Dark Snow Project: Crowd-Source Funded Science for Greenland

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:03 PM GMT on April 26, 2013

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"There's no place on Earth that is changing faster--and no place where that change matters more--than Greenland." So said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, in a 2012 Rolling Stone magazine interview. As Earth Week 2013 draws to a close, I want to draw your attention to a unique effort to learn more about why Greenland is melting so fast--a crowd-funded research project that anyone can contribute to, which aims to answer the "burning question": How much does wildfire and industrial soot darken the ice, increasing melt? The Dark Snow Project, the first-ever Greenland expedition relying on crowd-source funding, hopes to raise $150,000 to mount a field research campaign to find out. The project is the brainchild of Dr. Jason Box, Professor at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), and one of the world's leading experts on Greenland's glaciers. He has set up a website called darksnowproject.org to help raise the funds for the field campaign, and has raised about half of the needed amount as of mid-April.


Figure 1. Over the course of several years, turbulent water overflow from a large melt lake carved this 60-foot-deep (18.3 meter-deep) canyon in Greenland's Ice Sheet (note people near left edge for scale). Image credit: Ian Joughin, University of Washington.

2012: Unprecedented melting in Greenland
Watching the weather events of 2012 over Greenland made all seasoned climate watchers a little queasy. The vast ice sheet on the island holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.36 meters (24.15 feet) were it all to melt, and the ice melt season of 2012 gave notice that an epic melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet may be underway. According to NOAA's 2012 Arctic Report Card, the duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2012 was the longest since satellite observations began in 1979, and the total amount of summer melting was nearly double the previous record, set in 2010 (satellite records of melting go back to 1979.) A rare, near-ice sheet-wide surface melt event melted 97% of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet on July 11 - 12. While a similar melt event at the summit occurred 1889, but the 1889 event has no basis in the instrumental record from coastal Greenland. It's instead likely that 2012 was Greenland's warmest summer in at least 863 years, since the medieval warm period (see http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=677 and http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?p=725). The incredibly warm temperatures have been blamed on highly unusual atmospheric circulation and jet stream changes, which were also responsible for 2012's unusually wet summer weather in England. It would not be a surprise if this sort of summer began occurring more often, since temperatures on top of the Greenland Ice Sheet have been rising six times faster than the global average during the past twenty years. A May 2013 Geophysical Research Letters paper by McGrath et al., "Recent warming at Summit, Greenland: Global context and implications", concluded that by 2025, there is a 50% chance of ice sheet-wide melt events happening annually. The ice sheet reached its darkest value on record in 2012. The darkened surface was due to below average summer snow, soot particles from pollution and forest fires, and record melting. A darker ice sheet absorbs more solar energy, in a vicious cycle that raises temperatures, melts more ice, and further darkens the ice sheet. The amount of melting that was caused by soot from forest fires is important to know, since global warming is likely to increase the amount of forest fires in coming decades. However, the amount of forest fire soot landing on the Greenland Ice Sheet is almost completely unknown, which is why Dr. Box is determined to find out, via the Dark Snow Project.


Figure 2. Smoke from a fire in Labrador, Canada wafts over the Greenland ice sheet on June 17, 2012, as seen in this cross-section view of aerosol particles taken by NASA's CALIPSO satellite. Image credit: Dr. Jason Box, Ohio State University.

Greenland causing 25% of global sea level rise
In a landmark study published in November 2012 in Science, 47 researchers from 26 laboratories reported that the amount of ice being lost from Greenland and Antarctica has tripled since the 1990s, with Greenland contributing more than twice as much to global sea level rise than Antarctica. The study, "A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance", found that the two ice sheets were responsible for 20% of the global sea level rise of 3.1 mm/year during the 20-year period 1992 - 2011. The remainder of the rise was due to expansion of the water due to heating of the oceans, melting of mountain glaciers, and unsustainable pumping of ground water. Said co-author Erik Ivins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "The pace of ice loss from Greenland is extraordinary, with nearly a five-fold increase since the mid-1990s." As of 2011, Greenland's contribution to global sea level rise on its own had risen to 20 - 25%, according to an international research group led by the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, in an article published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters on 1 June 2012. If the current exponential ice loss trends continue for the next ten years, Greenland's contribution to sea level rise will double to 1.4 mm/yr by 2022, the researchers said. Many sea level rise researchers expect global sea level to rise by about 1 meter (3.3 feet) by 2100. During the 20th century, global sea level rise was about 0.18 meters (7 inches.)


