Half of the polar ice cap is missing: Arctic sea ice hits a new record low

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:53 PM GMT on September 06, 2012

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Extraordinary melting of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has shattered the all-time low sea ice extent record set in September 2007, and sea ice continues to decline far below what has ever been observed. The new sea ice record was set on August 26, a full three weeks before the usual end of the melting season, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Every major scientific institution that tracks Arctic sea ice agrees that new records for low ice area, extent, and volume have been set. These organizations include the University of Washington Polar Science Center (a new record for low ice volume), the Nansen Environmental & Remote Sensing Center in Norway, and the University of Illinois Cryosphere Today. A comprehensive collection of sea ice graphs shows the full story. Satellite records of sea ice extent date back to 1979, though a 2011 study by Kinnard et al. shows that the Arctic hasn't seen a melt like this for at least 1,450 years (see a more detailed article on this over at skepticalscience.com.) The latest September 5, 2012 extent of 3.5 million square kilometers is approximately a 50% reduction in the area of Arctic covered by sea ice, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. The ice continues to melt, and has not reached the low for this year yet.


Figure 1. A sunny, slushy day at the North Pole on September 1, 2012. Webcam image courtesy of the North Pole Environmental Observatory.


Figure 2. Sea ice extent on September 5, 2012, showed that half of the polar ice cap was missing, compared to the average from 1979 - 2000. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Why the Arctic sea ice is important
Arctic sea ice is an important component of the global climate system. The polar ice caps help to regulate global temperature by reflecting sunlight back into space. White snow and ice at the poles reflects sunlight, but dark ocean absorbs it. Replacing bright sea ice with dark ocean is a recipe for more and faster global warming. The Autumn air temperature over the Arctic has increased by 4 - 6°F in the past decade, and we could already be seeing the impacts of this warming in the mid-latitudes, by an increase in extreme weather events. Another non-trivial impact of the absence of sea ice is increased melting in Greenland. We already saw an unprecedented melting event in Greenland this year, and as warming continues, the likelihood of these events increase.


Figure 3. August set a new record for lowest Arctic sea ice extent. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.



Figure 4. Arctic sea ice death spiral as plotted by Jim Pettit using data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Huge storm pummels Alaska
A massive low pressure system with a central pressure of 970 mb swept through Alaska on Tuesday, generating hurricane-force wind gusts near Anchorage, Alaska that knocked out power to 55,000 homes. Mighty Alaskan storms like this are common in winter, but rare in summer and early fall. The National Weather Service in Anchorage said in their Wednesday forecast discussion that the forecast wind speeds from this storm were incredibly strong for this time of year--four to six standard anomalies above normal. A four-standard anomaly event occurs once every 43 years, and a five-standard anomaly event is a 1-in-4800 year event. However, a meteorologist I heard from who lives in the Anchorage area characterized the wind damage that actually occurred as a 1-in-10 year event. A few maximum wind gusts recorded on Tuesday during the storm:

McHugh Creek (Turnagain Arm)... ... ..88 mph
Paradise Valley (Potter Marsh)... ... 75 mph
Upper Hillside (1400 ft)... ... ... ... 70 mph
Anchorage port... ... ... ... ... ... ... .63 mph

The storm has weakened to a central pressure of 988 mb today, and is located just north of Alaska. The storm is predicted to bring strong winds of 25 - 35 mph and large waves to the edge of the record-thin and record-small Arctic ice cap, and may add to the unprecedented decline in Arctic sea ice being observed this summer.


Figure 5. An unusually strong storm formed off the coast of Alaska on August 5 and tracked into the center of the Arctic Ocean, where it slowly dissipated over the next several days. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color mosaic image on Aug. 6, 2012. The center of the storm at that date was located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Image credit: NASA.

Arctic storms may be increasing due to climate change
This week's Alaskan storm is the second unusually strong low pressure system to affect the Arctic in the past month. On August 4 - 8, a mighty storm with a central pressure of 963 mb raged through the Arctic, bringing strong winds that helped scatter and break up Arctic sea ice. According to a detailed post at NASA Earth Observatory, that storm was in the top 3 percent for strongest storms ever recorded north of 70 degrees latitude. A study of long-term Arctic cyclone trends authored by a team led by John Walsh and Xiangdong Zhang of the University of Alaska Fairbanks found that number and intensity of Arctic cyclones has increased during the second half of the twentieth century, particularly during the summer. Dr. Zhang explained that climate change has caused sea ice to retreat markedly in recent decades and has also warmed Arctic Ocean temperatures. Such changes may be providing more energy and moisture to support cyclone development and persistence. The strong storms of this week and a month ago would have had far less impact on the ice just a decade ago, when the sea ice was much thicker and more extensive.

