Unprecedented Arctic ozone hole in 2011; a Florida tropical storm next week?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:01 PM GMT on October 04, 2011

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An unprecedented ozone hole opened in the Arctic during 2011, researchers reported this week in the journal Nature. Holes in the Antarctic ozone layer have opened up each spring since the early 1980s, but the Arctic had only shown modest springtime ozone losses in the 5% - 30% range over the past twenty years. But this year, massive ozone destruction of 80% occurred at altitudes of 18 - 20 kilometers in the Arctic during spring, resulting in Earth's first known case of twin ozone holes, one over each pole. During late March and portions of April, the Arctic ozone hole was positioned over heavily populated areas of Western Europe, allowing large levels of damaging ultraviolet rays to reach the surface. UV-B radiation causes skin damage that can lead to cancer, and has been observed to reduce crop yields in two-thirds of 300 important plant varieties studied (WMO, 2002.) The total loss of ozone in a column from the surface to the top of the atmosphere reached 40% during the peak of this year's Arctic ozone hole. Since each 1% drop in ozone levels results in about 1% more UV-B reaching Earth's surface (WMO, 2002), UV-B levels reaching the surface likely increased by 40% at the height of this year's hole. We know that an 11% increase in UV-B light can cause a 24% decrease in winter wheat yield (Zheng et al., 2003), so this year's Arctic ozone hole may have caused noticeable reductions in Europe's winter wheat crop.


Figure 1. Left: Ozone in Earth's stratosphere at an altitude of approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers) in mid-March 2011, near the peak of the 2011 Arctic ozone loss. Right: chlorine monoxide--the primary agent of chemical ozone destruction in the cold polar lower stratosphere--the same day and altitude. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

What caused this year's unprecedented Arctic ozone hole?
Earth's ozone holes are due to the presence of human-emitted CFC gases in the stratosphere. The ozone destruction process is greatly accelerated when the atmosphere is cold enough to make clouds in the stratosphere. These polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) act like ozone destruction factories, by providing convenient surfaces for the reactions that destroy ozone to occur. PSCs only form in the 24-hour darkness of unusually cold winters near the poles; the atmosphere is too warm elsewhere to support PSCs. Stratospheric temperatures are warmer in the Arctic than the Antarctic, so PSCs and ozone destruction in the Arctic has, in the past, been much less than in the Antarctic. In order to get temperatures cold enough to allow formation of PSCs, a strong vortex of swirling winds around the pole needs to develop. Such a "polar vortex" isolates the cold air near the pole, keeping it from mixing with warmer air from the mid-latitudes. A strong polar vortex in winter and spring is common in the Antarctic, but less common in the Arctic, since there are more land masses that tend to cause large-scale disruptions to the winds of the polar vortex, allowing warm air from the south to mix northwards. However, as the authors of the Nature study wrote, "The persistence of a strong, cold vortex from December through to the end of March was unprecedented. In February - March 2011, the barrier to transport at the Arctic vortex edge was the strongest in either hemisphere in the last ~30 years. This unusual polar vortex, combined with very cold Arctic stratospheric temperatures typical of what we've seen in recent decades, led to the most favorable conditions ever observed for formation of Arctic PSCs. The reasons for this unusual vortex are unknown.


Figure 2. Global lower stratospheric departure of temperature from average since 1979, as measured by satellites. The large spikes in 1982 and 1991 are due to the eruptions of El Chicon and Mt. Pinatubo, respectively. These volcanoes ejected huge quantities of sulphuric acid dust into the stratosphere. This dust absorbed large quantities of solar radiation, heating the stratosphere. Stratospheric temperature has been generally decreasing in recent decades, due to the twin effects of ozone depletion and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere. During Jan - Aug 2011, Earth's stratosphere had its 3rd coldest such period on record. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

