Three Atlantic threat areas may develop; a record fire season for the U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:43 PM GMT on August 20, 2012

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A large tropical wave (Invest 94L) located about 1100 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands is headed west at 20 - 25 mph, and is showing increasing organization today. The storm is under light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, and is over waters of 27°C. A large area of dry air lies just to the north of 94L, as seen on the latest Saharan Air Layer (SAL) analysis and water vapor satellite loops. This dry air is interfering with development, and this morning's visible satellite loop shows that 94L's heavy thunderstorm activity is sparse. However, the satellite loops do show that 94L has now separated from the clumps of heavy thunderstorms to its south, and a pretty well-defined surface circulation has developed. Heavy thunderstorms are now attempting to fire up around this circulation center, but are being hampered by dry air. The center of 94L was about 80 miles to the north of buoy 41041 at 10 am Monday morning, and the buoy recorded SW winds of 10 mph, confirming that 94L probably does have a closed surface circulation. The disturbance will have to build and maintain more heavy thunderstorms than it has now to be considered a tropical depression, though. The first hurricane hunter mission into 94L is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Invest 94L.

Forecast for 94L
The latest 8 am EDT run of the SHIPS model predicts that wind shear will be low, 5 - 10 knots, for the next five days. Ocean temperatures will warm from 27°C this morning to 28.5°C by Wednesday morning, and the total heat content of the ocean will increase sharply during that period, as well. The main impediment to development will be dry air to the north, and the SHIPS model predicts the amount of dry air will change little over the next five days. I expect that 94L will continue to struggle with dry air through Wednesday, when it will probably have had enough time to moisten the surrounding atmosphere and protect itself against the dry air. The models have shown increasing unity in taking 94L through the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday, and I expect the storm will be a tropical depression or weak tropical storm with 40 - 50 mph winds at that time. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 94L a 80% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday morning. None of the reliable models predict that 94L will reach hurricane strength over the next five days, and it is unlikely that 94L will be able to organize quickly enough to become anything stronger than a 60 mph tropical storm before reaching the Lesser Antilles, given the storm's current struggles with dry air, and the lack of model support for intensification. However, once 94L enters the Eastern Caribbean, wind shear will be low, oceanic heat content high, and the storm should have had enough time to moisten the atmosphere to allow steady strengthening to occur. The main factor that might prevent intensification into a hurricane late this week would be a close pass by the island of Hispaniola. Our top models for long-range 4 - 5 days forecasts all show a path for 94L very close to the island.

Will 94L hit the U.S. mainland?
This storm is a long-range threat to the U.S., as historically, 16% of storms in 94L's location have gone on to hit the U.S., with North Carolina the preferred target (10% chance.) A trough of low pressure capable of pulling 94L to the north enters Western Canada Thursday night, and the exact timing and amplitude of this trough will determine the ultimate landfall location of 94L. The long range 7 - 14 day runs of the GFS model over the past three day have all predicted an eventual landfall for 94L in the U.S., though these long-range runs are notoriously unreliable. The predicted landfall locations have ranged from New England to Texas--which isn't much help. The past three runs beginning on Sunday afternoon have all taken 94L over Florida during the August 27 - 29 time frame, which I'm sure is making organizers of the Republican National Convention uncomfortable, since the convention is in Tampa August 27 - 30. However, 94L could miss Florida completely, as the average error in model forecasts going out 7 days is in excess of 500 miles. We can't rule out a North Carolina landfall, but the pattern we've seen so far this year is for landfalls in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, so a more southwards path for 94L into the Yucatan is definitely a possibility. Also, we have that huge drought region in the Midwest, which tends to create its own high pressure bubble, which reduces the odds of storms making the turn and hitting the Central or Western Gulf Coast. If 94L makes it to the Western Caribbean, I see the two most likely options as a landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (and then westwards into Mexico south of the Texas border), or recurvature into the Florida Gulf Coast.


Figure 2. MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Gordon taken on Sunday August 19, 2012, at 11:55 am EDT. At the time, Gordon was a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Gordon hits the Azores
The eye of Hurricane Gordon passed over Santa Maria Island in the eastern Azores Islands near 1:30 am EDT this morning. Gordon was a Category 1 hurricane with 75 - 80 mph winds at landfall. Winds at the Santa Maria airport reached a sustained 49 mph at 3 am EDT, but the airport did not report winds during passage of the eyewall at 1:30 am. Reuters reported that Gordon caused only minor flooding and power outages. The hurricane is being sheared apart by strong upper-level winds, and the extratropical remnants of Gordon will not bring any strong winds or significant rain to Europe.

