Top Ten Global Weather Events of 2012

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:34 PM GMT on January 11, 2013

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It was another year of incredible weather extremes globally during 2012. The year featured two of the most expensive weather disasters in world history--Hurricane Sandy and the Great U.S. Drought of 2012, which will both cost more than $50 billion. Thankfully, no disasters had a death toll in excess of 2,000, though the 1,901 people dead or missing due to Super Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines may rank as that nation's 2nd deadliest typhoon ever. Twenty-six weather disasters costing at least $1 billion occurred globally, according to insurance broker AON Benfield. Eleven billion-dollar weather disasters hit the U.S., a figure exceeded only by the fourteen such disasters in 2011. Nine billion-dollar weather disasters hit China, their highest total in a decade of record-keeping. I present for you, now, the top ten global weather stories of 2012, chosen for their meteorological significance and human and economic impact:



1) New Record Minimum for Arctic Sea Ice (September 16)
Sea ice extent in the Arctic fell to 3.41 million square kilometers on September 16, breaking the previous all-time low set in 2007 by 18%--despite the fact that 2012's Arctic weather was much cloudier and cooler than in 2007. Nearly half (49%) of the icecap was gone during 2012s minimum, compared to the average minimum for the years 1979 - 2000. This is an area approximately 43% of the size of the contiguous United States. And, for the fifth consecutive year--and fifth time in recorded history--ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage or Northern Sea Route.) "We are now in uncharted territory," said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze. "While we've long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur. While lots of people talk about opening of the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic islands and the Northern Sea Route along the Russian coast, twenty years from now from now in August you might be able to take a ship right across the Arctic Ocean." 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 fall 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 that is causes increased melting in Greenland, contributing to sea level rise.


Figure 1. A sunny, slushy day near the North Pole on September 1, 2012. Webcam image courtesy of the North Pole Environmental Observatory. It won't be many years before Santa's workshop needs pontoons in the summer to stay afloat.

2) Agricultural Drought in the U.S., Europe, and Asia (Summer)
Drought is civilization's great enemy, and the most dangerous threat from global warming. Drought impacts the two things we need to live--food and water. When the rains stop and the soil dries up, cities die and civilizations collapse, as people abandon lands no longer able to supply them with the food and water they need to live. In a harbinger of things to come, severe droughts affected important agricultural regions across the globe during summer 2012, including eastern Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and central North America. Wheat, corn, and soybean crops were among those heavily impacted; global food prices rose by 10 percent during July. While it will be several months before the costs of America's worst drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl are known, the 2012 drought is expected to cut America's GDP by 0.5 - 1 percentage points, said Deutsche Bank Securities. Since the U.S. GDP is approximately $15 trillion, the drought of 2012 represents a $75 - $150 billion hit to the U.S. economy. This is in the same range as the estimate of $77 billion in costs for the drought, made by Purdue University economist Chris Hurt in August, and the Great U.S. Drought of 2012 is going to be one of the top-five most expensive weather disasters in world history.


Figure 2. Corn in Colby, Kansas withers in the Great Drought of 2012 on May 27. Image credit: Wunderphotographer treeman.

3) Superstorm Sandy (October 29)
Hurricane Sandy was the most powerful and second most destructive Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. Ten hours before landfall, at 9:30 am EDT October 29, the total energy of Sandy's winds of tropical storm-force and higher peaked at 329 terajoules--the highest value for any Atlantic hurricane since at least 1969, and equivalent to more than five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. At landfall, Sandy's tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been larger. Sandy's huge size prompted high wind warnings to be posted from Chicago to Eastern Maine, and from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Florida's Lake Okeechobee--an area home to 120 million people. Sandy's winds simultaneously caused damage to buildings on the shores of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore, and toppled power lines in Nova Scotia, Canada--locations 1200 miles apart! Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City, NJ on October 29, with sustained winds of 80 mph and a central minimum pressure of 946 mb--the lowest pressure on record along the Northeast coast. The Battery, in New York City Harbor, had an observed water level of 13.88 feet, besting the previous record set by Hurricane Donna in 1960 by 3 feet. Sandy's catastrophic storm surge was responsible for the majority of the 131 deaths and $62 billion in damage in the U.S. Sandy also brought torrential rainfall in excess of 12 inches to the mid-Atlantic, and blizzard conditions to the central and southern Appalachians. Sandy's late-season show of unprecedented strength, unusual track, and exceptionally damaging storm surge were made more likely due to climate change, and the storm helped bring more awareness and debate about the threat of climate change to the U.S. than any event since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