A sea ice decline double-whammy
The monster Arctic storms like we've seen this year have sped up the rate of sea ice loss, but increased water temperatures and air temperatures due to human-caused global warming are the dominant reasons for the record melting of the Arctic sea ice. A July 2012 study by Day et al. found that the most influential of the possible natural influences on sea ice loss was the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO). The AMO has two phases, negative (cold) and positive (warm), which impact Arctic sea ice. The negative phase tends to create sea surface temperatures in the far north Atlantic that are colder than average. In this study, the AMO only accounted for 5% - 31% of the observed September sea ice decline since 1979. The scientists concluded that given the lack of evidence that natural forces were controlling sea ice fluctuations, the majority of sea ice decline we've seen during the 1953 - 2010 period was due to human causes.

Joe Romm has a more in-depth look at the new Arctic sea ice record and what it means for the future over at climateprogess.org.

Angela Fritz and Jeff Masters

Turbulence (katy99780)
Beautiful orographic formations over the mountains on a windy evening.
Turbulence

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Quoting GlobalWarmingFallacy:
Oh how quick we forget all the falsifed data from the experts were using to support their own agenda.
Your entire comment began with this false statement, so I'll reject the rest as equally false. Unless you can back up such an assertion, that is; would you please be so kind as to show us credible evidence that shows where "experts" falsified any data?
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683. mod4
Quoting Neapolitan:
And how long would the resources in that 32' x 32' area support the person to whom it belonged? How many trees could grow there? How much food could be raised? How many fish could be raised and caught? How much livestock could thrive? How much clean water? And how long would it take to pollute that little 32' x 32' plot of Texas land?

Does anyone truly believe that they have a 'footprint' of just over 1,000 square feet?


I understand your point - but can you also understand mine ? With proper management our planet is not even close to being 'overpopulated' at 7 Billion.... we have a distribution issue, not a population one ?
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Quoting mod4:


You could take 7 Billion people and put them in the State of Texas and everyone could have a 32'x32' area to themselves. I try to remember that everytime somebody brings out 'the earth has too many people' talk ....
And how long would the resources in that 32' x 32' area support the person to whom it belonged? How many trees could grow there? How much food could be raised? How many fish could be raised and caught? How much livestock could thrive? How much clean water? And how long would it take to pollute that little 32' x 32' plot of Texas land?

Does anyone truly believe that they have a 'footprint' of just over 1,000 square feet?
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Quoting GlobalWarmingFallacy:
Oh how quick we forget all the falsifed data from the experts were using to support their own agenda. What got my eye is the statement. "Scientists can't figure out any current natural reasons for the ice loss, so it must be human.". So they ruled out everything else and everything that may be undiscovered and just decided all that is human caused. Talk about crap Science. So with that reasoning, we don't really know what gives matter physical mass, so it must me human caused.

And that dataset... 1979 to 2012... 33 years of data out of billions of years directly measured and you all know exactly whats going on, yet above they admitted not knowing everything... see the issue... by doing that it ends up being a positive feedback for human caused global warming... if you can't explain it, blame it, is the current way warming science works...but the loop is there.. 33 years of data and icecores do not give a clear picture... If you think I'm wrong, tell me how an ice core can tell you how much ice was covering the Arctic... I thought you could get possible precip amounts, atmospheric gases and some other data, which I don't know so its human caused... but you can't get coverage history from cores... after all we do know from sea fossils in KANSAS that ocean, shallow ocean they say covered the central U.S. So if it got that warm in the past to raise levels, doesn't it make sense that it would happen again, after all, they have proven that the process has repeated it self and there are numerous seabed layers in Kansas.

But come on... that statement about them not being able to think of any other thing that would help warming so it must be human was the most ignorant thing I have heard...


Climate change/global warming isn't only based on sea ice extent and volume. Using that 33 years as your only example is a perfect representation of "junk science". Even one of the biggest global warming deniers has recently changed his mind after running the numbers himself Link . The fact of the matter is our science has concluded the only statistically significant correlation to be made with increase in temperature is increase in greenhouse gasses. It's pretty simple statistical analysis.

I find it hard to believe that a overwhelming majority of climate scientists are involved in a giant conspiracy to promote man driven global warming.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:


Probably the pattern that will look into play for the rest of the season...

what are you looking at, a long-range model that has some systems? I would like to see:)
Member Since: September 9, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 433
Humans are mostly to blame for the Arctic ice melt.

