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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I'm intrigued to see how this will ultimately play out as I'm not sold on a recurve yet, here is 2 of the southern outliers from the 12z GFS ensemble members:





Note the weaker trough.
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NO, WOW BIG Snow for CHICAGO!!!

Quoting lottotexas:
NO; check out that trough

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18Z remains depressing
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
324 hrs. strengthens as it heads north:

that is an old run
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Check out that trough!

NO; check out that trough

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test
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Thx!:)
Quoting psuweathernewbie1:
Post 84, that is an amazingly beautiful picture of a severe thunderstorm.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
324 hrs. strengthens as it heads north:


So there is a strengthening storm and a trough over the Great Lakes, how cool would I get if that happened?
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Check out that trough!

Insane!.Reminds me of late September and early October.
Quoting VR46L:


Sensible Lady Wash , I wish I could say the same ... but I tended always to take risks and usually there is a price to pay .
My family has had strokes and heart attacks in the past and they weren't even smokers.So the doc's didn't have to tell me twice to "not pick up a cigarette".
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Quoting FatPenguin:

Those areas also experienced an extremely warm late spring, just like large portions of the US and Canada.

Link

"Sunday, Moscow reached 28.6 C (83.5 F), for the highest temperature ever measured in the month of April, the Hurriyet Daily News website said. The earlier high mark was 28 C, registered on April 24, 1950.
Moscow has 130 years of weather records, the report said."

Anyone checking your facts? Or are you not concerned with fact checking?


When did April become part of winter? You need to cool it.
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starts a recurve out too open sea
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
348 hours:

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Quoting FatPenguin:

Those areas also experienced an extremely warm spring after the early record warmth, just like large portions of the US and Canada.

Anyone checking your facts? Or are you not concerned with fact checking?


By East Asia, I use eastern China and Korea as the analog. This represents the bulk of east Asian population at the latitudes being discussed. I was living in China during the entirety of this time and monitoring the conditions in cities from Guangzhou to Haerbin. February and March were particularly cold and wet in all of eastern China.

For Western Europe, I am relying on anecdotal evidence and new stories from places like Britain, France, and the Netherlands. I believe it was also colder than average in the Balkans.

Please note that I am only responding to a request for feedback from an earlier poster and that I consider winter to be December 21 to approximately March 21.
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324 hrs. strengthens as it heads north:

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Check out that trough!

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Post 84, that is an amazingly beautiful picture of a severe thunderstorm.
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240 hrs.

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Quoting ClimateChange:
Dr. Masters or anyone else who can answer,

If less sea ice is causing more and stronger arctic cyclones, doesn't this directly contradict the "warm arctic, cold continent" hypothesis suggested by some scientists? I looked back to your post from December 2010 and it suggested less sea ice would lead to higher pressure over the arctic. But it seems there is evidence suggesting pressures have been lowering in that region, which would favor deeper Aleutian and Icelandic lows in the mean. As these lows deepen, the pressure gradient between them and subtropical high pressure (such as the Azores high in the case of the Atlantic) steepens leading to greater westerlies in the mid-latitude. These westerlies bring warm, moist oceanic air to the continents and limit intrusions of arctic air. This was evident last winter where an anomalously deep Aleutian low was seemingly present all winter long. Here, in the U.S., it was one of the mildest winters of record.

I ask this because the reference you posted above was from 2003, and it antedates the "warm arctic, cold continent" hypothesis which is of more recent vintage. That hypothesis only came into vogue recently after the chilly and very snowy eastern US winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11. Prior to this, it was thought that arctic amplification was causing a NAO/ AO configuration as both had been trending up. It was also thought that this was the case during the Pliocene warm period, which explained why European winters are thought to have been so mild and wet during that time.
The arctic is warming faster than any other region of the globe. With the pole warmer, the temperature gradient between the polar region and subtropics becomes weaker. This puts us under a more negative AO scheme as the AO describes the pressure gradient between the poles and the midlatitutdes. So when the pressure gradient is weaker we see more amplification of the jet, which favors more polar air intrusions over the continents. That is where the "warm arctic, cold continents" saying comes from.

As Dr. Masters mentions in his post, the reason storms over the poles and arctic regions may be intensifying is because there is more open ocean, as opposed to sea ice. The ocean provides much more moisture and warmth for storms too deepen, whereas sea ice provides little to no moisture, and cooler temperatures. Thus, while we should see weaker extratropical storms overall as a result of a weaker pressure gradient produced by the Arctic warming, the Arctic region itself may experience stronger storms because of the greater moisture and heat availability for storms in that area (since previously there would have been ice).
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204 hrs.

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.
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112. VR46L
Quoting washingtonian115:
Lol.I'm surprised they have any brain cells at all left.Smoking can do real damage to your body which is why I've stayed far far away from it.


Sensible Lady Wash , I wish I could say the same ... but I tended always to take risks and usually there is a price to pay .
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WPB!! From me
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Quoting FatPenguin:


the fact this person even admitted this should lop off another 15.
Lol.I'm surprised they have any brain cells at all left.Smoking can do real damage to your body which is why I've stayed far far away from it.
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Quoting LesBonsTemps:


But equivalent latitudes in western Europe and east Asia experienced unusually cold winters.