Figure 3. Hurricane Sandy at 10:10 am EDT October 28, 2012. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

4) Greenland Ice Sheet melt and Glacier Calving (July)
Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the Greenland ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. But during four consecutive days July 11 - 14, temperatures rose above freezing at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is 10,551 feet (3216 meters) above sea level and 415 miles (670 km) north of the Arctic Circle. Melting of the ice sheet dramatically accelerated, and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. This was the greatest melt since 1889, according to ice core records. On July 16, an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan calved from the Petermann Glacier in Northeast Greenland. This was the second huge ice island to calve from the glacier since 2010. The glacier's margins have now retreated to the farthest point in the last 150 years. The record melt in Greenland caused the highest loss of ice mass observed in the satellite era, and melting from Greenland is now thought to cause about 0.7 mm/year of global sea level rise, which is about 20 - 25% of the global total.


Figure 4. The massive 46 square-mile iceberg two times the size of Manhattan that calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier on July 16, 2012, as seen on July 21, 2012, using MODIS satellite imagery. Image credit: NASA.

5) Super Typhoon Bopha (December 3 - 4)
The deadliest weather disaster of 2012 was Super Typhoon Bopha. Bopha was the strongest typhoon ever hit the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, making landfall as a Category 5 super typhoon with winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) on December 3. Bopha made two additional landfalls in the Philippines, on central Visayas and on Palawan, on December 4. The typhoon left 1901 people dead or missing, mostly on the island of Mindanao. If the missing people are presumed dead, this total would make Bopha the 2nd deadliest typhoon in Philippine history. Bopha affected over 5.4 million people and left over 700,000 people homeless. With damages estimated at $1.04 billion, Bopha is the most costly typhoon ever to hit the Philippines. The previous record was the $600 million price tag of 2009's Typhoon Parma.


Figure 5. December 7, 2012: rescuers and residents look for missing victims amongst toppled tree trunks and coconut shells after flash floods caused by Super Typhoon Bopha hit Compostela Valley on Mindanao Island in the Philippines on December 3 - 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Jay Morales, Malacanang Photo Bureau, HO)

6) Northern Hemisphere Warmth (throughout 2012)
Land areas in the Northern Hemisphere reached record warm monthly values for four consecutive months (April - July). Much of the unusual warmth occurred in North America; Canada was 3rd warmest on record for the period January- September, and the United States had its warmest year on record. Many European countries and Russia had record to near-record warm summer temperatures in 2012.


Figure 6. This young lady chose to cool her heels in the Fox River on June 28, 2012, as the temperature was topping 102 degrees in Carpentersville, IL imag credit: wunderphotographer pjpix.

7) Eurasian Continent Cold Wave (January 24 - February 17)
Europe's worst cold snap in at least 26 years hit central and eastern Europe hard during a 3-week period in late January and the first half of February. The 824 deaths being blamed on the cold wave made it 2012's second deadliest weather disaster. Parts of the Danube River froze over for the first time in 25 years, and Northeast China through eastern Inner Mongolia recorded extremely cold minimum temperatures ranging between -30°C to -40°C.


Figure 7. Snow falls in Trogir, Croatia on February 3, 2012. Image credit: wunderphotographer antoniomise.

8) China Floods (July 21 - 22)
Torrential downpours on July 21 - 22 affected Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, with several stations recording their highest daily precipitation on record. Mentougou recorded an impressive 305.2 mm (12 inches) of precipitation in one day. The floods killed 129 people and did $4.8 billion in damage, one of a record nine billion-dollar weather disasters to affect China in 2012.


Figure 8. A Chinese man uses a signboard to signal motorists driving through flooded street following a heavy rain in Beijing Saturday, July 21, 2012. China's government says these were the heaviest rains to hit Beijing in six decades. The torrential downpour left low-lying streets flooded and knocked down trees. (AP Photo)

9) Pakistan Floods (August 21 - September 30)
Torrential monsoon rains caused deadly floods in Pakistan, with Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh provinces the hardest hit. Over 5 million people and over 400,000 hectares of crops were affected by the floods, with more than 460,000 houses and infrastructures damaged or destroyed. The death toll of 455 made it Earth's 3rd deadliest weather-related disaster of 2012.


