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: 42079
Quoting OldLeatherneck:


Dr. Jason Box, whose work is cited here, is even anticipating more than 1 meter sea level rise by 2100.
In his April 20th post on his MeltFactor.org site, he made the following staement:

"........the sea level rise reasonable to expect this century, 5 feet (1.5 m)."
MeltFactor


While a 1 meter sea level rise by 2100 will be devastating to many low lying areas of the world, a rise approaching 2 meters or more will be catastrophic. Much of southern Florida will have to be abandoned.

Since the Arctic Sea ICe is declining at a much faster rate than the models predicted, I most comfortable with any prediction that says sea level rise will be limited to just 1 meter, within this century.
what people are forgetting, is all this ice melt..is Fresh water...deleting the Salinity of the atlantic...some scientists say That loss of Salinity was one of the causes of the last Ice age..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Re #132: I understand that most here are tropical storm and hurricane geeks. I am also fascinated by these storms, as well as by tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, and other natural phenomena.

However, it is likely that AGW/CC will have a profound effect on weather. Add those effects to the natural cycles and variations that already complicate tropical storm prediction, and they may become even more difficult to predict.

Before one can apply the new parameters and influences of AGW/CC to tropical storm prediction, one needs a solid understanding of AGW/CC. Unfortunately, AGW/CC science, even though AGW/CC is an scientifically recognized event, is still a young and evolving science. The dynamics of the influences of AGW/CC on tropical weather are not fully understood, and will change as various elements of the global and regional change and reach small and large tipping points over time. This not only adds complexity to an already immensely complex system, but may not "settle down" any time soon as biospheric heat continues to increase.

Correlations will be seen, causality mechanisms will be suggested, but it will likely take several seasons to even begin to understand the current direction of the evolution of global weather patterns and sort them out from previous natural variations. Masking of new trends by normal variation and cycles will make them quite difficult to positively identify - and they will continue to evolve as global biospheric heat continues to increase.

Is seems possible that those who leave AGW/CC out of the equation when predicting weather trends and forecasting tropical weather will fall behind those who do take it into account. And because of the complexity added to the global weather system due to AGW/CC, tropical weather prediction and forecasting is likely to become even more difficult.

The proof is in the pudding. I will watch for a couple more decades (I hope) and see if my cursory analysis will be verified, but I am not alone in these thoughts.

Watch the arctic ice melt and potential methane release from clathrates this summer and next. Many believe that we are approaching some serious tipping points - and that we may already be seeing major northern hemisphere weather pattern changes due to changes in the jetstream with its big, persistent loops.

Interesting times ahead!!
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Quoting JeffMasters:


Good points, I added a sentence that many sea level rise experts predict a 1-meter rise by 2100. During the 20th century, global sea level rise was about 7 inches. Still, the exponential melt curve presented in Figure 3 is not comforting. If melt doubles every ten years for the rest of the century...well, you can do the math. I'm not saying melt will double every 10 years till 2100, but the one paper I cite says we are on pace to double by 2022 at the current exponential rate.

Jeff Masters


Dr. Jason Box, whose work is cited here, is even anticipating more than 1 meter sea level rise by 2100.
In his April 20th post on his MeltFactor.org site, he made the following staement:

"........the sea level rise reasonable to expect this century, 5 feet (1.5 m)."
MeltFactor


While a 1 meter sea level rise by 2100 will be devastating to many low lying areas of the world, a rise approaching 2 meters or more will be catastrophic. Much of southern Florida will have to be abandoned.

Since the Arctic Sea Ice is declining at a much faster rate than the models predicted, I am not comfortable with the current models predicting sea level rise of just 1 meter, within this century.