Figure 3. Monthly smoothed (purple) and unsmoothed (blue) values of the total mass lost from the Greenland Ice Sheet (in Gigatons, Gt) from measurements by the GRACE satellites between March 2002-September 2012. An approximate equivalent global sea level rise figure is on the right axis. Note that the decline in ice mass lost from Greenland is not a straight line--it is exponential, meaning that more ice loss is lost each year than in the previous year. Image credit: 2012 Arctic Report Card.

Will Antarctica be more important than Greenland for sea level rise?
Although melting from Greenland is currently raising global sea level by about a factor of two more than Antarctica melting is, that situation may change later this century. A 2013 study by Dahl-Jensen et al. looked at a new ice core drilled from the bottom-most depths of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The core suggests that the ice in Greenland may have partially survived the warm Eemian period before the Ice Age, approximately 118,000 - 126,000 years ago, when Greenland temperatures were 5- 8°C warmer than present-day temperatures. Global sea level during the Eemian was 4 - 8 meters (13 - 26 ft) higher than the present sea level, and the scientists estimated that melting from Greenland was responsible for 2 meters (6.6 ft) of this sea level rise. This implies that Antarctica was responsible for 50 - 75% of global sea level rise during the Eemian, and thus we might expect Antarctica to take over as the dominant source of sea level rise later this century, when global temperatures may to rise to levels similar to those experienced during the Eemian.

Related posts
Greenland experiences melting over 97% of its area in mid-July (July 25, 2012)
Record warmth at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet (July 18, 2012)
Unprecedented May heat in Greenland; update on 2011 Greenland ice melt (May, 2012)
Greenland update for 2010: record melting and a massive calving event

Dr. Jason Box's blog on Greenland and the Dark Snow Project is at http://www.meltfactor.org.

The http://www.greenlandmelting.com/ website looks like a great resource for following this year's melt progression in Greenland.


Video 1. Glaciologist Dr. Jason Box and 350.org founder Bill McKibben plug the Darksnow project in this January 2013 video by Peter Sinclair. There's some impressive footage of the record Greenland snow melt of summer 2012 sweeping away a 20-ton tractor that was attempting to repair a bridge washed out by the raging Watson River on July 11, 2012 in Kangerlussauaq, Greenland. The driver escaped unharmed.

Support the Dark Snow Project
One of Dr. Box's collaborators, photographer James Balog, who created the amazing time-lapse Greenland glacier footage in the fantastic 2012 "Chasing Ice" movie, puts it like this: "Working in Greenland these past years has left me with a profound feeling of being in the middle of a decisive historic moment--the kind of moment, at least in geologic terms, that marks the grand tidal changes of history." On that note, I encourage you all to support the Dark Snow Project. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Dark Snow Project Expedition Plan 2013
Prepare and gather science equipment including a field spectrometer, snow and ice coring device, and snow metrics kit.

Travel to Iqualuit, on Baffin Island, Nunavut from home locales in California, Ohio, Michigan, Vermont and rendezvous with Dash-6 "Twin Otter" ski-equipped airplane and flight crew.

Organize cold weather survival kit.

Ferry team from Iqualuit to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Fly to and land at sampling sites high on the inland ice sheet.

At each site collect snow samples from a snow pit and obtain snow cores to a minimum depth of the previous year's snow surface, and record snow properties.

Transport of team and snow samples to Greenland's capital Nuuk, where the team will rest after hustling at field sites.

Return to Iqualuit, then to respective home locales to start the data analysis and reporting phase of campaign.

