Damaging Katrina-level storm surges are twice as likely in warm years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:22 PM GMT on November 26, 2012

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Perhaps the most stunning images in the wake of Hurricane Sandy were the sight of the roller coaster from the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey lying in the Atlantic Ocean. The images reminded us that hurricane storm surges are capable of causing tremendous destruction along the coast, and one of the main concerns on how global warming might affect hurricanes is the potential for stronger hurricanes to create larger storm surges. We expect that global warming should make the strongest hurricanes stronger, since hurricanes are heat engines that take heat energy out of the ocean and converts it to wind energy. These stronger winds will be capable of piling up higher storm surges. However, it is controversial whether or not we have observed an increase in the strongest hurricanes, since hurricane winds are hard to observe. Our long-term hurricane data base is generally too low in quality and covers too short a period of time to make very good estimates of how climate change may be affecting hurricane winds. However, a new 2012 paper, "Homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923" by Grinsted et al., looked at storm surge data from six tide gauges along the U.S. coast from Texas to New Jersey, and concluded that the number of moderately large hurricane and tropical storm surge events has increased since 1923. Moderately large storm surge events are on pace to nearly double by the year 2100, compared to 20th century levels. Moreover, 1-in-9 year to 1-in-30 year Katrina-level storm surge events are twice as likely to occur in warm years compared to cool years, and thus global warming may be able to dramatically increase the frequency of highly damaging extreme storm surge events. Since sea level is steadily rising due to global warming, these future storm surges will also be riding in on top of an elevated ocean surface, and will thus be able to do even greater damage than in the past. Expect to see many more shocking storm surge damage photos in the coming decades, unless we wise up, retreat from areas highly vulnerable to storm surge, and invest in increased shoreline protection measures.


Figure 1. The Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. taken during a search and rescue mission by 1-150 Assault Helicopter Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard on Oct. 30, 2012. Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen.


Figure 2. Top: Observed long-term frequency of moderately large storm surge events from hurricanes and tropical storms measured at six tide gauges along the U.S. East Coast (inset map). The thick line is a 5-year moving average. These type of surge events occurred an average of 5.4 times/year between 1923 - 2008, and are on pace to increase to 9.5 events per year by 2100. Bottom: Departure of Earth's annual mean surface temperature from average, shaded to show warmer and colder than median temperatures. Large storm surge events increase in probability during warmer than average years. Image credit: Grinsted et al. 2012, "A homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923."

Using storm surge to evaluate damage normalization studies
Damage from landfalling storms can be used to estimate if hurricanes are growing stronger with time, but damage estimates must first be corrected to account for changes in wealth and population over time. A 2008 study by Pielke et al. found that although hurricane damages had been doubling every ten years in recent decades, there were no increases in normalized hurricane damages in the U.S. from 1900 - 2005. They used census and economic data to adjust for how increases in populations and wealth may have affected hurricane damages over time. However, Grinsted et al. (2012) questioned whether or not this was done correctly. They found that storm surge heights of U.S. hurricanes and tropical storms correlated very well with metrics that looked at storm intensity, when looking at many decades of data to see long-term trends. However, the researchers found that while short-term trends in normalized hurricane damage estimated by Pielke et al. (2008) did correlate well historical storm surges, these normalized damages had poor correlation with the storm surge record, when looking at decades-long time scales. This implies that the corrections were biased. Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia makes the case that efforts such as the one done by Pielke et al. (2008) to normalize disaster losses are probably biased too low, since they only look at factors that tend to increase disaster losses with time, but ignore factors that tend to decrease disaster losses. These ignored factors include improvements in building codes, better weather forecasts allowing more preparation time, and improved fire-fighting ability. He writes, "Most normalization research to date has not accounted for those variables because they are extremely difficult to quantify. (And most researchers have been at pains to point that out; e.g., Neumayer & Barthel, 2011, pp. 23-24.) In effect, normalization research to date largely rests on the oddly inconsistent pair of assumptions that (a) we have built up enormous wealth during the 20th century but (b) did so without any technological advance whatsoever." Grinsted et al. (2012) suggest that it may be possible to use their storm surge data to correct biased hurricane damage estimates, though. Take home message: studies showing no increase in normalized damage from storms have high uncertainty, and it is possible that higher economic damages due to stronger hurricanes are indeed occurring.