Figure 9. A driver makes his way on a street flooded from heavy rain in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

10) African Floods (July - October)
Heavy rains in Nigeria killed at least 431, making it Earth's 4th deadliest weather disaster of 2012. Over 3 million people were affected by flooding across 15 countries in Africa, most notably Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, and Chad. The floods destroyed farmlands, homes, and schools, and caused outbreaks of cholera and other diseases.

Other Top Ten Weather Lists of 2012
My Top Ten U.S. Weather Events of 2012.

Wunderground's Angela Fritz's has a list of Top Climate Events of 2012.

A group of seventeen climate scientists and climate bloggers created a Climate Disruption: Critical 2012 Events and Stories list of 19 key climate change events that occurred in 2012.

TWC's Stu Ostro has his annual post showing his pick for top weather images of 2012.

Climate Central has a top-ten most striking images of 2012 post.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Jeff Masters

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Quoting goosegirl1:



She's just yanking on Keep's chain.


Personally, I doubt that Tomball is a girl.
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Quoting yonzabam:


What is 'faster and faster', Tomball? You keep posting that phrase. You posted it on the previous blog. Is it the speed with which comments are being posted?

If it is, why do you feel the need to comment on that? If not, maybe you could let us know what you're referring to.



She's just yanking on Keep's chain.
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Quoting dabirds:
Noticed the green this a.m. as well ILwthr, little under half inch here yesterday, we're 58 as well. StL must have cleared completely, jumped to 62, were only a degree ahead of us earlier.


Good to see you pick up a bit more rain than us. Hopefully that and some ground thaw will hold water levels steady for a bit. I noticed last night that the concentration of showers was more heavy in the St. Louis area than any other area that I could gage. Models over did the QPF a bit on recent storm. We need more rain badly. I was in Carbondale over the weekend last week and Rend Lake was WELL below normal. Pretty much the same story on any lake or pond you investigate around here. It is an absolutely beautiful day though, it is a vintage spring day outside today.
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Quoting luvtogolf:
So we can "argue" (or discuss) abortion, religion, politics, Tim Tebow, MLB Hall of Fame, capitalism, socialism, war, did man really walk on the moon, nuclear war, bigfoot, the Lockness monster, aliens, drunk driving, texting while driving, medical marijuana, cloning, racism, guns, divorce, same sex marriage, euthanasia, the death penalty, taxes, gambling and on and on and on and on. But there is only one thing that there is no argument for and that is AGW. Hmmmmm.


You can argue it. Just give us an argument.
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Quoting FunnelVortex:


Although I am for naming winter storms, why did they name this one?

It looks crappy and disorganized, You cant even tell where the low is!


We say the same thing each summer when the NHC does or does not name storms.
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Quoting ILwthrfan:


The one near Denver.
How can that be, this was posted by TA13 January 9 at 4 pm CST.

83. TropicalAnalystwx13 4:08 PM CST on January 09, 2013 +6
Winter Storm Gandolf has been named.



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Quoting luvtogolf:
So we can "argue" (or discuss) abortion, religion, politics, Tim Tebow, MLB Hall of Fame, capitalism, socialism, war, did man really walk on the moon, nuclear war, bigfoot, the Lockness monster, aliens, drunk driving, texting while driving, medical marijuana, cloning, racism, guns, divorce, same sex marriage, euthanasia, the death penalty, taxes, gambling and on and on and on and on. But there is only one thing that there is no argument for and that is AGW. Hmmmmm.
Leave Tim Tebow out of this....LOL... He is a hunk
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6000
So we can "argue" (or discuss) abortion, religion, politics, Tim Tebow, MLB Hall of Fame, capitalism, socialism, war, did man really walk on the moon, nuclear war, bigfoot, the Lockness monster, aliens, drunk driving, texting while driving, medical marijuana, cloning, racism, guns, divorce, same sex marriage, euthanasia, the death penalty, taxes, gambling and on and on and on and on. But there is only one thing that there is no argument for and that is AGW. Hmmmmm.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:
Faster and Faster.


What is 'faster and faster', Tomball? You keep posting that phrase. You posted it on the previous blog. Is it the speed with which comments are being posted?

If it is, why do you feel the need to comment on that? If not, maybe you could let us know what you're referring to.
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Quoting nymore:
Which low pressure is Gandolf or whatever the name is.