Greenhouse gases cause stratospheric cooling
When ozone absorbs UV light, it heats the surrounding air. Thus, the loss of ozone in recent decades has helped cool the stratosphere, resulting in a feedback loop where colder temperatures create more PSCs, resulting in even more ozone destruction. However, in 1987, CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances were banned. As a result, CFC levels in the stratosphere peaked in 2000, and had fallen by 3.8% as of 2008, according to NASA. Unfortunately, despite the fact that CFCs are falling in concentration, the stratosphere is not warming up. The recovery of the ozone layer is being delayed by human emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. These gases trap heat near the surface, but cause cooling of the stratosphere and increased formation of the PSCs that help destroy ozone. We need only look as far as our sister planet, Venus, to see an example of how the greenhouse effect warms the surface but cools the upper atmosphere. Venus's atmosphere is 96.5% carbon dioxide, which has triggered a hellish run-away greenhouse effect. The average surface temperature on Venus is a sizzling 894 °F, hot enough to melt lead. Venus's upper atmosphere, though, is a startling 4 - 5 times colder than Earth's upper atmosphere. The explanation of this greenhouse gas-caused surface heating and upper air cooling is not simple, but good discussions can be found at Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and realclimate.org, for those unafraid of radiative transfer theory. One way to think about the problem is that the amount of infrared heat energy radiated out to space by a planet is roughly equal to the amount of solar energy it receives from the sun. If the surface atmosphere warms, there must be compensating cooling elsewhere in the atmosphere in order to keep the amount of heat given off by the planet the same and balanced. As emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, their cooling effect on the stratosphere will increase. This will make recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer much slower.

Greenhouse gases cause cooling higher up, too
Greenhouse gases have also led to the cooling of the atmosphere at levels higher than the stratosphere. Over the past 30 years, the Earth's surface temperature has increased 0.2 - 0.4 °C, while the temperature in the mesosphere, about 50 - 80 km above ground, has cooled 5 - 10 °C (Beig et al., 2006). There is no appreciable cooling due to ozone destruction at these altitudes, so nearly all of this dramatic cooling is due to the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Even greater cooling of 17 °C per decade has been observed high in the ionosphere, at 350 km altitude. This has affected the orbits of orbiting satellites, due to decreased drag, since the upper atmosphere has shrunk and moved closer to the surface (Lastovicka et al., 2006). The density of the air has declined 2 - 3% per decade the past 30 years at 350 km altitude. So, in a sense, the sky IS falling due to the greenhouse effect!

Since any increase in solar energy would heat both the lower and upper atmosphere, the observed drop in upper atmospheric temperatures in the past 30 years argues against an increase in energy coming from the sun being responsible for global warming. The observed cooling of the upper atmosphere is strong evidence that the warming at Earth's surface is due to human-emitted greenhouse gases that trap heat near the surface and cause compensating cooling aloft. It should also give us additional confidence in the climate models, since they predicted that this upper atmospheric cooling would occur. Keep in mind, also, that 2010 was tied for Earth's hottest year on record, and the amount of energy coming from the sun during 2009 - 2010 was the lowest since satellite measurements began in the late 1970s. There has been no long-term increase in energy coming from the sun in recent decades, and the notion that global warming is due to an increase in energy coming from the sun simply doesn't add up.

Commentary
The development of an ozone hole in the Arctic is a discouraging reminder that humans are capable of causing harmful and unexpected planetary-scale changes to the environment. A 2002 assessment of the ozone layer by the World Meteorological Organization concluded that an Arctic ozone hole would be unlikely to occur, due to the lack of a strong Arctic vortex in winter, and the fact CFCs levels had started to decline. However, an Arctic ozone hole may now become a regular visitor in the future. "Day-to-day temperatures in the 2010 - 11 Arctic winter did not reach lower values than in previous cold Arctic winters," said the lead author of this year's Nature study, Gloria Manney, of NASA and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. "The difference from previous winters is that temperatures were low enough to produce ozone-destroying forms of chlorine for a much longer time. This implies that if winter Arctic stratospheric temperatures drop just slightly in the future, for example as a result of climate change, then severe Arctic ozone loss may occur more frequently." I might add that its a very good thing CFCs were banned in 1987, or else the Arctic ozone hole would have opened up much sooner and would have been far worse. It turned out that the costs of the CFC ban, while substantial, were far less than the dire cost predictions that the CFC industry warned of. It is highly probable that we will see future nasty climate change surprises far more serious than the Arctic ozone hole if we continue on our present business-as-usual approach of emitting huge quantities of greenhouse gases. Humans would be wise to act forcefully to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, as the cost of inaction is highly likely to be far greater than the cost of action.

