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity and spin, and has been designated Invest 97L by NHC. Wind shear as diagnosed by the SHIPS model is light, 5 - 10 knots, and is predicted to stay light to moderate through Tuesday morning. Ocean temperatures are 27.5°C, one degree above the threshold typically needed for a tropical storm to spin up. Water vapor satellite images show 97L is embedded in a moist environment.

Most of the models develop 97L into a tropical depression by Tuesday; NHC gave the disturbance a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday in their 2 pm Tropical Weather Outlook. 97L should head west or west-northwest towards the Lesser Antilles over the next six days, and could arrive in the islands as early as Friday--though most of the models predict a later arrival. It is likely 97L will encounter the usual troubles storms this year have had with wind shear and dry air on the long trek across the Atlantic.

I'll have a new post on Monday, when I'll discuss the long-range hurricane outlook for the rest of September.

Jeff Masters

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I wish 98L will bring at least a good shower to the islands ^^... and even that seems a little too much generous.
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6170
Quoting WoodyFL:


Pathetic for september!
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6170
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I hope shear WILL NOT KILL 98L... It would be nice to see a WELL ORGANIZED TROPICAL STORM at least once this year!!!!!!!! Jose, Maria (in the deep tropics), Gert, and so.... Not even a beautiful wet TS! This is really disappointing (to stay polite)
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6170
Quoting biloxibob:
Yes the GFS and the GFS are quite similar.

Though not nesessarily from one run to another. lol
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Quoting CitikatzSouthFL:


Awful storm and results. By the way, it is MIAMI not Miama. Thanks


Not down here! ;D

At least, not to most natives.
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Quoting Landfall2004:


Never mind!
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Quoting biloxibob:
Yes. and according to my grandfather,the storm immediately,ended a construction boom in south Florida!
Yes....the 26 and 28 canes were also partially responsible for the stock market collapse in 29, and subsequent depression. In some ways similar to how the 04-05 Florida hurricane seasons were the beginning of the end of the US housing boom, which led to where we are now.
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Quoting indianrivguy:


It is. The Narrows Cut, now called Norris Cut, was carved open in the 1835 hurricane.

Here is the track for the '26 'cane. It wrecked Miama, killed more than 100 there, caused a storm surge on Okeechobee Lake that over ran Moorehaven with a 15 foot wall of water, killing maybe as many as 300 there. Literally, a preview of what would happen 2 years later in 1928. Moorehaven remained under water for eight weeks. It then went on to cause great damage at Pensacola, wrecking nearly every dock, pier, and vessel in the Bay there. Total, more than 800 were missing so death totals are likely quite short of the "real" number.



I read that if this same storm were to hit Miami today, it would cause more than 150 BILLION dollars in damage... a LOT more than the 40 billion dollar blowjob Andrew put on Dade County.


Love the way you "say" Miama--with an "a"--just like the old timers 'round here!!!!! Grandma also used to say "hurrcan"--no "e" to make the "a" long--really almost "hurricn" with no vowel.

PS you have WU mail!
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Quoting CaribBoy:
Blog is slow!


Not for long.
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Quoting indianrivguy:


It is. The Narrows Cut, now called Norris Cut, was carved open in the 1835 hurricane.

Here is the track for the '26 'cane. It wrecked Miama, killed more than 100 there, caused a storm surge on Okeechobee Lake that over ran Moorehaven with a 15 foot wall of water, killing maybe as many as 300 there. Literally, a preview of what would happen 2 years later in 1928. Moorehaven remained under water for eight weeks. It then went on to cause great damage at Pensacola, wrecking nearly every dock, pier, and vessel in the Bay there. Total, more than 800 were missing so death totals are likely quite short of the "real" number.



I read that if this same storm were to hit Miami today, it would cause more than 150 BILLION dollars in damage... a LOT more than the 40 billion dollar blowjob Andrew put on Dade County.


Awful storm and results. By the way, it is MIAMI not Miama. Thanks
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I agree with the CMC (darkest green I believe).




The ensemble members seem to diverge a little towards the end of their runs, I suspect that if they're right, 98L will have a somewhat more northerly component to it putting it near the leeward islands instead of farther south in the windward chain.

Troughs coming off CONUS would help move it further north and potentially off to sea. However it may be too far south to be affected by any which most of the models seem to indicate and some of the ensemble members.