Those areas also experienced an extremely warm late spring, just like large portions of the US and Canada.

Link

"Sunday, Moscow reached 28.6 C (83.5 F), for the highest temperature ever measured in the month of April, the Hurriyet Daily News website said. The earlier high mark was 28 C, registered on April 24, 1950.
Moscow has 130 years of weather records, the report said."

Anyone checking your facts? Or are you not concerned with fact checking?
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Quoting LesBonsTemps:


But equivalent latitudes in western Europe and east Asia experienced unusually cold winters.


Well only for part of the winter, and not necessarily due to the proposed mechanism. The NAO was the most positive on record in December 2011.
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Since my last mapping
5Sept.12pm's 25.6n62.8w has been re-evaluated&altered
6Sept.06pm's 25.5n62.8w - 25.8n62.7w - 26.1n62.5w - 26.2n62.4w - 26.3n62.4w- 26.5n62.2w are now the most recent positions
(Straightline projections and daily-average travel-speeds have been corrected for this mapping)
Derived from NHC_ATCF data for HurricaneLeslie for 6Sept06pmGMT
All times in GMT. BDA is Bermuda
The southernmost kinked line traces Leslie's path on its 5th day as a NamedStorm
The middle kinked line traces Leslie's path on its 6th day
The top kinked line traces Leslie's path on its 7th day
5th day: Leslie traveled 88miles(141kilometres) @ 3.65mph(5.88km/h)
6th day: Leslie traveled 53miles(086kilometres) @ 2.22mph(3.58km/h)
7th day: Leslie traveled 62miles(100kilometres) @ 2.58mph(4.15km/h)
The southernmost dot on the longest line is H.Leslie's most recently reported position

The longest line is a straightline projection through H.Leslie's 2 most recent positions to it's closest approach to Bermuda
5Sept.06pm: H.Leslie had been headed for passage 240miles(467kilometres)ESE of Bermuda
6Sept.12am: H.Leslie had been headed for passage 331miles(532kilometres)ESEast of Bermuda
6Sept.06am: H.Leslie had been headed for passage 383miles(616kilometres)SEast of Bermuda (bottom,left,eastmost-blob)
6Sept.12pm:H.Leslie had been headed for passage131miles(212kilometres)East of Bermuda
6Sept.06pm: H.Leslie was heading for passage 378miles(609kilometres)SEast of Bermuda (top,right,eastmost-blob)

Copy&paste 32.281n64.887w-bda-32.368n64.647w, 25.5n62.8w-25.8n62.7w, 25.5n62.8w-31.363n60.736w, 32.368n64.647w-31.363n60.736w, 25.8n62.7w-26.1n62.5w, 25.8n62.7w-29.887n59.866w, 32.368n64.647w-29.887n59.866w, 26.1n62.5w-26.2n62.4w, 26.1n62.5w-28.646n59.877w, 32.368n64.647w-28.646n59.877w, 26.2n62.4w-26.3n62.4w, 26.2n62.4w-32.388n62.4w, 32.368n64.647w-32.388n62.4w, 26.3n62.4w-26.5n62.2w, 26.3n62.4w-28.697n59.931w, 32.368n64.647w-28.697n59.931w into the GreatCircleMapper for a full tree*mapping of the past 30hours and other information
The previous mapping for comparison

* I don't like "pulling rabbits out of the hat"
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Quoting RTSplayer:


Minus one standard deviation(15) from I.Q. score, with a top cap of 75.


the fact this person even admitted this should lop off another 15.
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105. VR46L
Quoting Neapolitan:
Then again, the Republic of Ireland covers a whopping 0.0135% of the earth's surface, so it's kind of a stretch to extrapolate what happens there to the entire globe, don't you think?


Well it is a fact that at least one part of the world is not going through GW and its an official government agency in a country that does not need to cover the facts either way as it does not depend on oil ,gas or manufacturing industry and has alot of environmental laws... and I imagine the UK , Norway and Iceland will have similar results...and btw there is no reason to be rude about the Republic of Ireland just because it has issued truthful results about this summer
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Quoting ClimateChange:
Dr. Masters or anyone else who can answer,

If less sea ice is causing more and stronger arctic cyclones, doesn't this directly contradict the "warm arctic, cold continent" hypothesis suggested by some scientists? I looked back to your post from December 2010 and it suggested less sea ice would lead to higher pressure over the arctic. But it seems there is evidence suggesting pressures have been lowering in that region, which would favor deeper Aleutian and Icelandic lows in the mean. As these lows deepen, the pressure gradient between them and subtropical high pressure (such as the Azores high in the case of the Atlantic) steepens leading to greater westerlies in the mid-latitude. These westerlies bring warm, moist oceanic air to the continents and limit intrusions of arctic air. This was evident last winter where an anomalously deep Aleutian low was seemingly present all winter long. Here, in the U.S., it was one of the mildest winters of record.


