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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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
Most of Texas got very little rain it just is not me, a few areas did get good rain but those are few and far between, I have family all over Texas and no one received more than quarter of an inch all week.


I hope you get some rain soon. Where are you located? We got pretty good rains today and they say a 60-70% chance tomorrow. :)

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1026. ryang
Quoting JLPR2:
From barely developing it, SHIPS now brings 98L to a 65mph storm at 13.4N 57.9W.

Link


Westerly shear increasing at the end though...
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Completely random, but still about this season's storms so...
2011 Preliminary Damages Per Storm
1- Irene >$10,100,000,000
2- Lee >$250,000,000
3- Arlene $223,400,000
4- Katia ~$157,000,000
5- Emily(lol) >$5,000,000

Yea, that Lee number is very preliminary; I've heard numbers as high as $2 or $3 billion in Pennsylvania alone.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


No! Don't post that! People will attack you and say that Irene was over-hyped and that those numbers are false!

I BLEEPED Irene's damages. XD
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
1022. BDADUDE
Quoting Tazmanian:






43 is this right once you got ues too it
Must have been a lot of shrinkage involved in water that cold.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Completely random, but still about this season's storms so...
2011 Preliminary Damages Per Storm
1- Irene >$10,100,000,000
2- Lee >$250,000,000
3- Arlene $223,400,000
4- Katia ~$157,000,000
5- Emily(lol) >$5,000,000


No! Don't post that! People will attack you and say that Irene was over-hyped and that those numbers are false!
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Quoting FortBendMan:
Sorry to hear it. We had another 4/10th of an inch today here south of Houston. And I see parts of Texas south of you (some near Corpus, some near Victoria) with a good 2-3 inches today. So you just are getting unlucky.

I do think we have one more good day of moisture for the southern part of Texas tomorrow so maybe tomorrow will be your day. Rain chances will definitely go down by the end of the week.

Most of Texas got very little rain it just is not me, a few areas did get good rain but those are few and far between, I have family all over Texas and no one received more than quarter of an inch all week.
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
I'm suprised Emily cost more than One U.S. Dollar.

LOL
But seriously. The damage is from the flooding it caused in SE Puerto Rico.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
1018. bird72
Alright folks, see this loop and go to 22 n, 66w, are my eyes or the ULL is developing in something tropical.

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/tatl/loop-wv.ht ml
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Completely random, but still about this season's storms so...
2011 Preliminary Damages Per Storm
1- Irene >$10,100,000,000
2- Lee >$250,000,000
3- Arlene $223,400,000
4- Katia ~$157,000,000
5- Emily(lol) >$5,000,000
I'm suprised Emily cost more than One U.S. Dollar.
Member Since: August 18, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 994
98L still has a long way to go.
will have to check back in a.m.
reading life of pi, finally!
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Completely random, but still about this season's storms so...
2011 Preliminary Damages Per Storm
1- Irene (BLEEP)
2- Lee >$250,000,000
3- Arlene $223,400,000
4- Katia ~$157,000,000
5- Emily(lol) >$5,000,000
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5725
Quoting Chicklit:


the models are more optimistic than 6 hrs. ago.


Good
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Quoting JLPR2:
From barely developing, SHIPS now brings 98L to a 65mph storm at 13.4N 57.9W.

Link


extremly interesting
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Quoting JLPR2:
From barely developing, SHIPS now brings 98L to a 65mph storm at 13.4N 57.9W.

Link


the models are more optimistic than 6 hrs. ago.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Chicklit:
97L still not having its stuff together at 8 p.m.

Interesting one to watch though.


97L has been deactivated.
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1010. JLPR2
From barely developing it, SHIPS now brings 98L to a 65mph storm at 13.4N 57.9W.

Link
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747

It's still there.
My bet it survives.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
ORANGE CIRCLE
We interrupt regular global warming, tropics, and agw posts for a breaking tropical news story. Bob,?
INVEST Ninety-Eight now has a Thirty Percent Chance Of Developing Into A TC Within Forty-Eight Hours.

Sorry, my number keys are either typing spaces or something else.
Member Since: August 18, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 994
Quoting JLPR2:


Strengthening slowly and getting closer to TD status.


98L don't play to the roller caster please.
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1005. JLPR2
Quoting Neapolitan:
Down one millibar:

AL, 98, 2011091900, , BEST, 0, 119N, 371W, 25, 1008, LO, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1012, 225, 60, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, INVEST, M,


Strengthening slowly and getting closer to TD status.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
97L still not having its stuff together at 8 p.m.

Interesting one to watch though.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Down one millibar:

AL, 98, 2011091900, , BEST, 0, 119N, 371W, 25, 1008, LO, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1012, 225, 60, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, INVEST, M,



geting stronger
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Look at that wave over Western Africa.

May have to watch it for development once it enters the Atlantic, has a very nice spin to it.

Cape Verde season may not be over yet.


There is certainly no shortage of waves coming off Cape Verde atm.

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Sorry to hear it. We had another 4/10th of an inch today here south of Houston. And I see parts of Texas south of you (some near Corpus, some near Victoria) with a good 2-3 inches today. So you just are getting unlucky.

I do think we have one more good day of moisture for the southern part of Texas tomorrow so maybe tomorrow will be your day. Rain chances will definitely go down by the end of the week.