All models, those of sea level rise and those of Arctic sea ice loss have underperformed severely.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
12z gfs hr 126 may1 /13


Looks like a gnarly MCS in the Gulf with a strong cold pool (inferred by the area of fast downward velocity immediately following the area of fast upward velocity). Maybe a derecho if it occurred over land? Funky feature for sure though.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
12z gfs hr 126 may1 /13

Thanks Keeper..you see that blob in the gulf?..yours shows it also...
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
176. VR46L
Not Sold that they are seeing its tropical

Euro 192hr



Euro 216 hr
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Red River levels expected to rise to very dangerous levels in Fargo, ND unfortunately


meanwhile the MS river peaked in St. Louis, MO and now decreasing
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting Neapolitan:
You should read Dr. Masters' blog entry today; it's fascinating one. Here's the link in case you're interested: Dark Snow Project: Crowd-Source Funded Science for Greenland


Thanks good tip!

Having read it I will be curious as to the study's findings in regards to forest fires and soot. It would seem to me that it should have been a huge problem in the past when man didn't have the firefighting capabilities we do now. Relatively speaking, not that long ago, once a fire started it couldn't be stopped until it burned itself out for whatever reason whereas today we can often get a large fire under control quickly thereby greatly reducing the amount of soot released into the air vs. 100 years ago.
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12z gfs hr 126 may1 /13

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Hmm I notice someone has been given me the cold shoulder.Perhaps you were not on at the time maybe when it was mentioned?.Perhaps wu-mail me on your issues?
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water temps almost there in the gulf....
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
I'd call the feature on the 12Z ECMWF subtropical, but it doesn't make the full transition. Looks like a disorganized area of vorticity kicks out from beneath the base of the Bowling Ball and gets trapped beneath the northeastern block. From there, barotropic processes warm the lower troposphere while it's over the gulf stream and sustaining some convection. The feature doesn't ever seem to completely separate itself from the Bowling Ball though and is still attached via a weak negatively tilted 500 mb trough. In the upper troposphere, baroclinic forcing still rules the day. The subtropical nature can be seen pretty well on some of the ECMWF charts, mainly due to it being so asymmetrical.





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Quoting ncstorm:


shoot..oh well..he can still have the crow though
hmm what was that old song "and she knows how to make a crow blush"..lol
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
168. VR46L
Quoting yonzabam:


If there's a named storm before June, I'll eat your hat.


You do remember last year that both Alberto and Beryl were May storms ....


Yes NCSTORM thats the first referral to crow I have Noticed ...
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


For you, maybe. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for global warming awareness and I fully support funding and research into fixing the problems we face - after all, a good ship still needs maintenance, and when your ship is about to sink it's a pretty good idea to patch up the wounds. And what bigger and better ship is there but Earth, sailing through the cosmos with us as its passengers? However, I go on this blog solely for the community and the incredible amount of knowledge given off by people about one of my great passions - observing tropical cyclone genesis and forecasting them.

The majority of Dr. Masters posts during the summer are almost (with the exception of various footnote stories and during the slow time, some GW) entirely dedicated to various Atlantic invests, tropical storms. We have sometimes up to 7,000 posts in a day when a major storm is threatening land vs maybe the 800-1000 in a week we get during the off-season from as you mentioned from productive GW talk. Many of us share this strong fascination with tropical cyclones, and most of us are on here during this time of year to share that fascination - been like that every season.


Great Post!
Member Since: February 28, 2013 Posts: 9 Comments: 4711
Quoting washingtonian115:
No.It was mentioned on March 6 this year after that storm never came true for the I-95 cities.


shoot..oh well..he can still have the crow though
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Quoting ncstorm:




(do I get credit for using crow first this year?)


I don't care who you are, that right there is FUNNY!
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Quoting russm1:


Rapid rise? I've seen rapidly rising water and it looks nothing like the University of Colorado graph you posted earier showing an approximate 12/100 ths of inch per year rise with a 13% margin of error.

The system is 150 hours out showing what could be much needed rain and possible flooding where as your "rapidly " rising water equates to about 2.5 inches in 20 years. I understand what you are saying I just would have said it differently without the grandstanding.