References
Manney, G.L., et al., 2011, Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss in 2011, Nature (2011), doi:10.1038/nature10556

Weather Underground Ozone Hole FAQ

World Meteorological Organization (WMO), "Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2002 Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project - Report #47", WMO, Nairobi, Kenya, 2002.

Zheng, Y., W. Gao, J.R. Slusser, R.H. Grant, C. Wang, "Yield and yield formation of field winter wheat in response to supplemental solar ultraviolet-B radiation," Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 120, Issues 1-4, 24 December 2003.


Figure 3. Morning satellite image of Tropical Storm Philippe. Philippe has a Central Dense Overcast (CDO) of high cirrus clouds characteristic of a tropical storm nearing hurricane strength.

Tropical Storm Philippe no threat to land
In the middle Atlantic, Tropical Storm Philippe has managed to grow a bit more organized in the face of high wind shear of 20 - 30 knots. Satellite loops show Philippe is a small system with a modest amount heavy thunderstorm activity, with the surface circulation partially exposed to view by wind shear. Wind shear will remain high today, but is expected to relax to the moderate range on Wednesday as Philippe recurves to the northeast. This may allow Philippe to intensify into a hurricane, as predicted by several of the intensity forecast models. It is unlikely that Philippe will trouble any land areas.

A Florida tropical storm next week?
Recent runs by all of the computer forecast models predict that an area of low pressure will develop near Florida this weekend or early next week. The counter-clockwise flow around this low will bring strong winds and heavy rains to Northeast Florida and the Georgia coast, and it is possible this storm will develop into a tropical or subtropical storm. The situation is similar to Subtropical Storm Four of October 4, 1974, according to the latest extended forecast discussion from NOAA's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. That storm brought 10 - 14 inches of rain to the east coast of Florida and strong onshore winds of 30 - 40 mph that caused beach erosion and coastal flooding. The exact formation location of this weekend's storm is still in doubt, with the ECMWF and UKMET models predicting the storm will form in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida, and the GFS model predicting formation over the Bahamas. We'll have to wait for future model runs before we can get a better handle on where and when this storm will most likely develop.

Jeff Masters

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Off to bed, good night all.
Philippe looks tired...
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


Thanks Will. That would be very nasty for NC. Subsidence around the hurricane would limit rainfall totals in Florida.


18z GFS has it a lil further west and would put us in the east side of storm if it panned out but hopefully it wont


Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
3.8 3.8 3.4

T#s haven't changed much...
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Quoting BDADUDE:
You think NNW or NNE?


Euro takes it NNW just West of the W coast of Fla.

The GFS and CMC go up the East coast of Fla.and one of them bends the system back onshore near Daytona. Some of my links are not working now so cannot be more specific but I like the Euro solution due to the big high that is forecast to build just off the SE coast.
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Quoting will40:
Link

check that out Brian


Thanks Will. That would be very nasty for NC. Subsidence around the hurricane would limit rainfall totals in Florida.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Clouds warming in Philippe, but becoming slightly better organized. I think.


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
3.8 3.8 3.4
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


MJO left...See what it did to the WPAC?

Now the only thing left there is Nalgae and a bunch of disorganized blobs. Wow.
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Quoting Skyepony:


Not surprised to see the models leaning back to it. I just couldn't abandon the band wagon yesterday cause the models pulled such a change for a run or two there. Not with the MJO headed this way..& it's so dry again here.

There's a fire now..


