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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Any recent ASCAT pass for 98L?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1125. ackee
seem like 98L has really improve on the vorticity map tonight
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1122. jpsb
Quoting Neapolitan:

Do you have evidence of this cooling? Here's a temperature graph showing otherwise (please note that this is actually from a denier site):

Uh-oh

P.S. -- Pay attention to the red 13-month running average trendline, not the order 3 polynomial trendline intended added just this month with no explanation.
I have one of those too




I like mine better ;)
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1190
Anyone know how big Sonca is across? Its sure is a pretty lil' thang.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1120. DFWjc
Quoting Neapolitan:

The South Pole is melting, of course. That is, land-ice is disappearing. Sea ice is not, for the most part, and for at least the following two reasons:

1) Ozone levels over Antarctica have dropped, causing stratospheric cooling and increasing winds which lead to more areas of open water that can be frozen.

2) The Southern Ocean is freshening because of increased rain, glacial run-off and snowfall. This changes the composition of the different layers in the ocean there causing less mixing between warm and cold layers and thus less melted sea ice.

As I said earlier, there are huge differences between the Arctic and Antarctica, and the climate dynamics between the two are particularly complex.



Earth's axial tilt or obliquity varies from 24.5 degrees to 22.1 degrees over the course of a 41,000-year cycle. The current angle is 23.4 degrees. Changes in axial tilt affect the distribution of solar radiation received at the earth's surface. When the angle of tilt is low, polar regions receive less insolation. When the tilt is greater, the polar regions receive more insolation during the course of a year. Like precession and eccentricity, changes in tilt thus influence the relative strength of the seasons, but the effects of the tilt cycle are particularly pronounced in the high latitudes where the great ice ages began.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Jose Jr.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871
Quoting JLPR2:
Cute. LOL!


LOL.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871
1116. JLPR2
Cute. LOL!
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8649
Quoting KoritheMan:


Small systems tend to pack more of a punch than the larger ones.


Yep.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871
1114. Patrap
WP182011 - Tropical Storm ROKE

Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery

click image for Loop

Okinawa is the Large island to the West,Sw





Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:
There is no evidence with any credibility to suggest that anyone has any health problems from the spill.


The government said that for years about agent orange too... just sayin'

1111. tropicfreak

Pretty good example
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


Small systems tend to pack more of a punch than the larger ones.


Exactly, just look at Charley.
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Quoting IceCoast:


Ya sure is small, but certainly packing a punch. Just look at her compared to Roke.



Small systems tend to pack more of a punch than the larger ones.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1108. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
POSS.T.C.F.A.
98L/INV/XX
MARK
11.15N/38.39W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53506
Quoting KoritheMan:


Small typhoon is small.


Ya sure is small, but certainly packing a punch. Just look at her compared to Roke.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Orcasystems:


If its "Global Warming" ... shouldn't the South Pole be melting also?

The South Pole is melting, of course. That is, land-ice is disappearing. Sea ice is not, for the most part, and for at least the following two reasons:

1) Ozone levels over Antarctica have dropped, causing stratospheric cooling and increasing winds which lead to more areas of open water that can be frozen.

2) The Southern Ocean is freshening because of increased rain, glacial run-off and snowfall. This changes the composition of the different layers in the ocean there causing less mixing between warm and cold layers and thus less melted sea ice.

As I said earlier, there are huge differences between the Arctic and Antarctica, and the climate dynamics between the two are particularly complex.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Out of all the invests ATM, it looks like 98L is superior. Some organization, consistent convection.
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Quoting IceCoast:
Pretty good liking typhoon for the latitude it's at. Good thing it isn't trekking up the coast of Japan.



Small typhoon is small.
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99L is pretty much poof...98L needs some work...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Skyepony "Sick Gulf residents continue to blame BP.
Many people living near the site of the BP oil spill have reported a long list of similar health problems.
"
952 twincomanche "Just trying to scam the system."

That's easy to say, but have you got any proof that BP would try to scam the system?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Pretty good liking typhoon for the latitude it's at. Good thing it isn't trekking up the coast of Japan.