Quoting bohonkweatherman:
95 sunny with heat index over 100 here south of Austin, again not a drop of rain, showers are isolated and scattered unfortunately. Dryer air moving into Texas
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Down one millibar:

AL, 98, 2011091900, , BEST, 0, 119N, 371W, 25, 1008, LO, 34, NEQ, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1012, 225, 60, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, INVEST, M,
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Quoting marmark:
Too cold for me. Glad you had fun!



yup
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
POSS.T.C.F.A.
98L/INV/XX
MARK
10.25N/38.28W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Quoting Tazmanian:





it was fun water teamper was a vary nic 43 and i want swiming has well
Too cold for me. Glad you had fun!
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Quoting JLPR2:


43? O.o Got chills just thinking about it. XD






43 is this right once you got ues too it
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
995. JLPR2
Quoting Tazmanian:





it was full water teamper was a vary nic 43 and i want swiming has well


43? O.o Got chills just thinking about it. XD
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting marmark:
How was the river rafting today?





it was fun water teamper was a vary nic 43 and i want swiming has well
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
Quoting Tazmanian:
AL, 98, 2011091818, , BEST, 0, 119N, 364W, 25, 1009, LO,
How was the river rafting today?
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Quoting JLPR2:


Sound the Alarm!


Reeeerooom Reeeeerooom Reeeeroom!

lol.
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991. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
ORANGE CIRCLE


Sound the Alarm!
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
ORANGE CIRCLE
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Quoting weatherh98:


Sulfur, La... been there many times, its much worse in Norco and its just a lil smelly


I had the opportunity in the late 70's to work at NORCO. We built the 14 furnaces for the Ethylene Plant in 79.

That was under Pullman Kellogg at the time, but we worked under J. T Thorpe on that one.

Also did many a Turnaround on the Big Shell catcracker,..as we were Gunite and refractory specialist, aka bricklayers, Brinks Refractories.
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TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT SUN SEP 18 2011

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

A LOW PRESSURE AREA LOCATED OVER THE CENTRAL TROPICAL ATLANTIC ABOUT
1550 MILES EAST OF THE WINDWARD ISLANDS HAS BECOME BETTER DEFINED
DURING THE PAST SEVERAL HOURS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR
FAVORABLE FOR GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE OVER THE NEXT
FEW DAYS AS IT MOVES SLOWLY WESTWARD. THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM
CHANCE...30 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.


SHOWER ACTIVITY HAS DIMINISHED IN ASSOCIATION WITH A SMALL LOW
PRESSURE SYSTEM LOCATED ABOUT 1050 MILES EAST OF THE NORTHERN
LEEWARD ISLANDS. DEVELOPMENT...IF ANY...OF THIS SYSTEM IS EXPECTED
TO BE SLOW TO OCCUR DUE TO UNFAVORABLE UPPER-LEVEL WINDS. THIS
SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15
MPH.
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Quoting SubtropicalHi:

Such a beautiful area, with vast natural resources. It is so sad. Last year CNN aired a special, "Toxic Town". Featured Wilma Subra - Chemical/PVC plants in the Lake Charles area.


Sulfur, La... been there many times, its much worse in Norco and its just a lil smelly
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Quoting bambamwx:
Global Warming Consensus, Minus One

by Tom Van Dyke on September 15, 2011
9Share
On a major Vision of the Anointed, anthropomorphic global warming climate change, a Nobel laureate in physics includes himself out:

Dr. Ivar Giaever, a former professor with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, Sept. 13, from the premier physics society in disgust over its officially stated policy that “global warming is occurring.”

The official position of the American Physical Society (APS) supports the theory that man’s actions have inexorably led to the warming of the planet, through increased emissions of carbon dioxide.

Giaever was cooled to the statement on warming theory by a line claiming that “the evidence is inconvertible.”

“In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

As has been discussed over on Dr. Rood's Climate Change Blog here on WU, Prof. Giaever is a physicist who never worked in the climate sciences--his field was "tunneling semiconductors"--and who at any rate hasn't published in even his own field since the mid-1970s. In fact, his primary income over the last several years appears to be derived almost exclusively from his position as a "climate expert" for the ExxonMobil-funded Heartland Institute; it's no surprise, then, that he'd make a grandiose exit from the APS, as it's at odds with his employer's agenda. The only real surprise is that he waited so long to cancel his APS membership; after all, that group came out with its official climate change statement back in 2007.
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985. JLPR2
I wish we had a NOAA floater for 98L.

And look at this, could it be? yes it is, ex-97L is popping up some convection.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
AL, 98, 2011091818, , BEST, 0, 119N, 364W, 25, 1009, LO,
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


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

Wow =P
Yes, the tropics are beautiful and we live in paradise but lately humidity feels ridiculous in Puerto Rico.
Member Since: May 31, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1008
FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

A LOW PRESSURE AREA LOCATED OVER THE CENTRAL TROPICAL ATLANTIC ABOUT
1550 MILES EAST OF THE WINDWARD ISLANDS HAS BECOME BETTER DEFINED
DURING THE PAST SEVERAL HOURS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR
FAVORABLE FOR GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE OVER THE NEXT
FEW DAYS AS IT MOVES SLOWLY WESTWARD. THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM
CHANCE...30 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

SHOWER ACTIVITY HAS DIMINISHED IN ASSOCIATION WITH A SMALL LOW
PRESSURE SYSTEM LOCATED ABOUT 1050 MILES EAST OF THE NORTHERN
LEEWARD ISLANDS. DEVELOPMENT...IF ANY...OF THIS SYSTEM IS EXPECTED
TO BE SLOW TO OCCUR DUE TO UNFAVORABLE UPPER-LEVEL WINDS. THIS
SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15
MPH.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115455
Quoting 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.

Such a beautiful area, with vast natural resources. It is so sad. Last year CNN aired a special, "Toxic Town". Featured Wilma Subra - Chemical/PVC plants in the Lake Charles area.
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98L is my main concern at the moment...

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978. JLPR2
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


You mean during the D-MAX period right?


Yep.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting JLPR2:
98L should be interesting to watch tonight.



You mean during the D-MAX period right?
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14908

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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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