Jeff Masters

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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
BULLETIN - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
521 PM CDT FRI APR 26 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
NORTHWESTERN DEWEY COUNTY IN NORTHWEST OKLAHOMA...
SOUTHEASTERN ELLIS COUNTY IN NORTHWEST OKLAHOMA...
NORTHEASTERN ROGER MILLS COUNTY IN WESTERN OKLAHOMA...
EXTREME SOUTHWESTERN WOODWARD COUNTY IN NORTHWEST OKLAHOMA...

* UNTIL 600 PM CDT

* AT 521 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM LOCATED 4 MILES EAST OF ARNETT...MOVING EAST
AT 35 MPH.

HAZARDS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE...
HALF DOLLAR SIZE HAIL...
DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH...

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
VICI...ARNETT AND HARMON.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

MOVE INSIDE A STURDY BUILDING UNTIL THE STORM HAS PASSED.
&&

LAT...LON 3621 9973 3621 9919 3584 9939 3603 9986
TIME...MOT...LOC 2220Z 284DEG 30KT 3612 9968

$$

MBS
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Hi DDR and pottery. Surely there is plenty of moisture in that area and it appears it will stick around for a while.

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14917
If the sheet of ice covering Greenland were to completely melt, such destruction of 720,000 cubic miles (3 million cubic kilometers) of ice would raise global sea levels by 24 feet (7.3 meters). In summer 2012, Greenland saw an extraordinarily large amount of melting across nearly its entire ice sheet. In fact, it was the largest ice melt seen in Greenland since scientists began tracking melt rates there in 1979. Ice-core records suggest melting events so extreme have only happened once every 150 years or so over the past 4,000 years.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
now IF the sea level rose 24 feet with the complete meltdown of the greenland ice sheet..i'd be ok, im 48 feet above sea level but..only about 4 miles from the gulf AND..i'd be living on an island..many many coastal cities in florida like miami would be gone i guess..nyc etc i dont know..some sections would be under water as would many other coastal cities....i guess thats why this Greenland ice sheet needs to stay frozen..but what can we do?..my guess is no one really knows in the short term
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
Scientists Advocate a Simple, Affordable and Accurate Technology to Identify Threats from Sea-Level Rise

Apr. 25, 2013 — A team of researchers led by Associate Professor Edward L. Webb of the National University of Singapore (NUS) is calling for the global adoption of a method to identify areas that are vulnerable to sea-level rise. The method, which utilises a simple, low-cost tool, is financially and technically accessible to every country with coastal wet­lands. The team seeks to establish a network to coordinate the standardisation and management of the data, as well as to provide a platform for collaboration.

More on Science Daily

Good night from Germany with ongoing rain (great for nature and agriculture though)
Washout weather set to ruin weekend
Member Since: October 25, 2008 Posts: 63 Comments: 6723
276. DDR
Quoting VR46L:
Can I say Gosh... 90 hr Total Prec ... GFS18Z


Yes you can!
Look at Trinidad and Tobago and the se Caribbean,we are already double the average rainfall for my location.
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274. VR46L
Quoting SouthernIllinois:

You say Gosh, I'll say Wow.


LOL thats kind of what I was thinking...;)
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Dodge City, KS (KDDC) - Base Reflectivity (0.5)



Memphis, TN (KNQA) - Base Reflectivity (0.5)



Springfield, MO (KSGF) - Base Reflectivity (0.5)



St Louis, MO (KLSX) - Base Reflectivity (0.5)

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pcola..check your blog.

tornado - Aussie's time is 8:05 AM...he's still probably sleeping since it's Saturday there
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270. VR46L
Can I say Gosh... 90 hr Total Prec ... GFS18Z

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Quoting OrchidGrower:
Did RitaEvac get an answer as to why Firefox does such a crappy job of navigating from page-to-page (in Wunderground only!) these days? I noticed it suddenly appearing a few weeks ago, have endured it but just barely. Every time I go to the next page, Firefox drops me near, but not often fully AT, the very bottom of that page. It used to always navigate you from the bottom of one page to the top of the next set of comments.