We'll see what happens with this, could be interesting.
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Blog is slow!
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6170
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Well, it's not the normal tropical humidity that I normally experience every day. It's like, this huge sticky gelatin mass of evil xD

Ohhh, it's like South Florida humidity! LOL
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Quoting indianrivguy:


It is. The Narrows Cut, now called Norris Cut, was carved open in the 1835 hurricane.

Here is the track for the '26 'cane. It wrecked Miama, killed more than 100 there, caused a storm surge on Okeechobee Lake that over ran Moorehaven with a 15 foot wall of water, killing maybe as many as 300 there. Literally, a preview of what would happen 2 years later in 1928. Moorehaven remained under water for eight weeks. It then went on to cause great damage at Pensacola, wrecking nearly every dock, pier, and vessel in the Bay there. Total, more than 800 were missing so death totals are likely quite short of the "real" number.



I read that if this same storm were to hit Miami today, it would cause more than 150 BILLION dollars in damage... a LOT more than the 40 billion dollar blowjob Andrew put on Dade County.
Yes. and according to my grandfather,the storm immediately,ended a construction boom in south Florida!
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862. JLPR2
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Well, it's not the normal tropical humidity that I normally experience every day. It's like, this huge sticky gelatin mass of evil xD


Yeah, gelatin mass of Evil is a good description.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8699
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Wow, I never knew the GFS and the GFS were similar.
Yes the GFS and the GFS are quite similar.
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Quoting LargoFl:
good morning and ty for those pics, amazing how hurricanes can change the landscape so dramaticaly huh


It is. The Narrows Cut, now called Norris Cut, was carved open in the 1835 hurricane.

Here is the track for the '26 'cane. It wrecked Miama, killed more than 100 there, caused a storm surge on Okeechobee Lake that over ran Moorehaven with a 15 foot wall of water, killing maybe as many as 300 there. Literally, a preview of what would happen 2 years later in 1928. Moorehaven remained under water for eight weeks. It then went on to cause great damage at Pensacola, wrecking nearly every dock, pier, and vessel in the Bay there. Total, more than 800 were missing so death totals are likely quite short of the "real" number.



I read that if this same storm were to hit Miami today, it would cause more than 150 BILLION dollars in damage... a LOT more than the 40 billion dollar blowjob Andrew put on Dade County.
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859. txjac
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Errr..lol.


I know exactly what he is talking about. Sometimes that humidty is pleasant ...like a warm breeze ...but then at other times its unsufferable ...like the air that you breathe is thick ...and it's unpleasant ...like it's harder for your body to process
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Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32074
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Well, it's not the normal tropical humidity that I normally experience every day. It's like, this huge sticky gelatin mass of evil xD


Errr..lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32074
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32074
Why would 98L wait until the WCARIB to develop! It's only at 35W! I didnt get it.
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6170
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


You live in the Caribbean, but yet you're not used to the humidity?

Wow =P

Well, it's not the normal tropical humidity that I normally experience every day. It's like, this huge sticky gelatin mass of evil xD
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852. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I hope the GFS is like the GFS =P


Well now, whoops, doing an essay and I guess my mind isn't here. XD

Meant to say CMC.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8699
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
It feels so humid, both inside and outside. Yuck.


You live in the Caribbean, but yet you're not used to the humidity?

Wow =P
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850. jpsb
Quoting ScottLincoln:






Well so others follow along here is the abstract from the 1970's paper.


Effects on the global temperature of large increases in carbon dioxide and aerosol densities in the atmosphere of Earth have been computed. It is found that, although the addition of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does increase the surface temperature, the rate of temperature increase diminishes with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For aerosols, however, the net effect of increase in density is to reduce the surface temperature of Earth. Because of the exponential dependence of the backscattering, the rate of temperature decrease is augmented with increasing aerosol content. An increase by only a factor of 4 in global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5 ° K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age.


Interesting that the author claims a decreasing warming role for CO2. I would have thought linear until CO2 reached some kind of critical mass.
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It feels so humid, both inside and outside. Yuck.
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848. txjac
Quoting EYEStoSEA:




Keep it coming is all I can say about that!
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99L looks a lot like Jose XD
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Wow, I never knew the GFS and the GFS were similar.


lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32074
845. 7544
is the lull over already if any of these 2 new ones get in the caribiean could they try to pull a wilma track and go nne over fla but in the mean time good luck in islands and pr looks like a one two punch for you guys tia
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Quoting JLPR2:


Yeah, the GFS is now pretty similar to the GFS, but they both loose the system in the Central Caribbean.