Our yearly total is 66 inches so far, definitely not worried about drought over here in my part of Pinellas County, even if it stayed dry the rest of the year. I'll take a nice tropical or subtropical system to bring rain in what is normally a very dry month, averaging only 2.67 here.


It will be interesting to see what becomes of this, after having a nice shot of Fall last weekend. People might be shocked that Florida's first tropical cyclone of the year could be arriving next weekend now that Fall is here.
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Philippe's ACE is up to 8.6125 at 5 p.m. today. At 11 p.m. Philippe will pass Maria. By 11 p.m. tomorrow night Philippe will probably have more than 10 ACE points.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
No major typhoons in the WPAC?? Shocker.


MJO left...See what it did to the WPAC?
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No major systems (currently) in the WPAC?? Shocker.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Clouds warming in Philippe, but becoming slightly better organized. I think.
Yes, and it has started to recurve out to sea.
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Quoting clwstmchasr:


Way too early to determine a track either side of North for a system that is days away from developing. If it ever develops.

Which has a good likelihood at this point.
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Clouds warming in Philippe, but becoming slightly better organized. I think.
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Quoting kmanislander:


A tough year for you guys for sure but late season should spare you any more trouble IMO

What about the storms that develop in the Caribbean and move NE into the Bahamas because of the troughiness over the Eastern Seaboard?
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Quoting clwstmchasr:


Way too early to determine a track either side of North for a system that is days away from developing. If it ever develops.
Thats what I was thinking when I asked the question.
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Evening Kman, good to see you.

I hope you will steer any Tropical Mischief
from down that way somewhere other than to the Turks and Caicos.

I hope we have had our share this year already.


A tough year for you guys for sure but late season should spare you any more trouble IMO
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320. hyperstratocumulus 9:40 PM EDT on October 04, 2011


hopefully the DR will change the topic tomorrow morning
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting interstatelover7165:
I Hate My Internet and My Computer.

And your internet and computer hates you back.
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I Hate My Internet and My Computer.
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Link

check that out Brian
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
To be honest, Dr. Masters discussion of the cooling upper atmosphere is actually the best and most convincing evidence to support an increasing greenhouse effect from added CO2. Because it essentially dismisses the other explanations for warming of the Earth's surface. I do believe however, that the Earth is going through a natural Climate cycle, which may be combining with human impacts to create what we see. I just don't see any way to actually disprove that the Earth isn't going through natural changes in combination with human destructive effects. Either way, us human beings haven't been very good stewards of the world. God help us...

Unfortunately no matter how much we tell people the truth, most won't heed. Its just like how NOAA does what ever they can to make sure people don't venture into dangerous flooded areas, but people always do, and people die as a result.


Anyways, looks like I have something to track in what is normally a boring month as far as storm activity goes for Florida. A possible tropical system.
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Quoting BDADUDE:
You think NNW or NNE?


That is an interesting question. We'll see! Also a bit curious if any moisture or energy from Philippe gets drawn into the southeast coastal mess. One run of the GFS showed that yesterday.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening folks

I have not been on for quite some time but this week looks like a good time to stop in again.

With a secondary peak to the season just a week away and the potential development of a NW Caribbean system tracking to the NNW a few days from now we may
have something close to home to track by sometime this weekend.
You think NNW or NNE?
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Evening Kman, good to see you.

I hope you will steer any Tropical Mischief
from down that way somewhere other than to the Turks and Caicos.

I hope we have had our share this year already.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening folks

I have not been on for quite some time but this week looks like a good time to stop in again.

With a secondary peak to the season just a week away and the potential development of a NW Caribbean system tracking to the NNW a few days from now we may
have something close to home to track by sometime this weekend.


yup its that time of the season it looks like
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Yesterday

Today
not comparable images dude.
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Yesterday

Today
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Quoting presslord:
I'm gonna start a chain of flat globe stores...Who wants in??