References
Grinsted, A., J. C. Moore, and S. Jevrejeva, 2012, "A homogeneous record of Atlantic hurricane surge threat since 1923," PNAS 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1209542109

Pielke et al., 2008, "Normalized Hurricane Damage in the United States: 1900–2005", Natural Hazards Review, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 29-42.

Links
In this remarkable home video, 15-year-old Christofer Sochacki captures the evening high tide on the day Superstorm Sandy struck Union Beach, New Jersey. The later part of the video shows how high waves on top of a 8-foot storm surge can lead to a punishing assault on beach-front structures.

Jeff Masters

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Everyone have a great Tuesday!
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Quoting indianrivguy:
wow... three and a half hours with no posts...

Good morning everyone!

Good evening if you are around Aussie!

Hey mate, I'm here.
I guess not much is going on. Just had another storm pass over, not as bad as last night. That time of year I guess. Next couple of days the heat is going to get turned up.


Summer starts here, December 1.
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378. yoboi
Quoting Naga5000:

Do you just keep denying science, or do you educate yourself? Bingo indeed, buddy.


not denying anything when are you going to put the bucket in your hand?
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2523
Good morning/evening everyone. A beautiful 57 degrees today here in my part of Louisiana. A big rainstorm last night, thought we'd missed the rain we were supposed to get yesterday.
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Good morning.

That Milau viaduct is awesome. The road is 890 feet above the valley floor and the bridge is over 8000 feet long. A monster. The bridges listed in Wikipedia are amazing, too.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6147
Good morning. The JTWC peak intensity is now up to 95kts.

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yeah, those arguments were especially silly. AGW must not be real because if it was we'd be building nukes by the dozen and all sorts of gummint money would be going towards solar panels? as if there are no other political and economic variables and considerations at all regarding where politicians throw money??

Quoting Xyrus2000:



If it were, ALL climate money would go directly to deep subsidies for solar panels, and it does not. Do the math: everyone could already have them already if the money “used” to date had been used for that purpose.


Apparently you haven't done the math. The science budget allocated for climate research represents about .002% of the national budget. That's one of the reasons why being a climate researcher is tough; competition for research dollars is extremely difficult.

Compare that to the oil subsidies dished out every year. If climate researchers really wanted to make money, they'd run head long for the nearest oil company and disavow AGW altogether.

Once again, your argument falls flat.

If it were, world governments would be building nuclear plants like crazy, and they are not. They produce no CO2 and the newer thorium-based systems are an order of magnitude safer than those built with early technology.


Thorium based reactors are still long ways off from being approved. Also, have you not been paying attention over the past few years? NIMBY rules. No one wants a nuke plant next to them. They also cost billions to build, and at least in the US, they haven't been all that profitable so there is not much incentive.


Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 719
wow... three and a half hours with no posts...

Good morning everyone!

Good evening if you are around Aussie!
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2605
Quoting Xyrus2000:


You're assuming increased water vapor means more clouds, which is an incorrect assumption. Clouds form when certain atmospheric conditions are present. If they aren't met, you get haze, humidity, but not clouds.

Also, given the short lifetime of water in the atmosphere, any negative feedback is extremely short-lived when compared to the long-term positve feedbacks induced by long lived GH gases like CO2.

The are a few reasons why a runaway effect won't happen on Earth, but increased water vapor isn't one of them. Increased water vapor on Venus is what likely triggered the runaway effect on Venus in the first place.


It's not me who's 'assuming'. It's standard teaching in climate science. Do you think the climate scientists are wrong?