Why? How come every issue on the planet has to be blamed on humans? Climates and droughts can be naturally caused. Not everything is caused by humans. These things were going on before we got here. Some of these "issues" just might be natural, or earth-caused.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:
Cute graph. Is it possible for you to include data in it before 1979 Jim? Thanks!
Cute question. Disingenuous questions do not deserve answers. If you are well versed in the subject you already know that total ice extents have only been measured since the polar-orbiting earth-observing satellites were operational in 1979. Before that time we do not know precisely the total extents, but there is plenty of historical evidence, along with geological and paleoclimatological data that can give us good ideas of minimum and maximum extents at particular locations, so we can extrapolate from those and make good estimates.

Here is a a good story and a data point for you. By the time of 320 BC, the ancient Greeks were excellent sailors who knew the Earth was spherical and possessed sextants for navigation. In that year the Greek explorer Pytheas journeyed northwards from Scotland, sailing for six days until he was stopped by ice: Pytheas the Explorer. If nothing else, it is an interesting piece of history.
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675. mod4
Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
The scientists concluded that given the lack of evidence that natural forces were controlling sea ice fluctuations, the majority of sea ice decline we've seen during the 1953 - 2010 period was due to human causes.

Very scientific... they don't have proof, so just blame humans.

So are you saying to kill half of the human population so earth can regulate it's self or am I reading to much into your post?.

No, I'm not saying that.... it's wrong to do so. But, I'm pretty sure that if the world's population was just 2 billion, rather than 7billion, the earth wouldn't be so warm.


You could take 7 Billion people and put them in the State of Texas and everyone could have a 32'x32' area to themselves. I try to remember that everytime somebody brings out 'the earth has too many people' talk ....
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Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
Were the Dark Ages just another long term 'cycle'? Maybe it's really related to cycles in the sun's output. After all, it's a dying star going through it's own life cycle.

Interesting...

what is disputed is whether or not humans are solely responsible.

I don't think we are... we couldn't have created that much C02... Mother Nature is at play.


Clearly, we are not solely responsible. During an election year, they try to paint that we are so they can secure a leader that will continue to fund their research and secure their jobs. Carbon taxes would pump tons of money to those special interests, but would lead to economic depression for the majority given the current state of the economy. Then we would be burning wood, garbage, tires in a barrel to keep warm and survive.
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I'm pretty sure 8 billion people could accumulate quite a bit of CO2..

Not enough to "warm" the earth as much as it has the last 30-40 years... Part, no, Most of it is due to Mother Nature.
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Quoting FL1980:
Who cares about the polar ice.
Good question.

Here's a short list of answers for you to contemplate:

--Because there hasn't been this little Arctic ice in at least many tens of thousands of years. Anyone who's truly interested in climate or the other earth sciences should be deeply interested in that fact, regardless of how they feel about climate change.

--Humans are mostly to blame for the Arctic ice melt. Anyone who's truly interested in the future of the planet should be deeply interested in that fact, regardless of how they feel about climate change.

--The Arctic has melted out much more rapidly than scientists ever thought it could or would. Anyone who's truly interested in forecasting should be deeply interested in that fact, regardless of how they feel about climate change.

--The melting of Arctic sea ice will cause Greenland's ice sheet to melt. Anyone who lives on or near the coast--or who lives in a nation with a coastline, or who lives in a nation that does business with nations with coastlines--should be deeply interested in that fact, regardless of how they feel about climate change.

--The rapidly-changing Arctic is very likely to lead to both more extreme winters and summers. Anyone who's truly interested in weather or being comfortable or the price of insurance or food or fuel should be deeply interested in that fact, regardless of how they feel about climate change.

--The Arctic meltdown could--though it's far from certain whether it actually will--lead to a supermassive discharge of permafrost and subsea methane, and/or a shutdown in some ocean currents. Anyone who's truly interested in living or having children one day should be deeply interested in that fact, regardless of how they feel about climate change.

So to answer the question you asked--"Who cares about the polar ice?" Pretty much everyone alive, or who will be in the next several decades.
Quoting FL1980:
For all the evidence that we have about global warming, we have the same amount of evidence disputing it.
Really? Then you should release that evidence immediately! Climate scientists would love nothing more than to be proven wrong, so please don't withhold such vital information; the earth's future is as stake!