June can't get here fast enough...

You should read Dr. Masters' blog entry today; it'sa fascinating one, especially the parts about sea level rise. Here's the link in case you're interested: Dark Snow Project: Crowd-Source Funded Science for Greenland
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13799
Quoting ncstorm:


I'll be sure to add some crow on the side for a full course..

(do I get credit for using crow first this year?)
No.It was mentioned on March 6 this year after that storm never came true for the I-95 cities.
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Quoting yonzabam:


If there's a named storm before June, I'll eat your hat.


I'll be sure to add some crow on the side for a full course..

(do I get credit for using crow first this year?)
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Warm core on the 12z ECMWF?

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14892
Quoting ncstorm:


Im sorry but I am just tickled pink about our first possible storm..this is what led me to this blog in the first place and why I continue to stay..tropical weather..


If there's a named storm before June, I'll eat your hat.
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This is the 12z CMC phase diagram for the low it develops off the SE coast. It's quite weak, but it does appear to be a shallow warm core system.

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Quoting Neapolitan:
and the rapid rise of the planet's oceans is of far greater concern--and vastly greater importance--than a possible sub- (or non-) tropical system 150 or more hours away from initialization.


Rapid rise? I've seen rapidly rising water and it looks nothing like the University of Colorado graph you posted earier showing an approximate 12/100 ths of inch per year rise with a 13% margin of error.

The system is 150 hours out showing what could be much needed rain and possible flooding where as your "rapidly " rising water equates to about 2.5 inches in 20 years. I understand what you are saying I just would have said it differently without the grandstanding.

June can't get here fast enough...

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.
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Ryan Maue‏@RyanMaue2 min
ECMWF 12z forms cut-off over Nebraska Thursday, leaves it there for next 5-days. Link
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


For you, maybe. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for global warming awareness and I fully support funding and research into fixing the problems we face - after all, a good ship still needs maintenance, and when your ship is about to sink it's a pretty good idea to patch up the wounds. And what bigger and better ship is there but Earth, sailing through the cosmos with us as its passengers? However, I go on this blog solely for the community and the incredible amount of knowledge given off by people about one of my great passions - observing tropical cyclone genesis and forecasting them.

The majority of Dr. Masters posts during the summer are almost (with the exception of various footnote stories and during the slow time, some GW) entirely dedicated to various Atlantic invests, tropical storms. We have sometimes up to 7,000 posts in a day when a major storm is threatening land vs maybe the 800-1000 in a week we get during the off-season from as you mentioned from productive GW talk. Many of us share this strong fascination with tropical cyclones, and most of us are on here during this time of year to share that fascination - been like that every season.
My comment wasn't for the forum in general, but was instead in direct response to someone who complained that Dr. Masters isn't speaking about tropical weather yet. My point was and is that it's only April, there's nothing tropical at the moment, and there'll be plenty of time for tropical weather blog entries when we actually see some, you know, tropical weather. I didn't say tropical weather wasn't fascinating; when there's an active system, I'm here along with everyone else posting charts and graphs and models; after all, I live in SW Florida where possible hurricane strikes are a major topic of conversation six months of the year. But the incessant griping from some that Dr. Masters isn't writing about tropical weather at this moment is like complaining that he doesn't post enough about blizzards in July and August. You know? ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13799
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Quoting LargoFl:
this is sure good news huh..i just hope we DO get rain..last time a front just vanished or split in two..rain to the north and south of me..nothing not a drop for me lol...