Water vapour is such a powerful greenhouse gas, that if clouds didn't form and reflect back incoming solar radiation, there would be a runaway greenhouse effect like we see on Venus. The oceans would boil, and all life on Earth would cease to be.
Member Since: July 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2993
371. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #13
TROPICAL STORM BOPHA (T1224)
15:00 PM JST November 27 2012
=======================================

SUBJECT: Category One Typhoon Near Marshall Islands

At 6:00 AM UTC, Tropical Storm Bopha (1004 hPa) located at 4.4N 155.4E has 10 minute sustained winds of 35 knots with gusts of 50 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest slowly.

Dvorak Intensity: T2.5

Gale Force Winds
===============
150 NM from the center

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
24 HRS: 4.4N 153.8E - 45 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Storm) Chuuk region
48 HRS: 4.5N 150.8E - 55 knots (CAT 2/Severe Tropical Storm) Chuuk region
72 HRS: 4.9N 147.1E - 60 knots (CAT 2/Severe Tropical Storm) Caroline Island
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46527
Quoting yonzabam:


This happened on Venus. It won't happen on Earth because the increased water vapour results in increased cloud cover, and this is a negative feedback which stops the 'runaway greenhouse effect'.


You're assuming increased water vapor means more clouds, which is an incorrect assumption. Clouds form when certain atmospheric conditions are present. If they aren't met, you get haze, humidity, but not clouds.

Also, given the short lifetime of water in the atmosphere, any negative feedback is extremely short-lived when compared to the long-term positve feedbacks induced by long lived GH gases like CO2.

The are a few reasons why a runaway effect won't happen on Earth, but increased water vapor isn't one of them. Increased water vapor on Venus is what likely triggered the runaway effect on Venus in the first place.
Member Since: October 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1625
Quoting DoctorDave1:

Everything Dr. Masters publishes assumes that the warmth experienced recently is due to AGW. Therefore, the following.

Why AGW is not real:

In real science, theories are constantly being tested, but NO, regarding AGW, "the science is settled".


You obviously do not subscribe to any science research journals. Green house theory has been tested countless times since it was first postulated back in the 1800's. The thermal properties of green house gases similarly well tested, and are in fact relied upon for various manufacturing processes. New research is always taking place, and builds upon fundamental concepts in physics that are used in many other sciences as well.

You must be pretty naive to think this kind of argument would work here.


If the assertions (i.e. – polar bear population decrease) made by AGW advocates were true, they would be backed by hard data, and they are not.


Greenpeace, Al Gore, or whatever other scapegoat/strawman yo want to throw up are not climate science rsearchers. This has no bearing.


If it were, the prior predictions of global climate computer models based on CO2 would have been correct, and they were not. No one can deny this, but they do anyway.


Incoherent stringing together of non-related thoughts certainly don't do much to strengthen your argument. The ensembles run for reports like the IPCC have shown to be remarkably accurate in predicting the course of the climate. Combined with observational data, both surface and satellite, there is little room for doubt which way the climate is going, and why.

Also, climate models incorporate a lot more than just CO2. They inculde aerosols, solar modeling, cloud modeling, ice modeling. Coupled models are incredibly complex.


If it were, ALL climate money would go directly to deep subsidies for solar panels, and it does not. Do the math: everyone could already have them already if the money “used” to date had been used for that purpose.


Apparently you haven't done the math. The science budget allocated for climate research represents about .002% of the national budget. That's one of the reasons why being a climate researcher is tough; competition for research dollars is extremely difficult.

Compare that to the oil subsidies dished out every year. If climate researchers really wanted to make money, they'd run head long for the nearest oil company and disavow AGW altogether.

Once again, your argument falls flat.

If it were, world governments would be building nuclear plants like crazy, and they are not. They produce no CO2 and the newer thorium-based systems are an order of magnitude safer than those built with early technology.


Thorium based reactors are still long ways off from being approved. Also, have you not been paying attention over the past few years? NIMBY rules. No one wants a nuke plant next to them. They also cost billions to build, and at least in the US, they haven't been all that profitable so there is not much incentive.

Climate science research goes on (http://bit.ly/SOYJpi ), but to deaf ears of those who are eager to profit from it.


What? I don't even...