:\
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669. 7544
gfs shows all recurves
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
I want to know what is irrelevant about the images he posts? It is weather related and it's not only about his area, he always post warnings that are out for other areas. Seems courteous to others who might not realize they are under a storm.


I'm talking about the last week. There is no storm off SW FL. If someone wants radar or TV news graphics, they will look for them. Posting a link would be way less obnoxious than hitting F5 to refresh the thread and having to *reload* all those graphics over and over.

The admins would be wise to limit posts to links and a limited amount of text only except for other 'admins'.
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Looks like some rough weather going through portions of Illinois this morning.



Broken line of storms just went through Peoria, no warnings at this time.

Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
The scientists concluded that given the lack of evidence that natural forces were controlling sea ice fluctuations, the majority of sea ice decline we've seen during the 1953 - 2010 period was due to human causes.

Very scientific... they don't have proof, so just blame humans.

So are you saying to kill half of the human population so earth can regulate it's self or am I reading to much into your post?.

No, I'm not saying that.... it's wrong to do so. But, I'm pretty sure that if the world's population was just 2 billion, rather than 7billion, the earth wouldn't be so warm.
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Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
Were the Dark Ages just another long term 'cycle'? Maybe it's really related to cycles in the sun's output. After all, it's a dying star going through it's own life cycle.

Interesting...

what is disputed is whether or not humans are solely responsible.

I don't think we are... we couldn't have created that much C02... Mother Nature is at play.

I'm pretty sure 8 billion people could accumulate quite a bit of CO2..
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Quoting StormHype:


Just asking from some common courtesy. You *gag* the blog with all kinds of irrelevant embedded graphics, when a light weight link would suffice. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this complaint.


Oh boy that is rich YOU are asking for COMMON COURTESY!?! Put people on ignore if you don't like what they post please others don't feel the same as you and the rudeness is is what is gagging.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:

Try taking off the biased sunglasses. Look at the data as a whole.

Pot, meet kettle.

Maybe you should take your own advice?

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Were the Dark Ages just another long term 'cycle'? Maybe it's really related to cycles in the sun's output. After all, it's a dying star going through it's own life cycle.

Interesting...

what is disputed is whether or not humans are solely responsible.

I don't think we are... we couldn't have created that much C02... Mother Nature is at play.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
So are you saying to kill half of the human population so earth can regulate it's self or am I reading to much into your post?.

BTW when the dinosaurs were around it was 60-75% hotter than it is now.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The wave off the West Coast of Africa is developed by the models in 3 days or so.


GFS shows the steering currents over the US in 10 days or so are somewhat ominous for us land lubbers. Big high pushing things west if they get into the Leeward Islands.
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Aussie - It was a reference to US football which is now in season, common football references used to suggest we are near the half way point in the hurricane season and its time to head up the stadium stairs for a snack and some refreshement before the second half of the season starts. So go grab your beer and comeback to see what gonna happen.
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Quoting StormHype:


Just asking from some common courtesy. You *gag* the blog with all kinds of irrelevant embedded graphics, when a light weight link would suffice. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this complaint.
I want to know what is irrelevant about the images he posts? It is weather related and it's not only about his area, he always post warnings that are out for other areas. Seems courteous to others who might not realize they are under a storm.
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Good morning everyone and TGIF! We have some rain moving in off of the Gulf to Madeira Beach this morning.

a href="Photobucket" target="_blank">
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We might have too much C02 on the planet... but that's caused by having too many people. Even if we didn't have cars and were burning gasoline the world would be warming. We make too many homes and save "too many" lives. We're not letting the earth regulate itself, and run its own cycles.

Besides, the earth was warmer before. Even with our massive "warming", the earth is believed to have been much warmer than this before humans, and even as recently as the Middle Ages. We've had Ice Ages as well. That creates a certain average global temp. To maintain that average, we'll have to have warm spells and cold spells. We're not gonna keep the nice perfect avg. temperature, no matter how much we try.
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Quoting NewEnglandExpress:
Way to much hype over the past years. I wonder back in the early 1900's if their were 25 storm seasons. Who can say we did not?
Models have been all over the place this year! hurricane forcasting the same ,unless the storm is 100 miles from shore then they are right on.
That would sure give us plenty of time to prepare, don't you think? Models are usually all over the place when steering is complex like for example Debby, most had her going to Texas under the Central Plains aka Sonoran High, while the GFS had a weakness over the Eastern Gulf between that high and the Bermuda High.
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting washingtonian115:
Seems like the future storm tht is suppose to start developing has had it's time frame pushed back by the models?.