Disturbance 95L in the Gulf near the Texas/Mexico border
A region of disturbed weather (Invest 95L) has developed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast, just northeast of Tampico, Mexico. The disturbance is due to a trough of low pressure and its associated cold front which moved off the coast over the weekend, but has been fortified via moisture from Tropical Storm Helene, which made landfall Saturday near Tampico. If 95L were to develop into a tropical storm, it would receive a new name. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 95L a 30% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Wednesday morning. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate 95L this afternoon. Winds at Tampico this morning were light out of the northeast, which implies that no surface circulation is forming at this time. Radar out of Altamira, Mexico does show some banding to the precipitation echoes, though, which may be indicative of something trying to spin up. The computer models show that 95L should move little over the next few days.


Figure 3. Radar out of Altamira, Mexico at 9:45 am EDT August 20, 2012, shows some banding to the precipitation echoes in association with 95L.

Disturbance 96L off the coast of Africa
The tropical Atlantic is very busy this third week of August, and this is the week of the year that we typically see a major ramp-up of tropical storm activity in the Atlantic. A new tropical wave that emerged from the coast of Africa Sunday (Invest 96L) is headed west at 15 - 20 mph. This disturbance has a modest amount of spin and heavy thunderstorm activity, and is under a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 96L a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Wednesday morning. This disturbance does not have much model support for development.


Figure 4. The new Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (S-NPP) carries an instrument so sensitive to low light levels that it can detect wildfires in the middle of the night. On August 17, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi-NPP acquired this image of the wildfires blazing in Idaho. The images were created with data from the instrument’s "day-night band," which sensed the fire in the visible portion of the spectrum. The Halstead Fire, centered about 18 miles northwest of Stanley, was sparked by lightning on July 27, and is burning in an area with large numbers of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle. As of Sunday afternoon, the fire had burned 92,000 acres was only 5% contained, according to InciWeb. The fire prompted the evacuation of the town of Featherville on Saturday night. Red flag warnings for adverse fire weather were posted in the region yesterday, and temperatures reached the low 90s with 16% humidity and winds of 10 mph. Image credit: NASA.

A record fire season in the U.S.
Massive fires continue to burn in Nevada, Idaho and California, and fires that are currently active in the Western U.S. have consumed over 1.3 million acres of land--an area approximately the size of Delaware. Thanks to widespread drought and unusually high temperatures over the past month, 3 million acres have gone up in flames since mid-July, and the fire season of 2012 now ranks in first place for the most acreage burned at this point in the year. According to the Interagency Fire Center, 6.8 million acres have burned as of August 19 this year, beating the previous record set just last year (6.5 million acres for the year-to-date period.) The Interagency Fire Center shows year-to-date records just for the past ten years. The 2012 fire season is well ahead of the pace of 2006, which was the worst fire year in the U.S. for total acreage burned in a year (records began in 1960). In 2006, 9.9 million acres burned, and 6.4 million acres had burned by August 19. With drought conditions far more widespread this year compared to 2006, and the latest forecasts calling for little drought relief over the coming two months, 2012 is likely to surpass 2006 as the worst fire year in U.S. history before the end of the year.


Figure 5. Comparison of drought conditions between the previous record fire year in the contiguous U.S. (2006) with 2012. Drought is much more widespread in 2012 compared to 2006, and 2012 will likely finish ahead of 2006 for the most acreage burned since record keeping began in 1960. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Global warming expected to increase fire activity in the Western U.S.
As I blogged about in June, the severe fire seasons of 2012 and 2011 fit the pattern of what we expect to see more of with global warming. Hotter heat waves dry out vegetation more readily, resulting in increased probability of more acreage burned. A study published in the Journal Ecosphere in June 2012 used fire models driven by the output from sixteen climate models used in the 2007 IPCC report and found that while 8% of the planet should see decreases in fire activity over the next 30 years, 38% should see increases. By the end of the century, 20% of the globe should see decreased fire activity, and 62% increased fire activity. In the U.S., the regions most at risk of increased fires are the tundra regions of northern Alaska, and the West, with Arizona and Colorado at particularly high risk.

Jeff Masters

hugh blanket of smoke (got2dogs)
blew in about an hr after my last upload here - I thought I was done for the nite, but this smoke was incredible! made for some awesome light - sooooo eerie!
hugh blanket of smoke
Smoke! What smoke ?? (saltydawgg)
12th Ave road South looking north. Nampa Idaho full of smoke from 7 fires at last count with more dry lightning on the way.
Smoke! What smoke ??
Temecula Fire (photoandy)
This is just two hours after ignition! It quickly became a PYROCUMULUS...
Temecula Fire

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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125613
Quoting Jeff9645:
Latest image of the Gulf of Mexico!

oh,,Prince Charles, of England !!!
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Interesting it's this upper trough that dig SW toward the Gulf and allows 94L to move into FL. Talk about a interesting set up for FL this weekend as it also allows 94L to gain steam fast as it nears FL.


Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
161. duranta 12:04 PM EDT on August 20, 2012 +0
There's a lot of ignorance on this blog about fracking.


There's a lotta ignorance on this blog about the TOPIC!!!

(twit? or bonehead? pondering, pondering...)

BONEHEAD!
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Quoting MississippiWx:
I think one thing is almost a guarantee at this point. 94L is not going to recurve east of the United States in this pattern. It might get buried into Mexico if it's weak, but a recurve east of the US is not very likely now. Models are implying that 94L will have trouble with land interaction and this could keep it from being anything major unless it emerges into the SW Atlantic and heads up the East Coast.





I said this many times, but all I get is "Reeds wishcasting the storm to Florida or NY"
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7334


120hrs and at the end of any sort of reliable forecast period.

It took a trip over PR/DR and Cuba. Imho, and sorry to the folks in the islands, but I think the best we can hope for is this track with a fast moving and relatively weak system. If it gets enough strength to pass north of the PR/DR then someone could be in real trouble. It may not be a "pretty" storm right now, but still has a very impressive envelope to work with and clearly defined circulation. Do not give this thing any real amount of time in low shear and warm waters.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15472
Here's some more info on fracking for you:

Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

· In Colorado, between 2005 and 2009, oil and gas companies conducting fracking across the state used over 1.5 million gallons of fluids containing known carcinogens. That puts Colorado second only to Texas in the highest volume use of fluids containing carcinogens in the nation.

· The BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene – are SDWA contaminants and hazardous air pollutants. Benzene also is a known human carcinogen. The hydraulic fracturing companies injected 11.4 million gallons of products containing at least one BTEX chemical over the five-year period.

· The study found that between 2005 and 2009, companies operating in Colorado injected into the ground over 375,000 gallons of fracking fluids that contained chemicals required to be regulated under the SDWA. And the vast majority of those chemicals were the BTEX compounds – known carcinogens that can damage the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys.

· Methanol, which was used in 342 hydraulic fracturing products, was the most widely used chemical between 2005 and 2009. The substance is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under SDWA. Isopropyl alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethylene glycol were the other most widely used chemicals.

· Many of the hydraulic fracturing fluids contain chemical components that are listed as “proprietary” or “trade secret.” The companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret. In many instances, the oil and gas service companies were unable to identify these “proprietary” chemicals, suggesting that the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify.


http://degette.house.gov/index.php?option=com_con tent&view=article&id=1069:degette-committee-invest igation-discovers-high-volume-of-toxic-chemicals-i n-fracking-fluids-used-in-colorado&catid=76:press- releases-&Itemid=227
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Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
right now I wish I could watch Bastardi going all nuts with 94L declaring DOOM!


Go to WeatherBell, thats where he is now.
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..................when a plane finally goes in and they find it still disorganized..what then
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I think one thing is almost a guarantee at this point. 94L is not going to recurve east of the United States in this pattern. It might get buried into Mexico if it's weak, but a recurve east of the US is not very likely now. Models are implying that 94L will have trouble with land interaction and this could keep it from being anything major unless it emerges into the SW Atlantic and heads up the East Coast.



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162. ! :o Jeff9645....Looks like Prince Charles is moonlighting as a met!
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right now I wish I could watch Bastardi going all nuts with 94L declaring DOOM!
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Levi on Facebook: 95L, a split-off from Helene, is making noise at the tail-end of the front in the Gulf of Mexico SSE of Brownsville. Recon plane to go in there in a few hours. Remember? I told you she wasn't done. Still worth keeping an eye on for fast ramp-up near the coast, especially if it gains some latitude.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 23 Comments: 7467



taking a beating
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Morning...been lurking/back reading.....soooo when would you say is the critical "turn" day/time for an east coast threat? Say......tues/wed.? Helene playing peek a boo...I'm gonna get you!....then runs into Mexico to hide...
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Quoting CJ5:
This is good news. I have not seen it posted but can understand why.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world%u2019s leading climate scientists didn%u2019t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for "cautious optimism" about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that "ultimately people follow their wallets" on global warming.


Link


I have read this elsewhere, and would suggest high caution with this news - it's not exactly straight-forward.

We have been reducing our acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions since the start of the recession. Even though it's official over, times are still tough. We are using our cars less often and many are trying to reduce their energy bills.

It is also hard to claim that this was all market driven. Subsidies and programs to improve energy efficiency and develop solar/wind have increased those sources of energy. Coal power plants are having a tougher time meeting environmental requirements, which appears to have been part of shutting down some plants and preventing some new ones from coming online.

Also keep in mind that this is 1) just the U.S., which although we can be the highest per capita producers of GHGs, we are not the largest total source, and 2) just for one year, and could easily start to reverse if the economy ramps up but has not had a dramatic switch to sustainable, cleaner fuels, and 3) we still are emitting far more CO2 than the natural systems can absorb, thus accumulation of GHGs is still continuing.