Wow, I never knew the GFS and the GFS were similar.
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Quoting JLPR2:


Yeah, the GFS is now pretty similar to the GFS, but they both loose the system in the Central Caribbean.


I hope the GFS is like the GFS =P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32074
842. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I agree with the CMC (darkest green I believe).


Yeah, the CMC is now pretty similar to the GFS, but they both loose the system in the Central Caribbean.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8699
Quoting JLPR2:
98L's models are starting to look more or less like Irene's



I agree with the CMC (darkest green I believe).
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839. JLPR2
98L's models are starting to look more or less like Irene's

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8699
Quoting jpsb:

That is correct, personally I don't think it is that big of a deal that the climate scientists or a subset of them, were wrong back in the 70's. That is how progress is made, I only got into this topic because some poster said that the cooling scare back in the 70s never really happened. Well I remember the 70's and I remember the Oh No ... Ice Age is coming.


Certainly in the popular media, one can find numerous mentions of "global cooling scare." Heck, many talk about remembering it. My dad remembers it. My professors remember it. But that aside, the majority of peer reviewed literature from the 1970s predicted warming over the next century, the next largest group was neutral, and the smallest group predicted cooling over that period. The discovery of milankovich cyles causing ice ages and inter-glacials at along with global temperatures not warming, even slightly cooling (although not significant statistically) combined to pump the story up.

The Rasool and Schneider paper is one frequently used to promote the "scientists said cooling" meme, but even the paper's authors only predicted cooling upon the condition that aerosols would quadruple, at which point it would overwhelm CO2 warming (ignoring yet unkown CFC and CH3 contributions). But as we've found out later, the aerosol increase didn't happen as presented in the "what-if" fasion, and they had used an incorrect sensitivity.

The media hypes up science continuously by removing the uncertainties stated by scientists, then when those uncertainties come to fruition, claim the scientist didn't know what they were talking about. They also play up false balance to maintain controversy. Calm, organized thoughts rarely pay the media's bills...
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
OMG.



good lord that is most definitely a trough
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830. chrisdscane 2:31 PM EDT on September 18, 2011


ignore doesnt work when you quote them
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Quoting chrisdscane:




ignore this person please


...and an annular, hyperdimensional storm with a pinhole/pinwheel eye is going to manifest itself over the GOM tomorrow... and NOGAPS was right this whole time... :P

It's a joke.

I've been more active this season than last so I don't have anything to compare this one to, but it seems like we all just need to take a breather from time to time.

But hey, I really loved the Chuck Norris ridge graphics someone put up here when Lee was out and about in the Gulf.

edit: 400 comments so far, not bad. Not bad at all.
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833. jpsb
Quoting ScottLincoln:


You are probably talking about the Rasool and Scheider (1971) paper. Considering that it is about 40 years old, one might suspect that newer papers may exist to estimate atmospheric forcings, particularly in a science as quickly unfolding as climate science. And this actually has been the case, as newer science has revised estimates of forcing due to carbon dioxide and aerosols, and the authors of the paper have drifted away from their early results. Rasool and Schneider used a small CO2 climate sensitivity that is no longer considered in the likely range, and there is even evidence to suggest that it was a mistake by Schneider that led to the unrealistic value being used.

This unrealistic value for CO2 sensitivity yielded a climate that warmed slowly upon increasing CO2 and aerosol contributions, which eventually slowed in it's warming due to aerosols overwhelming the atmospheric chemistry with their tendency to cause cooling. We know now with the gift of history since 1971 that aerosols have not accumulated quite at the same rate as greenhouse gases due to cleaner factories and power plants. And we also have newer, more precise estimates of the CO2 climate sensitivity, which if used for the Rasool and Schneider paper would have yielded a different result.

That is correct, personally I don't think it is that big of a deal that the climate scientists or a subset of them, were wrong back in the 70's. That is how progress is made, I only got into this topic because some poster said that the cooling scare back in the 70s never really happened. Well I remember the 70's and I remember the Oh No ... Ice Age is coming.
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Quoting chrisdscane:




ignore this person please


Why? She's joking...
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828. JLPR2
99L popped out of nowhere, but the shear is just too high there.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8699
Quoting charlottefl:


If you're using the whole 20th century for an average, then it's ~138 months that have been above the 20th century average. Not debating AGW, just that the number of months does not equate.


The last 318 months covers both the 20th and 21st century, from roughly 1985 to present. That period of 1985 to present has been warmer than the average of the entire 20th century, which is 1901-2000. So yes, the math does equate/compute/make sense.... unless I misunderstood your comment?
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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