It is good news if it does happen. Last few times I had complete blobular fizzle.
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Quoting Chucktown:


My mistake on the earlier comment; that is the low currently spinning out there.......Half-asleep from the 4 pieces of Maryland's Fried Chicken I had for lunch............
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Quoting Grothar:


That is going back some..... :0


Can't remember what I did an hour ago, but I know all the words to that song... go figger.
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friday looks good for you washi..........
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Looks like one of the biggest challenges this system might have is time over water if the 12z ECMWF verifies.
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Quoting FtMyersgal:


My local forcast just changed too. Next week Tuesday through Thursday they are saying I've a 40% chance of rain
this is sure good news huh..i just hope we DO get rain..last time a front just vanished or split in two..rain to the north and south of me..nothing not a drop for me lol...
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Post 132, that is one of the best and most refreshing posts I've seen in a very long time.
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Quoting LargoFl:
wow Im a Happy camper alright..just mowed the lawn and the soil..errr sand is so dry underneath..severe drought my county is in right now


My local forcast just changed too. Next week Tuesday through Thursday they are saying I've a 40% chance of rain
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Here is a GFS run from the FSU model page.....Not moving this potential system off-shore on this particular run at the 168 hour mark:

Link




That particular run also shows a baroclinic, cold core low that develops in the Gulf and moves just inland along the east coast. More like a nor'easter than anything.
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Here is a GFS run from the FSU model page.....Not moving this potential system off-shore on this particular run at the 168 hour mark:

Link



It's interesting to note the GFS ensemble at the same time however, which is not really in good agreement with the operational GFS since it has an offshore low. That's usually a clear sign the GFS doesn't really know what's going on in a particular situation.

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Quoting StormTrackerScott:
This ones for you ncstorm

Looks fully tropical now?.

Good post cybreted.By this time of year expect to see related hurricane topics as the blogs main conversation even if it is a GW blog.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Quoting StormTrackerScott:
This ones for you ncstorm



Im sorry but I am just tickled pink about our first possible storm..this is what led me to this blog in the first place and why I continue to stay..tropical weather..
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Here is a GFS run from the FSU model page.....Not moving this potential system off-shore on this particular run at the 168 hour mark:

Link


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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Watching Current TV, one coal plant operating for 10 days, negates 300,000 trees for 100 years. Carbon Nation is the program.
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I wondered where the StL long range found that chance of freeze & snow heading into next weekend. Guess the low to south would help pull down? Haven't seen a May snow in these parts in a lonnnggg time. My fruit trees are flowering, don't need a freeze. Just found 10 small grey morels last night, not sure what that would do to season either.

Pushing 60, probably will make it today if clouds/rain hold off for a while. Hoping most stays south, we've had enough for now, needs to dry out for farmers to get into fields. Levels are dropping on all rivers and levees held.
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Quoting VR46L:


Lots of rain Largo

wow Im a Happy camper alright..just mowed the lawn and the soil..errr sand is so dry underneath..severe drought my county is in right now
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42079
Quoting Neapolitan:
I'm not surprised at all; I get the distinct impression that most people here appreciate Dr. Masters' writing about the many facets of climate change, especially when there's nothing at all going on in the tropics. And I for one am happy he has chosen to do so on a Friday, as that affords the forum possibly three full days of sometimes productive talk. Let's be honest here: it's still only April, and the rapid rise of the planet's oceans is of far greater concern--and vastly greater importance--than a possible sub- (or non-) tropical system 150 or more hours away from initialization.


For you, maybe. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for global warming awareness and I fully support funding and research into fixing the problems we face - after all, a good ship still needs maintenance, and when your ship is about to sink it's a pretty good idea to patch up the wounds. And what bigger and better ship is there but Earth, sailing through the cosmos with us as its passengers? However, I go on this blog solely for the community and the incredible amount of knowledge given off by people about one of my great passions - observing tropical cyclone genesis and forecasting them.

The majority of Dr. Masters posts during the summer are almost (with the exception of various footnote stories and during the slow time, some GW) entirely dedicated to various Atlantic invests, tropical storms. We have sometimes up to 7,000 posts in a day when a major storm is threatening land vs maybe the 800-1000 in a week we get during the off-season from as you mentioned from productive GW talk. Many of us share this strong fascination with tropical cyclones, and most of us are on here during this time of year to share that fascination - been like that every season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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