Other pages in Firefox aren't navigating bizarrely like this. Rita asked for Moderators to comment, but if someone did, I missed it (apologies in advance!).


I haven't seen any answer about that. I use Firefox and it does the same thing and I tried IE8 and it does it too, so it isn't just that browser. It might be someone screwed up some coding somewhere in the site and it doesn't do what it says it should. Wish someone would address it.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6255
Quoting Tornado6042008X:
Good afternoon bloggers! Good morning Aussie!... if you are on.
 
12z GFS shows a very powerful upper level low drawing in a lot of moisture from off the southeast coast of the USA into the southeast, mid-atlantic, and the ohio valley by this time next week lasting into early the following week with very chilly air underneath the upper level low in the Tennessee Valley. It will be very interesting for sure if this verifies.


I just want to see how the whole thing plays out...
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Get the marshmallows and Hersey bars!

No wonder Greenland is melting.

Link
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Good afternoon bloggers! Good morning Aussie!... if you are on.
 
12z GFS shows a very powerful upper level low drawing in a lot of moisture from off the southeast coast of the USA into the southeast, mid-atlantic, and the ohio valley by this time next week lasting into early the following week with very chilly air underneath the upper level low in the Tennessee Valley. It will be very interesting for sure if this verifies.
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265. SuzK
Quoting PlazaRed:
I'm a bit late into the blog again but thanks anyway.
Things seem to be hoting up on the ice melt front again.
One of the points hinted on but not really covered as far as I can see, is that as the ice melts more trapped soot gets uncovered. This soot before was covered by annual snow events.
Now the annual snow events are not as great as they were and they are probably melting completely in the summers.
The inevitable HENCE must be more soot on the surface than is falling, so more dark surface, so more melt to reveal more soot ad-infinitum! Or at least until we get back to the bedrock and a lot of very muddy soot deposits of course.


So that is where Earth is absorbing the human-produced soot pollution! Ice core drilling must be invaluable there.
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After this potential storm it looks like the Southeast will be quite chilly!
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hope no tornado's as it crosses florida.............
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
hmm, all the Gulf states under t-storm for SPC Day 3.. and much of the south too.
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see that blob in the gulf..gfs puts that right over tampa then to the atlantic..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
Western OK is under a t-storm watch...
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Heading out for the weekend. Pretty active weather out there in parts of Conus today and over the weekend as well as the low next week which may impact a large swath of the SE/East Coast and at least bring lots of rain.

My point is the weekend looking real nice for the Gulf Coast and SE in the short term so get out and enjoy this nice weather while you can..............WW.
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258. SuzK
Quoting BobChecks:


The Younger Dryas is one of the most well-known examples of abrupt change. About 14,500 years ago, the Earth's climate began to shift from a cold glacial world to a warmer interglacial state. Partway through this transition, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere suddenly returned to near-glacial conditions (Figure 6). This near-glacial period is called the Younger Dryas, named after a flower (Dryas octopetala) that grows in cold conditions and became common in Europe during this time. The end of the Younger Dryas, about 11,500 years ago, was particularly abrupt. In Greenland, temperatures rose 10° C (18° F) in a decade

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/abrupt/data4.html

Melting ice leading to a "new ice age" is probably a bit over the top. It looks like what happened last time was a temporary, largely northern hemisphere, cooling event. Not a reforming of massive ice sheets around the world.


Unless it was part of an even larger event.
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Quoting VR46L:


Looks like some thunderstorms in that Image !!
yes some high cloud tops there.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
256. VR46L
Quoting LargoFl:


Looks like some thunderstorms in that Image !!
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Did RitaEvac get an answer as to why Firefox does such a crappy job of navigating from page-to-page (in Wunderground only!) these days? I noticed it suddenly appearing a few weeks ago, have endured it but just barely. Every time I go to the next page, Firefox drops me near, but not often fully AT, the very bottom of that page. It used to always navigate you from the bottom of one page to the top of the next set of comments.

Other pages in Firefox aren't navigating bizarrely like this. Rita asked for Moderators to comment, but if someone did, I missed it (apologies in advance!).
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
We'll likely see some pretty big hail producers across OK later this evening and tonight.