But equivalent latitudes in western Europe and east Asia experienced colder than normal winters.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Dr. Masters or anyone else who can answer,

If less sea ice is causing more and stronger arctic cyclones, doesn't this directly contradict the "warm arctic, cold continent" hypothesis suggested by some scientists? I looked back to your post from December 2010 and it suggested less sea ice would lead to higher pressure over the arctic. But it seems there is evidence suggesting pressures have been lowering in that region, which would favor deeper Aleutian and Icelandic lows in the mean. As these lows deepen, the pressure gradient between them and subtropical high pressure (such as the Azores high in the case of the Atlantic) steepens leading to greater westerlies in the mid-latitude. These westerlies bring warm, moist oceanic air to the continents and limit intrusions of arctic air. This was evident last winter where an anomalously deep Aleutian low was seemingly present all winter long. Here, in the U.S., it was one of the mildest winters of record.

I ask this because the reference you posted above was from 2003, and it antedates the "warm arctic, cold continent" hypothesis which is of more recent vintage. That hypothesis only came into vogue recently after the chilly and very snowy eastern US winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11. Prior to this, it was thought that arctic amplification was causing a NAO/ AO configuration as both had been trending up. It was also thought that this was the case during the Pliocene warm period, which explained why European winters are thought to have been so mild and wet during that time.
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Quoting RTSplayer:


Minus one standard deviation(15) from I.Q. score, with a top cap of 75.


143

6 Sigma Black Belt

Guess what you can do with the standard deviation of 15? Painful number going in sideways, I imagine.

Keep working at your Green Belt.
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Quoting txjac:


Stupid question ...much a chance of what? Becoming more than it is? If it doesnt get stronger will it still be pulled to the NE?

Modify - can you tell that I am hoping that it drifts my way? Would love the rain here in Houston

Sorry for the delayed response- yes, I don't think it will become much more than a sheared blob, I don't see a TD or TS out of it... I don't think it's heading for Houston either way though.

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final 144 hr

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
When you really think about it, they shouldn't go off of Named storms to determine if a season is active or not. They should go by Hurricanes.

If you really wanted you could create a scale of number of hurricanes to determine if it was an active season or not.

Scale-
>1 Hurricane = Inactive
2-4 Hurricanes = Below average
5-6 Hurricanes = Average
7-10 Hurricanes = Above Average
11< Hurricanes = Hyperactive


Example-
2004: 8 Hurricanes(Above Average)
2005: 15 Hurricanes(Hyperactive)
2006: 5 Hurricanes(Average)
2007: 5 Hurricanes(Average)
2008: 8 Hurricanes(Above Average)
2009: 3 Hurricanes(Below Average)
2010: 12 Hurricanes(Hyperactive)
2011: 7 Hurricanes(Above Average)
2012: 7 (or More)-(Above Average) or Possibly (Hyperactive)
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
They have it going up to TS at 96HR!!

so dat would be nadine
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Thanks

In case you are interested, here is the link to the entire reanalysis project.

The Atlantic Hurricane Database Re-analysis Project
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Quoting VR46L:
Here is a report of the weather in Republic of Ireland this past summer it was unprecedently cold wet and dull... Sounds like Global warming to me .....
Then again, the Republic of Ireland covers a minuscule 0.0135% of the earth's surface, so it's kind of a stretch to extrapolate what happens there to the entire globe, don't you think? The fact is, most of Europe and western Asia--along with the US--have been extraordinarily hot all year, save for a two-week cold blast back in February.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

nadine and oscar
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They have it going up to TS at 96HR!!
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Quoting Inyo:


No, the record goes back 1450 years so they know it's the lowest in at least that time. There's no evidence it was that low 1450 years either.

And i think anyone who is paying attention and not being intentionally or ignorantly obtuse knows that both natural and human factors affect the climate, that it is relatively fickle, and that it is not constant for very long.

good thinking
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
91. Inyo
Quoting flibinite:
Good blog article, Jeff and Angela, but you lost me right at the very end. First, you say this...

"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."

Then you end the article with this...

"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."

So, were "humans" somehow responsible for what happened 1,450 years ago, too?

Maybe humans are responsible for most of the currently apparent global warming... I'm not dogmatic that we're not. But I think, considering how much we don't know about climate fluctuations, that the jury is still out, and I hate to see any scientist definitively stating that such things as recent Arctic icemelts are a direct result of human activities on this planet.

Jo


No, the record goes back 1450 years so they know it's the lowest in at least that time. There's no evidence it was that low 1450 years either.

And i think anyone who is paying attention and not being intentionally or ignorantly obtuse knows that both natural and human factors affect the climate, that it is relatively fickle, and that it is not constant for very long.
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Here is a report of the weather in Republic of Ireland this past summer it was unprecedently cold wet and dull... Sounds like Global warming to me .....

Link
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=
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Has anyone heard how Patrap is doing? Did they move into the hotel?
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Quoting jascott1967:


Fear mongering liberals terrify me.

Yes, smoking will give us cancer, drinking will cause liver failure, red meat will clog arteries, the sun causes skin cancer...tell us something we don't know.

One of the reasons I smoked as long as I did was partly because people tried to beat me up over it.

You need to start working on the drinking thing now!
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From today!!!
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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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