Over 500 Killed in India's Monsoon Floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:25 PM GMT on June 21, 2013

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Earth's deadliest natural disaster so far in 2013 is the deadly flooding in India's Himalayan Uttarakhand region, where torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 556 people, with hundreds more feared dead. At least 5,000 people are missing. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Uttarakhand received more than three times (329%) of its normal June rainfall from June 1 - 21, and rainfall was 847% of normal during the week June 13 - 19. Satellite estimates indicate that more than 20" (508 mm) or rain fell in a 7-day period from June 11 - 17 over some regions of Uttarakhand, which lies just to the west of Nepal in the Himalayas. Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, received 14.57" (370 mm) of rain in 24 hours on June 16 - 17. This was the highest 24-hour rainfall in city history, according to an official from the India Meteorological Department. Dr. Dave Petley's Landslide Blog details that the torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that hit Uttarakhand's Hindu shrine in Kedarnath, which lies just a short distance from the snout of two mountain glaciers. The shrine is an important pilgrimage destination this time of year, and was packed with visitors celebrating the char-dham yatra: a pilgrimage to the four holy sites of Gangotri, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Badrinath. Apparently, heavy rainfall triggered a collapse event on the mountain above Kedarnath, which turned into a debris flow downstream that struck the town. The main temple was heavily damaged, and numerous buildings in the town were demolished. It was Earth's deadliest landslide since the August 2010 Zhouqu landslide in China.

According to Aon Benfield's May Catastrophe Report, Earth's deadliest natural disasters of 2013 so far:

Winter weather, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, 1/1 - 1/20, 329 deaths
Earthquake, China, 4/20, 196 deaths
Flooding, Southern Africa, 1/10 - 2/28, 175 deaths
Flooding, Argentina, 4/2 - 4/4, 70 deaths
Flooding, Kenya, 3/10 - 4/30, 66 deaths


Figure 1. Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) arrive to rescue stranded Sikh devotees from Hemkunt Sahib Gurudwara, a religious Sikh temple, to a safe place in Chamoli district, in northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, India, Monday, June 17, 2013. AP photo.


Figure 2. Satellite-estimated rainfall for the 7-day period June 11 - 17, 2013, from NASA's TRMM satellite exceeded 20 inches (508 mm) over portions of India's Uttarakhand province, leading to catastrophic floods. Image credit: NASA.

A record early arrival of the monsoon
The June 2013 monsoon rains in Uttarakhand were highly unusual, as the monsoon came to the region two weeks earlier than normal. The monsoon started in South India near the normal June 1 arrival date, but then advanced across India in unusually rapid fashion, arriving in Pakistan along the western border of India on June 16, a full month earlier than normal. This was the fastest progression of the monsoon on record. The previous record for fastest monsoon progression occurred in 1961, when all of India was under monsoon conditions by June 21. Reliable monsoon records go back to 1961, and are patchy before then. Fortunately, no more heavy rain is expected in Uttarakhand over the next few days, as the monsoon will be active only in eastern India. Heavy rains are expected again in the region beginning on June 24. Wunderblogger Lee Grenci's post, Summer Monsoon Advances Rapidly across India: Massive Flooding Ensues, has more detail on the meteorology of this year's monsoon. There is criticism from some that the devastating floods were not entirely a natural disaster--human-caused deforestation, dam building, and mining may have contributed. "Large-scale construction of dams and absence of environmental regulations has led to the floods," said Sunita Narian, director general of Delhi based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).


Figure 3. The summer monsoon arrived in southwest India right on schedule (June 1) in South India, but it spread northward much faster than usual, reaching Pakistan a full month earlier than normal. Solid green contours indicate the progress of the 2013 summer monsoon (each contour is labeled with a date). You can compare this year's rapid advance to a "normal" progression, which is represented by the dashed, red contours (also labeled with dates).

Monsoons in India: a primer
Disastrous monsoon floods are common in India and surrounding nations, and 60,000 people--an average of 500 people per year--died in India due to monsoon floods between 1900 - 2012, according to EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. EM-DAT lists sixteen flood disasters which killed 1,000 or more people in India since records began in 1950. Here are the number of people killed in these events, along with the month and year of occurrence and locales affected:

4892, Jul 1968, Rajasthan, Gujara
3800, Jul 1978, North, Northeast
2001, May - Oct, 1994, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh
2000, Jul 1961, North
1811, Aug 1998, Assam, Arunachal, Bihar
1600, Aug 1980, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
1591, Jul 28, 1989, Maharashtra, Andhra Prade
1479, Sep 1995, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab
1442, Aug 1997, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal
1200, Jul 24 - Aug 5, 2005 Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh
1200, Aug 1987, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal
1103, Jul 3 - Sep 22, 2007, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh
1063, Jun 11 - Jul 21, 2008 West Bengal, Orissa
1023, Jun 1971, North
1000, Sep 22 - Oct 9, 1988, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh
1000, Oct 1961