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Local met just said there is the possibility of some interesting weather for florida come mid week, especially the east coast...we'll see what happens in the days to come i guess..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
I first learned about orbital forcing in some glacial and quaternary courses several decades ago. At that time, actual dates from the several recent glacial advances were just coming in, and the strong alignment with Milankovic forcing was becoming clear.
The message we were getting at the time was that somehow, these very weak and gradual orbital forcings were mysteriously strong enough to throw Earth in and out of glacial periods (when allowed by arrangement of landmasses and thus the oceanic circulation).
I now understand that was the wrong message. For the last few milion years we have been in a regime with quasi-periodic glacial periods (ca. 120-140kyr) with warmer intergacials between. Atmospheric CO2 has been very well buffered by the biosphere at about 280ppm. 
The system has been for the last few million years in a particular state that allows even the relatively "weak" orbital forcings to throw the system predictably between its glacial and interglacial modes. The message should not be that Milankovic forcings are "strong", but that the the system is *extraordinarily sensitive*. And we're applying the new CO2 forcing several orders of magnitude faster than ever seen in the geological record.
In the Arctic we're tripping amplifier after amplifier as the system warms, and everything is happening so much faster than in even very recent models. It's like we've borrowed Dad's hot rod and wrapped it around a tree before getting out of the driveway.


Quoting yonzabam:

There's no doubt this reversal took place, despite the fact that the Milankovitch astrophysical cycles on their own should have perpetuated the warming trend. It just goes to show how complex the climate system is, with all its positive and negative feedbacks.


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250. VR46L
Quoting PedleyCA:


All I can say is up and over..... 78.7F here


LOL ....I actually think that is what some of the models see having an impact late next week and not something tropical originally....JMO
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close to the surface...


surface winds


12z GFS at 168 hrs
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Quoting dabirds:


alright... lets hope
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Quoting VR46L:
Energy , Energy and Energy.... Just look at that storm West of Hawaii



All I can say is up and over..... 78.7F here
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6255
Re: #192 --- that is very chilling for us in SW Florida, in its specificity. I am going to file away that prediction map to review at end-of-season (hoping I will review it while looking over my undisturbed trees!)....
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still too early
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242. VR46L
Energy , Energy and Energy.... Just look at that storm West of Hawaii

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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
232. BaltimoreBrian 4:48 PM EDT on April 26, 2013


Nice opportunity to compare the pm discussions from various NWS offices. Here is the much shorter current blurb from Tallahassee NWS. Notice two things; position/trajectory is the difference between being on the wet side or dry side. Also, they forgot to finish the last sentence before they posted; I think the sentence completes with impossible to pick the correct model solution this far out......

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TALLAHASSEE FL
255 PM EDT Fri Apr 26 2013

.LONG TERM [Monday through Friday]...
The global models forecast a weak east-west oriented trough over the Deep South through Wednesday, placing our forecast area in a persistent zone of Q-G forcing and plentiful deep layer moisture (with precip water values about 50% above climo). Our PoP will be above average (generally in the 30-50% range), though there may be more of a diurnal signal than shown in the ECMWF MOS. Later in the week the models diverge, with the ECMWF developing a stronger 500mb low (and heavier, more widespread rain) over our region while the GFS "kicks" the aforementioned trough out to the east as a large closed low develops over the upper Midwest. The GFS solution would be much drier for our region by Friday. It`s nearly impossible to correctly pick the "correct" solution this


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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
Nino 3.4 is now at cold neutral and the SOI is way positive. All signs point to continuing Neutral conditions for the summer and fall




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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267
ke McCall‏@WCTVMike14 min
@ryanmaue GFS Cut-off in the SE days later loosely resembles that of May 1992. Mt. Pisgah, NC got 57" of snow out of that one.
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235. VR46L
Quite alot of moisture about

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Quoting LargoFl:
oh ok..many thanks
Sorry
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yeah thursday is the best chance for rain.........
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42267

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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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