Obviously it's better to have a few years with declining rates of emission than the continuation of GHG emission growth, but its not nearly enough.
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There's a lot of ignorance on this blog about fracking. Here's a link to the waste water generated from fracking.:

Risk analysts have concluded that the disposal of contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) wells producing natural gas in the intensively developed Marcellus Shale region poses a substantial potential risk of river and other water pollution. That conclusion, the analysts say, calls for regulators and others to consider additional mandatory steps to reduce the potential of drinking water contamination from salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as uranium, radium and radon from the rapidly expanding fracking industry.

http://ecowatch.org/2012/fracking-water-pollution -risk/
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


I don't know may be a close race which way it ultimately gets tugged.


At this point, I think it is pretty safe to say that it is going to be very, very close to PR/DR. The intensity will make minor differences...like just south of, just north of, or directly over. Just north of would be about the worse case scenario. South of, or over and those mountains will play a major roll. Especially if it heads on to the mountainous eastern end of Cuba.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15472
Quoting emcf30:



it sure doesnt look all great, if it stays like this its just a mass of thunderstorms
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Quoting mcluvincane:
Like Dr M. Stated 94L is likely a depression now, won't be confirmed until HH aircraft tomorrow

That's not what he said.

"The disturbance will have to build and maintain more heavy thunderstorms than it has now to be considered a tropical depression"
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94L may have FAY from 2008 written all over it.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
154. 7544
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Alittle stronger so far this run but so far the same path thanks for the images
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Yeah where is he?


NM. ST2K's got it. :)
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Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Hour 96:



Weak tropical storm over southern Haiti
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Quoting Abacosurf:
that's the high building back to the north and nudging it west. Wonder if that's the last of it or if it tries to hang on...


I don't know may be a close race which way it ultimately gets tugged.
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Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
if that is the case, then dr. masters second possibility of a turn into the florida peninsula seems likely. not hoping for that of course but even a slightly organized system could feel the pull northward in the c or w caribbean.
Quoting StormTracker2K:


It does get pulled north but more than likely this happens in the C or Western Caribbean because of 94L not being able to organize more quickly. It 94L were stronger then it would tend to go more east. That seems to be the thinking of the GFS and Euro.

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Quoting mcluvincane:
Where is ncstorm to post the gfs run?


Yeah where is he?
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Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Capitol Weather Gang posted The Chart....

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Quoting AtHomeInTX:
Lol. Right here 95l almost reaches out to go NE then abruptly gets sucked into MX.

that's the high building back to the north and nudging it west. Wonder if that's the last of it or if it tries to hang on...
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:
94l moving fast



Yep, and still pointing towards a very close tangle with lots of mountains. Going to be interesting to see how this one plays out. Either hauls it straight to the Yuc, or Fla to OBX imho. And it's likely going to be another day or two before we know with pretty good certainty which it is. At the speed it is moving and with the dry air, it is going to have a bit of a hard time developing needed convection which may lend a slight edge to the Yuc Pen. On the other hand, if it happens to ramp up it could end up east of the Conus all together.

Morning all.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15472
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Guess so... I just really hate it when politics disrespect science.


Unfortunately this is not just a case of politics disrespecting science, this is more about a political body deciding what the science is and what it should say.
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Where is ncstorm to post the gfs run?
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


12z already running. :)


Ah yeah... anyone know how well the GFS handles topography compared to either the NAM or HR-NAM?
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Lol. Right here 95l almost reaches out to go NE then abruptly gets sucked into MX.

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quick question about 94L... will a larger storm move slower than a smaller storm? or does size even matter when it comes to speed of tropical cyclones?
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Quoting Thing342:
94L is actually look pretty good, just needs some more t-storms.


It will grow more t-storms over warmer SSTs once it gets into the Carribean.
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72hr Thoughts from the NHC. A lot of elevation along the way.


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Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:


Bluestorm, I just mailed you a link if you want to read about how fracking got approved in NC. It is pretty shocking and sad

Now back on topic (lurking), sorry people

Thanks! Time to get back on topic.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 23 Comments: 7467
94L is actually look pretty good, just needs some more t-storms.
Member Since: August 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 436
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


STRONG CAT 3...is there room for cat 5 since moving so slowwww...
very bad for Taiwan
And what's the strongest typhoon to landfall in Taiwan ever?
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 23 Comments: 7467
"If 94L makes it to the Western Caribbean, I see the two most likely options as a landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (and then westwards into Mexico south of the Texas border), or recurvature into the Florida Gulf Coast."

Thank you as always, Dr Masters and this FL Gulf Coaster says no to recurvature!
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.