Since when was the globe circular? I always thought it was parabolic in shape. lol
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At 20° latitude the distance to the Earth's axis is 5982 km or 5.98 million meters. The angular momentum per unit mass is this figure times the velocity of 428.3 m/s or 2.56×109 m2/s. At 25° latitude the distance to the Earth's axis is 5.77 million meters, about 3.7 percent less than at 30°. The absolute wind velocity must therefore increase about 3.7 percent to a value of 444.1 m/s. This is 24.5 m/s faster than the surface of the Earth is traveling at 25° latitude. The hurricane would therefore be traveling with an easterly component of velocity of 24.5 m/s. This means that a hurricane which is moving west at 24 km/hr (6.7 m/s) at 20° latitude would have to have a west-to-east velocity of 24.5 m/s at 25° to preserve angular momentum. This is a quite high velocity of about 90 km/hr or 56 miles/hr. If the prevailing winds at 25° latitude N are not traveling at that velocity the frictional effects would slow the hurricane down. The frictional effects would not necessarily slow the hurricane's velocity to the same level as the prevailing winds but the deviation would be restricted.
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Good evening folks

I have not been on for quite some time but this week looks like a good time to stop in again.

With a secondary peak to the season just a week away and the potential development of a NW Caribbean system tracking to the NNW a few days from now we may
have something close to home to track by sometime this weekend.
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In my opinion you members who don't see the adds miss some good chuckles, the adds are influenced by words appearing on the page.

Just now there is one "Selling, spare parts, service, Industrial Ozone Generators"
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I'm gonna start a chain of flat globe stores...Who wants in??
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Quoting NJHurricanez:
http://www.meteo.psu.edu/ewall/DGEXEAST_18z/dgexl oo p.html#picture
Link


hope that dont pan out either
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
AGW theory has an answer for everything.

AGW is making the Earth hotter and colder. It is responsible for the ozone hole too.

When you try and fit every observation into your theory by saying it's complex, it's under study, blah, blah, it makes you AGWers look like zealots who are determined to make every observation fit your predetermined beliefs.

Sad!
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http://www.meteo.psu.edu/ewall/DGEXEAST_18z/dgexloo p.html#picture
Link
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
As expected with TS Philippe, no change:

AL, 17, 2011100500, , BEST, 0, 244N, 601W, 55, 997, TS, 50, NEQ, 30, 30, 0, 10, 1014, 150, 15, 0, 0,

Yeah, not much change in appearance either.
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Quoting presslord:


ugh...buzzkill...


we are very seldom on that side of one huh?
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting will40:
the raleighwx site wont allow hot links but look at the 18z run at 192 hrs if you have it


ugh...buzzkill...
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298. Skyepony (Mod)
A graph of temps in the middle of the stratosphere. Not an extremely cold winter last year but it lasted. Crazy one extreme in March, the other in April.

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 39457
the raleighwx site wont allow hot links but look at the 18z run at 192 hrs if you have it
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting presslord:


funny you should say that....we're actually talking about taking a little cruise up the coast to Wilmington the weekend of the 14th....was gonna get serious about lookin' at weather tomorrow...You're gonna ruin it for me aren't you?


well just one run but it dont look good
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting will40:


take the sail boat out wed the 12th


funny you should say that....we're actually talking about taking a little cruise up the coast to Wilmington the weekend of the 14th....was gonna get serious about lookin' at weather tomorrow...You're gonna ruin it for me aren't you?
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it shows us on the right hand side of one
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting presslord:


nnooooo.....but I don't think I like your tone....


take the sail boat out wed the 12th
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266
Quoting will40:


have you seen the 18z GFS run?


nnooooo.....but I don't think I like your tone....
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Quoting Darryl7:
Does that mean this blog is at least temporarily going to be about the weather instead of global warming?


The AGW crowd claims that AGW has everything to do with weather and climate, and that man is mostly responsible for the warming of the globe. So based upon that, I would think the AGW discussion is always on topic.
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Quoting presslord:


yea...what's left of me...


have you seen the 18z GFS run?
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4266

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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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