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Quoting BDADUDE:
Hurricane spider.
that is just a "nickname" for it, it is called a Golden Orb or Golden Silk Orb, also nicknamed a "banana spider"...be careful of them as they will bite and put a hurtin' on ya.
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1099. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Still, it has come a long way over the past 24 hours. Its low-level circulation is tightening up, and its getting better organized. I wouldn't doubt Code Red tomorrow.


Oh yes, it's organizing, wouldn't surprise one bit it if it goes red at 8am.

If current trend continues tomorrow we should have a nicely organized LLC and an almost TD.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8649
1098. nymore
Quoting Neapolitan:

If you'll read carefully, you'll note I used the comparative adjective "warmer", not "warm". You really have to pay attention with these things...
You can just say king crabs because that is what your referring to.
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1097. DFWjc
Quoting Altestic2012:
"+" if you're absolutely fed up with Neapolitan spewing his liberal AGW agenda!


"+" if you don't care about people B G and C'ing just because someone make an opinion that doesn't support their ideology...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


We have two invests -- 97L was deactivated this morning.

98L:



99L:





99L RIP
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114917
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
WOOP WOOP! Went to the game with a bunch of friends, etc etc...game was intense. Loud as hell. Great game though...proud of them.

I'm pretty sure we'd be 2-0 if we had the full team out there when we were playing Maryland.
pretty sure if the Buckeyes didn't have similar off season issues and losing the core and coach, the Canes would surely be 0-2...just sayin'
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1094. DFWjc
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Where at?


Well it just rolled thru here in North Richland Hills, fast little sucker... large lightening, a few pops of thunder and within 5 minutes it already near Arlington moving NW to SE...
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Quoting IceCoast:


Depends on which agency you go by, this is JTWC.

WTPN32 PGTW 182100
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING//
RMKS/
1. TYPHOON 19W (SONCA) WARNING NR 017
02 ACTIVE TROPICAL CYCLONES IN NORTHWESTPAC
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS BASED ON ONE-MINUTE AVERAGE
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY
---
WARNING POSITION:
181800Z --- NEAR 33.2N 142.9E
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS - 010 DEGREES AT 15 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 020 NM
POSITION BASED ON CENTER LOCATED BY SATELLITE
PRESENT WIND DISTRIBUTION:
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS - 085 KT, GUSTS 105 KT
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY



------------


WTPN31 PGTW 182100
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING//
RMKS/
1. TROPICAL STORM 18W (ROKE) WARNING NR 030
02 ACTIVE TROPICAL CYCLONES IN NORTHWESTPAC
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS BASED ON ONE-MINUTE AVERAGE
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY
---
WARNING POSITION:
181800Z --- NEAR 26.3N 130.2E
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS - 290 DEGREES AT 03 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 040 NM
POSITION BASED ON CENTER LOCATED BY SATELLITE
PRESENT WIND DISTRIBUTION:
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS - 055 KT, GUSTS 070 KT
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY


85 knots (100 mph) and 55 knots (65 mph).

Awesome! I nailed it!

lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
calm down

it is what it is
and what ever its
meant to be


Que sera, sera.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1091. Patrap
Quoting Neapolitan:

If you'll read carefully, you'll note I used the comparative adjective "warmer", not "warm". You really have to pay attention to the details...



plus 10 to the 6th powa'
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Just going to do a random guess, 'cause I don't follow WPAC systems.

First one: Cat. 2

Second one: Strong tropical storm


Depends on which agency you go by, this is JTWC.