Before making statements like this, check out the profit reports from the fossil fuel industry, then compare that the science budgets for climate research. Take wild guess where one would make more money.
Member Since: October 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1625
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


1.5 degrees is about 100 miles...so the storm size must have been much smaller accordingly


Yep.

Here is the satellite image of Vamei with latitudes and longitudes.

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Quoting txjac:
From Zyrus

Your casual dismissal of the consequences that a changing climate will have on humans is, quite frankly, naive. A 1C change up or down has a significant impact. For example, the last ice age was only a -1.5 to -2C change in global average temperature.
Somehow my mind has a hard time understanding this. I guess thats because I think about backing a cake at 352 degrees instead of 350??


You need to understand the amount of energy a 1C or 2C temperature change globally means. It is a HUGE change in planetary energy. Where talking about heating the troposphere over the surface area of the Earth by 2C.

A 2C decrease in global average temperature represents a HUGE decrease in planetary energy, enough to have snow and ice around all year in the northern US regions. As an example, the infamous "year without summer" in the 1800's after the Pinatubo eruption only dropped northern hemispheric temperatures between .4C to .7C and that was enough to destroy the growing season that year. It snowed in June in the US that year and frosts decimated crops. River ice was reported in Pennsylvania in August.

Right now we have about a .6C increase in planetary temperature, and we're already seeing the effects, especially in the northern latitudes, where the sea ice is vanishing and permafrost is becoming temp-a-frost.
Member Since: October 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1625
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
weather.com has a topic on the most amazing bridges in the world...and I think this is one of the best...

extremely high up. Over 4,000' high



Millau Viaduct: Tran Valley, France


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Quoting Civicane49:


No. It was located north of the equator throughout its lifetime. It formed and became a tropical storm at 1.5 N.


1.5 degrees is about 100 miles...so the storm size must have been much smaller accordingly
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


was half of its circulation on the other side of the equator?


No. It was located north of the equator throughout its lifetime. It formed and became a tropical storm at 1.5 N.
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Quoting yoboi:



bingo...

Do you just keep denying science, or do you educate yourself? Bingo indeed, buddy.
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Quoting Civicane49:


Tropical Storm Vamei of 2001 developed close to the equator.


was half of its circulation on the other side of the equator?
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weather.com has a topic on the most amazing bridges in the world...and I think this is one of the best...

extremely high up. Over 4,000' high

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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
'

I don't remember of another wpac storm so close to the equator and so far east


Tropical Storm Vamei of 2001 developed close to the equator.
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359. Skyepony (Mod)
TRMM of BOPHA when it was 26W. Fairly shallow. Click pic for loop.
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Quoting KoritheMan:
As Cody suggested, I have put all my TCRs in separate blog entries. Much more practical than just posting them here only to have them disappear the next day. Here is a conglomeration of all the ones I've done (PDF renditions for each will be added later):

Alberto

Beryl

Chris

Debby

Ernesto

Again, these are far from complete. A "best track" will be added in the complete versions, as will the accompanying six hour intensity, position, and pressure estimates. Just trying to get the meat of them out of the way first.

I said something on your first Ernesto TCR blog about posting all of them, but of course you removed it. I think it was a little after what Cody said but I forget. Oh and thanks for posting all of the TCR's you have finished on your own separate blogs.
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Quoting Civicane49:
'

I don't remember of another wpac storm so close to the equator and so far east
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Quoting VaStormGuy:


Latest NAM snow forecast... DC snow hole :(

?
can you tell me about the scale for snowfall
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As Cody suggested, I have put all my TCRs in separate blog entries. Much more practical than just posting them here only to have them disappear the next day. Here is a conglomeration of all the ones I've done (PDF renditions for each will be added later):

Alberto

Beryl

Chris

Debby

Ernesto

Again, these are far from complete. A "best track" will be added in the complete versions, as will the accompanying six hour intensity, position, and pressure estimates. Just trying to get the meat of them out of the way first.
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354. whitewabit (Mod)
Quoting Civicane49:


I see. I wonder if they can fix that problem.