Although I am for naming winter storms, why did they name this one?

It looks crappy and disorganized, You cant even tell where the low is!
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12z Euro Sunday-Monday afternoon

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Noticed the green this a.m. as well ILwthr, little under half inch here yesterday, we're 58 as well. StL must have cleared completely, jumped to 62, were only a degree ahead of us earlier.
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Quoting hydrus:
A long way out, but I do believe this is where the bitter cold really takes hold and sticks around. Notice the massive size of this trough.


Indeed, but I don't know about it "sticking around" for that long, at least in the eastern third of the country.

The GFS ensemble mean shows a huge trough at Day 10 as the operational does, but notice how just 4 days later it has had to retrograde significantly to the west because of the splitting Alaskan ridge. While there is still a lot of cold around, at this point it begins to leave the east coast and become a midwest and northwest problem.

12z GFS ensemble mean 500mb Height and Anomaly: Day 10 (left) ----------------------- Day 14 (right)

Click for larger.

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Quoting hydrus:
I dont mind cold, but when the wind starts blowin around 20 mph, I start cussing..:)
Dammit Jim
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Quoting ILwthrfan:
It's currently 58 degrees in Decatur, IL many other sites are near the same temperature. Records are at stake at a few places here.

This is definitely my first winter ever in this area where I can remember the grass growing in January. It's by far greener now than it was in summer. Unreal to look at.
don't worry it will be frozen green grass you will be looking at soon enough
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Nature's wrath ... a spectacular gust front was captured about 25 nautical miles north-west of Onslow in the lead-up to Cyclone Narelle approaching the WA coastline. Photo: Brett Martin

Coastal communities in the Pilbara look set to dodge the full destructive capabilities of Cyclone Narelle, with the tropical system now expected to pass to the west of the Northwest Cape over the weekend.


Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/pilbara-set-to-d odge-cylone-narelles-fury-20130111-2cjre.html#ixzz 2HhFEwKTd
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.
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Quoting nymore:
Which low pressure is Gandolf or whatever the name is.



The one near Denver.
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It's currently 58 degrees in Decatur, IL many other sites are near the same temperature. Records are at stake at a few places here.

This is definitely my first winter ever in this area where I can remember the grass growing in January. It's by far greener now than it was in summer. Unreal to look at.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Well you have to take it like a true northern :).BTW tell Nea I didn't mean to run him from he blog.
wash..What me worry? Nea will be back... With a vengeance............(As always)
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Quoting nymore:
Which low pressure is Gandolf or whatever the name is.



LMAO

I didn't know there was a named storm ...
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Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Center
Tropical Cyclone Advice #18
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE NARELLE, CATEGORY FOUR (05U)
2:18 AM WST January 12 2013
=========================================

At 2:00 AM WST, Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle (931 hPa) located at 18.4S 112.1E or 445 km north northwest of Exmouth and 740 km north northwest of Carnarvon has 10 minute sustained winds of 100 knots with gusts of 140 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving southwest at 6 knots.

Hurricane Force Winds
=====================
30 NM from the center

Storm Force Winds
=================
60 NM from the center

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

Dvorak Intensity: T6.0/6.0/D0.5/24 HRS

Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle is expected to continue moving to the south southwest and pass west of the Northwest Cape over the weekend.

Gales with gusts to 100 kilometers per hour could develop in coastal areas between Mardie and Exmouth early Saturday, then extend south to Cape Cuvier later on Saturday.

Winds are likely to increase in the Exmouth area on Saturday with damaging wind gusts to 125 kilometers per hour possible overnight Saturday if the cyclone takes a track closer to the coast.

On Sunday gales may extend south to Denham and winds along the west Pilbara coast should ease from the east later in the day.

Thunderstorm activity in western parts of the Pilbara could be squally with isolated heavy falls. This activity will extend into far northwestern Gascoyne over the weekend.

Tides along the west Pilbara coast are likely to rise above the normal high tide mark early Saturday morning and again Saturday night with flooding of low lying coastal areas possible. Higher than normal tides should extend along the west coast later Saturday and into early next week.