WTPN32 PGTW 182100
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING//
RMKS/
1. TYPHOON 19W (SONCA) WARNING NR 017
02 ACTIVE TROPICAL CYCLONES IN NORTHWESTPAC
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS BASED ON ONE-MINUTE AVERAGE
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY
---
WARNING POSITION:
181800Z --- NEAR 33.2N 142.9E
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS - 010 DEGREES AT 15 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 020 NM
POSITION BASED ON CENTER LOCATED BY SATELLITE
PRESENT WIND DISTRIBUTION:
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS - 085 KT, GUSTS 105 KT
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY



------------


WTPN31 PGTW 182100
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING//
RMKS/
1. TROPICAL STORM 18W (ROKE) WARNING NR 030
02 ACTIVE TROPICAL CYCLONES IN NORTHWESTPAC
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS BASED ON ONE-MINUTE AVERAGE
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY
---
WARNING POSITION:
181800Z --- NEAR 26.3N 130.2E
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS - 290 DEGREES AT 03 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 040 NM
POSITION BASED ON CENTER LOCATED BY SATELLITE
PRESENT WIND DISTRIBUTION:
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS - 055 KT, GUSTS 070 KT
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY
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Quoting nymore:
yea all the warm water crabs that live in water temps of 34 degrees.

If you'll read carefully, you'll note I used the comparative adjective "warmer", not "warm". You really have to pay attention to the details...
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1088. will40
Quoting tropicfreak:
Ok so we now have 3 invests now. Which one is 97L, 98L and 99L?




Link
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
Southeast of Buda, we have less than a 20 percent Monday with dry air moving behind a very weak front, no cool air behind it. Front on Wednesday will be much cooler but moisture here will be limited is what I am hearing? Today it was near 100 with 50 percent humidity, darn right miserable perfect for storm or heavy rain. There is a good storm south of me moving southeast, lots of lightning. I have to vote my area and Austin area as easily one of top 5 for Worst Summers ever. We had 85 days over 100, over 60 days in the 90s. I have 7 inches of rain and Austin 9 inches. We had the Oak Fire months ago, then the Cedar Park Fire, Leander Fire, Steiner Ranch Fire and the Bastrop Fire all around us that has really hurt this area in several ways but people and their assistance has been beyond Awesome. Without the dead or dying Trees near Bastrop that fire would not have been nearly as bad, last time i heard it was 90 percent contained. But it is Sept 18th and our heat index was above 105 today, i have never seen anything like this 2011 weather year. Been thru Hurricanes in Texas and in La, been thru some pretty good tornadoes in my life, been flooded out of 2 homes with several feet of water and have seen some hail that went thru some roofs but this heat, drought and fires has drained me in every way because I have seen animals suffer and die out there and there is nothing I can do to help them. I have been flooded out of 2 homes in my life with several feet of water in them too. I do have lots of feed and water out for the hundreds of birds around but that is about all i can do. Now I am making trips to Bastrop to help them but I am praying for any relief and I hope i never see a horrible weather year like this. Give me the Heat, Give me a drought, give me a few fires but don't give me all 3 together at the same time. I have to laugh to stop from losing my sanity. Austin airport got a trace this week, i got a trace and Camp Mabry received 2 tenths this week. Family members within 50 miles of me received about the same as I did.


Do ya live near the Uhland area? San Marcos is my old stomping grounds. I attended 4 fantastic years at Texas State and graduated in 2009 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Geology. I work in Dallas now :(. I guess we go where the work takes us. I miss the rivers, the people, and most of all...the lifestyle of the area. Hope all is well with the fires. I used to drive highway 21 twice a week to College Station. I can't imagine what it looks like now.
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Quoting tropicfreak:
Ok so we now have 3 invests now. Which one is 97L, 98L and 99L?


We have two invests -- 97L was deactivated this morning.

98L:



99L:

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871
1085. BDADUDE
Hurricane spider.
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 602
1084. dibird
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
" " this post if you're tired of people bashing other people because of what they are posting, and wish we would all just get along!


Thank you! Lurker here...
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Ok so we now have 3 invests now. Which one is 97L, 98L and 99L?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1082. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53506
Quoting IceCoast:
Sonca and Roke in the Pacific basin.





Just going to do a random guess, 'cause I don't follow WPAC systems.

First one: Cat. 2

Second one: Strong tropical storm
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871
Sonca and Roke in the Pacific basin.



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1079. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
calm down

it is what it is
and what ever its
meant to be
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53506
My computer doesn't like the plus key...it also makes it invisible on the post.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871
Quoting KoritheMan:


" " if you want everyone to stfu.


lol.

1
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31871

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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.