The monsoon occurs in summer, when the sun warms up land areas more strongly than ocean areas. This happens because wind and ocean turbulence mix the ocean's absorbed heat into a "mixed layer" approximately 50 meters deep, whereas on land, the sun's heat penetrates at a slow rate to a limited depth. Furthermore, due to its molecular properties, water has the ability to absorb more heat than the solid materials that make up land. As a result of this summertime differential heating of land and ocean, a low pressure region featuring rising air develops over land areas. Moisture-laden ocean winds blow towards the low pressure region and are drawn upwards once over land. The rising air expands and cools, condensing its moisture into some of the heaviest rains on Earth--the monsoon. Monsoons operate via the same principle as the familiar summer afternoon sea breeze, but on a grand scale. Each summer, monsoons affect every continent on Earth except Antarctica, and are responsible for life-giving rains that sustain the lives of billions of people. In India, home for over 1.1 billion people, the monsoon provides 80% of the annual rainfall. The most deadly flooding events usually come from monsoon depressions (also known as monsoon lows.) A monsoon depression is similar to (but larger than) a tropical depression. Both are spinning storms hundreds of kilometers in diameter with sustained winds of 50 - 55 kph (30 - 35 mph), nearly calm winds at their center, and generate very heavy rains. Typically, 6 - 7 monsoon depressions form each summer over the Bay of Bengal and track westwards across India.

The future of monsoons in India
A warming climate loads the dice in favor of heavier extreme precipitation events. This occurs because more water vapor can evaporate into a warmer atmosphere, increasing the chances of record heavy downpours. In a study published in Science in 2006, Goswami et al. found that the level of heavy rainfall activity in the monsoon over India had more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1950s, leading to an increased disaster potential from heavy flooding. Moderate and weak rain events decreased during those 50 years, leaving the total amount of rain deposited by the monsoon roughly constant. The authors commented, "These findings are in tune with model projections and some observations that indicate an increase in heavy rain events and a decrease in weak events under global warming scenarios." We should expect to see an increased number of disastrous monsoon floods in coming decades if the climate continues to warm as expected. Since the population continues to increase at a rapid rate in the region, death tolls from monsoon flooding disasters are likely to climb dramatically in coming decades. However, my greater concern for India is drought. The monsoon rains often fail during El NiƱo years, and more than 4.2 million people died in India due to droughts between 1900 - 2012. Up until the late 1960s, it was common for the failure of the monsoon rains to kill millions of people in India. The drought of 1965 - 1967 killed at least 1.5 million people. However, since the Green Revolution of the late 1960s--a government initiative to improve food self-sufficiency using new technology and high-yield grains--failure of the monsoon rains has not led to mass starvation in India. It is uncertain whether of not the Green Revolution can keep up with India's booming population, and the potential that climate change might bring more severe droughts. Climate models show a wide range of possibilities for the future of the Indian monsoon, and it is unclear at present what the future might hold. However, the fact that one of the worst droughts in India's history occurred in 2009 shows that serious droughts have to be a major concern for the future. The five worst Indian monsoons along with the rainfall deficits for the nation:

1) 1877, -33%
2) 1899, -29%
3) 1918, -25%
4) 1972, -24%
5) 2009, -22%

References
Goswami, et al., 2006, " Increasing Trend of Extreme Rain Events Over India in a Warming Environment", Science, 1 December 2006:Vol. 314. no. 5804, pp. 1442 - 1445 DOI: 10.1126/science.1132027

Wunderground's climate change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood wrote a nice 3-part series about the challenges India faces due to climate change after he completed a 2009 trip there.


Video 1. Flood waters claim a multi-story apartment building in Uttarakhand province, India, on June 17, 2013.

Historic flooding in Calgary, Alberta
Torrential rainfall on Wednesday night and Thursday has resulted in the most extensive flooding in Alberta Province, Canada in at least 8 years, with some 100,000 people facing evacuations in the city of Calgary. Wunderblogger Christopher C. Burt has a look at the disaster in his latest post. The floods are due, in part to the "stuck" jet stream pattern that brought record heat to Alaska this week.

Jeff Masters

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Beware the weather spider!
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Also considering that big honking AEW coming down the line over WAfrica, and expecting it will add some moisture to tamp down the soil along the S edge of the Sahel...
Thank you! Its June the models was calling for EL Nino type conditions with higher than normal pressures over the Atlantic. Now its backed off today. Its wayyy too early to be calling the season a bust. 
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1555. auburn (Mod)
Do not circumvent a ban. Most bans last 24 hours or less, please accept the ban. If you create a new username to circumvent a ban, you will be blocked from the site completely
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Quoting Levi32:


Like I said, all you have to do is compute an ACE climatology distribution for each basin of interest, take the standardized ACE anomaly, and you're done. Those anomalies can be compared across basins without the bias of basin-specific differences you speak of.


I understand Levi, and it would be impossible to "guess" or try to model without the interaction of land, as that very well is part of the environment.