Don't know if they could or if they want to .. here in central Il I usually use Nexrad or the site at the NWS in Peoria .. and then look outside .. just to be sure ..
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Quoting whitewabit:


Yes they are, this time of year it seems to get worse .. some of them don't seem to do well with freezing temps aloft ..


I see. I wonder if they can fix that problem.
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352. whitewabit (Mod)
Quoting Civicane49:


The NWS radar is showing your area little or no precipitation. I guess some radars are deceiving.


Yes they are, this time of year it seems to get worse .. some of them don't seem to do well with freezing temps aloft ..
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Quoting whitewabit:


Nice move but that is not the same map as you first posted ..

Edit : thats why I said it was deceiving


The NWS radar is showing your area little or no precipitation. I guess few radars might be deceiving by being slightly outdated.
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350. whitewabit (Mod)
Quoting Civicane49:


Well, few areas in Illinois is showing precipitation on this radar.



Nice move but that is not the same map as you first posted ..

Edit : thats why I said it was deceiving
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Quoting whitewabit:


That map is deceiving as none of the precip showing over Illinois is hitting the ground ..


Probably that radar I first posted has an error or slightly old. Here is the NWS radar.

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348. whitewabit (Mod)
Quoting Civicane49:


That map is deceiving as none of the precip showing over Illinois is hitting the ground ..
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347. txjac
Quoting Civicane49:


Please don't let it miss me ...
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Latest NAM snow forecast... DC snow hole :(
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.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:
Coming into view



Storms enter stage left
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TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
for DAMAGING WIND, LARGE HAILSTONES and HEAVY RAINFALL
For people in the Central West Slopes and Plains, South West Slopes, Riverina, Upper Western, Snowy Mountains, Australian Capital Territory and parts of the South Coast, Southern Tablelands and Lower Western Forecast Districts.
Issued at 1:55 pm Tuesday, 27 November 2012.
Severe thunderstorms are likely to produce damaging winds, large hailstones and heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding in the warning area over the next several hours. Locations which may be affected include Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Albury, Deniliquin, Griffith, Hay, Tibooburra, Cobar and Bourke.
The State Emergency Service advises that people should:
* Move your car under cover or away from trees.
* Secure or put away loose items around your house, yard and balcony.
* Keep clear of fallen power lines.
* Keep clear of creeks and storm drains.
* Don't walk, ride your bike or drive through flood water.
* If you are trapped by flash flooding, seek refuge in the highest available place and ring 000 if you need rescue.
* Unplug computers and appliances.
* Avoid using the phone during the storm.
* Stay indoors away from windows, and keep children and pets indoors as well.
* For emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES (NSW and ACT) on 132 500.
The next warning is due to be issued by 4:55 pm.
If severe thunderstorms develop in Canberra and Queanbeyan, a more detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warning will be issued to people in this area.

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Coming into view

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NOAA Hurricane Hunters participated in the pre-game festivities in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game yesterday.

Downtown Tampa in the background. NOAA P-3: NOAA42 trailing NOAA G-IV: during the Buccaneers flyover.


TampaBay Sunshine Skyway Bridge as the NOAA Hurricane Hunters line up for the Buccaneers flyover.


NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft conduct the flyover at the Buccaneers game. 11/25/12. G-IV NOAA49 leading P-3 NOAA42
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Interesting storms in the south tonight
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Might get some rain out of this frontal passage. Hopefully nothing severe.

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With Bopha the Wpac has produced 24 storms not bad but not like the Wpac of before.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Oh, so I can't breathe and type at the same time. I don't know that...thanks!

Fact of the day! I meant major stuff, way to state the obvious.
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Quoting wxgeek723:


Exactly. So now you know.


Not really. Even if it is a difference in geographical vernacular, I think it's an important distinction to make. That's like calling Kentucky part of the south.
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Quoting Allan012:


I bet you can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

You know what I mean, you can't do two major tasks at the same time.
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The Time Magazine Person of the Year poll started today, voting runs through the 12th I think...
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Quoting wxchaser97:

But it has been proven that you can't really multitask. I am going back and forth between HW and WU.

Oh, so I can't breathe and type at the same time. I don't know that...thanks!
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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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