The wave off the West Coast of Africa is developed by the models in 3 days or so.
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Seems like the future storm tht is suppose to start developing has had it's time frame pushed back by the models?.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:

Refresh the page, Hype.


Yeah, I see it. I must have caught it in transition.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The GFS correctly forecasted the track of Leslie two week before it even developed, which would not have been possible several decades ago.

Correct and the models are only getting better. I have to go to school, bye everyone.
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Quoting LargoFl:
you post what YOU want, I will post what I want, thats the second time for you, on the list you go..poof


Just asking from some common courtesy. You *gag* the blog with all kinds of irrelevant embedded graphics, when a light weight link would suffice. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this complaint.
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Quoting NewEnglandExpress:
Way to much hype over the past years. I wonder back in the early 1900's if their were 25 storm seasons. Who can say we did not?
Models have been all over the place this year! hurricane forcasting the same ,unless the storm is 100 miles from shore then they are right on.

The GFS correctly forecast the track of Leslie two weeks before it even developed, which would not have been possible several decades ago.
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Way to much hype over the past years. I wonder back in the early 1900's if their were 25 storm seasons. Who can say we did not?
Models have been all over the place this year! hurricane forcasting the same ,unless the storm is 100 miles from shore then they are right on.
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Quoting stoormfury:
Let know one be fooled by the lack of tropical activity in the MDR. Also one must not engaged into a sense of false security that all disturbances coming from the EATL will recurve. At the moment Leslie and Michael have created weakness in the STR which are allowing the systems to move north and away from land. That will change as soon as the LESLIE and Michael depart the area and the ridge rebuilds, allowing the system from the eatl to proceed on a w to wnw track. we will see that with the two systems to come offthe coast of Africa. The 1st which comes off at 15n will track west to 50w before going north of the islands and recurves out to sea. The 2nd is at 10n and tracks west all the way ,and could be a threat to the lesser antilles in 12 days time. we have enough time to watch this scenario.
exactly
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642. MahFL
Convection is firing a bit again on 90L. JAX NWS says we might get 3 inches of rain this weekend.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

You do?



Yeah, that was weird. It may have been for a brief moment when I refreshed at 7:55am. It was definitely gone, then, but now I see it back. Could have been I just caught it when they were updating their graphics.
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There is indisputable evidence that the globe is warming, but what is disputed is whether or not humans are solely responsible. Look at the strong correlation between CO2 and surface temperatures. There has never been such a dramatic increase in CO2 over such a short period of time (industrialization/cars/etc), and this massive increase is almost certainly having an effect on global climate.
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Quoting schistkicker:


Could I see some of this "same amount of evidence" that disputes global warming? I haven't seen much of it, but there must be a HUGE amount of this evidence if it stacks up equally against the direct temperature records, ice core data, ocean chemistry data, solar output data, atmospheric chemistry data, everything we know about the principles of thermodynamics... You _do_ have some, right?


Oh, c'mon!!! Evidence is not really necessary. Rhetoric is sufficient...
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Well it looks like the wave train stays active. And I see people telling other people what and what not to post. As long as it is on topic and weather related I don't care you can post a gazillion images if you like, I have no problem with it. If you don't like what that user post then just ignore him/her.

06z GFS Loop
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
Quoting FL1980:
Who cares about the polar ice. It is called cycles. Global Warming is just an agenda to line pockets. For all the evidence that we have about global warming, we have the same amount of evidence disputing it. Way to many sheep on this blog.


One thing I'd like to see a root post about is the 500 years of the Dark Ages when temps were about 3.5 degrees C below average (10 degrees F).

Climate Summary of the Dark Ages:
Link

No evidence that Dark Ages caused by volcano:
Link

Were the Dark Ages just another long term 'cycle'? Maybe it's really related to cycles in the sun's output. After all, it's a dying star going through it's own life cycle.
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Quoting msphar:
I know its not halftime yet, but are we at least at the 2 minute warning ?

um.... what!!!!
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15937
634. mod4
Quoting schistkicker:


Could I see some of this "same amount of evidence" that disputes global warming? I haven't seen much of it, but there must be a HUGE amount of this evidence if it stacks up equally against the direct temperature records, ice core data, ocean chemistry data, solar output data, atmospheric chemistry data, everything we know about the principles of thermodynamics... You _do_ have some, right?


I am among those who feel we don't have a large enough sample of past weather to accurately predict what global temps are doing or not doing. I'm not pro or anti global warming, I just don't think we can prove or disprove it based on the sample size ....
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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.