Tropical Cyclone Warning
======================
A Cyclone WARNING continues for coastal areas from Mardie to Cape Cuvier

Tropical Cyclone Watch
======================
A Cyclone WATCH continues for coastal areas from Cape Cuvier to Denham

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
12 HRS: 19.5S 111.6E - 105 knots (CAT 4/Severe Tropical Cyclone)
24 HRS: 20.5S 111.1E - 105 knots (CAT 4/Severe Tropical Cyclone)
48 HRS: 23.4S 109.7E - 85 knots (CAT 3/Severe Tropical Cyclone)
72 HRS: 27.8S 108.8E - 45 knots (CAT 1/Tropical Cyclone)

Additional Information
======================
Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle has continued to intensify in the last 12 hours, with a eye evident on the infrared imagery. Intensity of 100 knots based on the three-hour average Dvorak DT of 6.0 [eye pattern]. The surrounding shade has fluctuate between black and white with an OW eye. At times the eye has been quite elongated. ADT estimates the system strength of 130 knots at 1630 UTC.

Further intensification is forecast with low [system relative] wind shear and the system could reach category 5 intensity during Saturday based on its current trend. The cyclone should gradually weaken as it encounters cooler sea surface temperatures from late Sunday and Monday but may remain at cyclone intensity to Tuesday well off the west coast.

Expected motion persists to the south southwest for the next 48 hours and then a more southerly track is likely in the following days. This leaves the cyclone sufficiently off the coast. It is most likely that coastal areas will only experience the outer edge of the cyclone and a severe impact is not expected.

Higher than normal tides are likely about the west Pilbara coast tonight and Saturday, with a shelf wave moving down the west coast on the weekend and into early next week.
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Which low pressure is Gandolf or whatever the name is.

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Quoting hydrus:
I dont mind cold, but I must say when the wind starts blowin around 20 mph, I do start cussing..:)
Well you have to take it like a true northern :).BTW tell Nea I didn't mean to run him from he blog.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17658
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Now that is the type of stuff I like to see for January.Not sissy temps.And this goes out to all you sissy Washingtonians who can't Handel the cold.
I dont mind cold, but when the wind starts blowin around 20 mph, I start cussing..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22314
Quoting hydrus:
A long way out, but I do believe this is where the bitter cold really takes hold and sticks around. Notice the massive size of this trough.
Now that is the type of stuff I like to see for January.Not sissy temps.And this goes out to all you sissy Washingtonians who can't Handel the cold.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17658
A long way out, but I do believe this is where the bitter cold really takes hold and sticks around. Notice the massive size of this trough.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22314
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Do the 12z run of the models continue to show the Central Atlantic low pressure? I ask as I am not on my computer right now.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I've denied several times that while pizza is not healthy for me it is delicious and I still eat it despite my age.


I'd stay away from the blue waffles though.

--

Anyways, glad someone somewhere is getting cold weather. Feels like June here.
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Thanks Doc.BTW you need to be more specific when tossing around "the most powerful storm" title...Next year something will also be the most powerful storm...I mean this year...


Dakster I've stayed clean all these years :).Thats what happens when you stay committed.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17658
Quoting washingtonian115:
I've denied several times that while pizza is not healthy for me it is delicious and I still eat it despite my age.
Stopped at the local fishmonger and bought 6 whole catfish for supper tonight... Pizza is a good second...
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I'll put up something interesting about weather that was discussed in today's newspaper later today
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great entry...love it
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Quoting Neapolitan:
But there is no "argument"; there's only empirical evidence, and those who deny that evidence exists and/or that it means anything.
I've denied several times that while pizza is not healthy for me it is delicious and I still eat it despite my age.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17658
Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:


That is a fact. Wanna buy a home in the Keys? I'm ready to go to Blue Ridge, Georgia.
Chillin, That was my plan also,...Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Elijay...Bu I have family here , 2 wonderful grandchldren in Boynton Beach...
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
The older I get....The hotter it feels


That is a fact. Wanna buy a home in the Keys? I'm ready to go to Blue Ridge, Georgia.
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Thanks Dr. Masters for the review of the Global Disasters of 2012..
I enjoyed the post very much..although some what saddened..
A reality check..
Thanks again..


Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6912
Quoting TomballTXPride:


That's how I feel here, too. You know the heat is inevitable come this summer.
The older I get....The hotter it feels
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6000
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Unreal weather, FM. When you get a chance, send some of that here. Please!
Very warm here in Palm Beach county... Low 80's. We need a few days of winter before the scorcher day come.
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6000

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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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