Proper interpretation of the data (i.e. - your example of a "GOM year" vs. a "CV year") should consider all of the data available to explain the noted differences.

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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Let's see what's going on...

Typical late June...
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Here is the proof.Its been posted couple times now though you would of seen it.  I can back it when I say it. Now show me yours. Lmao

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Quoting VR46L:


Beleive it or not 2006 is the reason why I got interested in the Atlantic ... One of the extropical fish Gordon Went back to a Cane strength gusts off the coast and Alberto and Helene passed right over me ...
I seem to remember 2006 as the year of the major 'canes that made it to Ireland .... lol ... not surprising, mind u, given their tracks.

The blog was the = of the Wild Wild West back then...
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Getting rocked by a powerful sea breeze thunderstorm. There was lots of greenish tint to the cloud base with rapidly rising scud flowing into it with suddenly calm winds as the sea breeze collision occurred right over me, then it was followed by gusty winds of 40 to 50 mph and almost continuous cloud to ground lightning and of course torrential rain, one close hit knocked my power out for a few minutes, my computer was a bit slow to come back on. It has since pushed west of me so things have calmed, now just lots of thunder, some lightning and steady rain.

Classic Florida thunderstorms that's for sure.
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As VRL suggested, it's not that his points are particularly preposterous. It's that a wide array of products, most of them readily made available by posters in this blog, have already indicated that what he is saying is not valid.

Sad.

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Not much in the Atlantic Geoffrey.
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Let's see what's going on...

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1546. VR46L
Quoting BahaHurican:
That was the first full year of the blog.... everybody was watching for another 2005... including all the "experts".... then everything went to el nino unexpectedly, and the season basically ended after Isaac. There were actually a couple of pretty decent majors... but steering kept most storms out to sea. That was the year of the fish storm.

However, having looked at some of the variables, so far nothing is suggesting that the season will be below average. The current state of dust, shear and even the size / orientation of the AB high are not unusual for June. Frankly, we don't generally expect to see much activity, especially in the MDR, before 1 Aug anyway. Anything earlier is gravy, and that's one reason why 2005 is such an anomaly.


Beleive it or not 2006 is the reason why I got interested in the Atlantic ... One of the extropical fish Gordon Went back to a Cane strength gusts off the coast and Alberto and Helene passed right over me ...
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6899
Quoting justplainwrongNOW:
any proof of thiat happeneing? or just a guess?
EArlier post of MJO forcast puts it in our area over the next 3-4 forecast periods... could reduce SAL impact considerably.
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Quoting sar2401:

Wow! I hadn't though of that idea. Reserve screen names. I never would have figured out who this was otherwise.


One has to at least give credit to persistence, and in this case - long-term planning. :)
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Quoting Hurricanes305:
Dont expect the SAL dust over the Atlantic change your mind on the season. Once the MJO comes into the Atlantic upward motion will spread over the African/ Thus eroding the SAL.
Also considering that big honking AEW coming down the line over WAfrica, and expecting it will add some moisture to tamp down the soil along the S edge of the Sahel...
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1541. sar2401
Quoting justplainwrongNOW:
We are getting a nasty t storm now

Wow! I hadn't though of that idea. Reserve screen names. I never would have figured out who this was otherwise.
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Dont expect the SAL dust over the Atlantic change your mind on the season. Once the MJO comes into the Atlantic upward motion will spread over the African/ Thus eroding the SAL.
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Oh...kay..

The red velvet thing was just TOTALLY out of left field...

[scratches head while trying to figure out the connection between red velvet cake and early season activity]

Pat, can I have a Fresca?
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Ahhhh.


Interesting bend west by TD3E in the forecast.
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1536. sar2401
Quoting FLwolverine:
Don't worry, Sar. He means the facts are civilized. Your reputation is safe. :-)

(Emoticon included because it looks friendlier than "j/k")

Ah, I thought there had to be a hidden agenda. :-) I used to try uncivilized facts, but then I started scaring the kids, so I decided to switch over the civilized variety.
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Quoting notanotherwrong:
oops sorry i meant that for the idiot who said i was troliing not you


Lol you just troll yourself. This is a weatherblog so you must back up your forecast with facts.
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Member Since: May 12, 2012 Posts: 11 Comments: 2617
1531. Levi32
Quoting daddyjames:


LOL - longevity is a big part in the ACE score, and very indicative of the environment. So, i get what Levi stated. But I do understand what you are saying, too - and was my question regarding a "fudge factor" for comparing ACE across basins.

The fact that many Atlantic storms can terminate due to interaction with land, vs. the EPAC in which most storms (not all of course) simply head out to sea has me wondering . . .


Like I said, all you have to do is compute an ACE climatology distribution for each basin of interest, take the standardized ACE anomaly, and you're done. Those anomalies can be compared across basins without the bias of basin-specific differences you speak of.
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Quoting yonzabam:


In 50% of years, the first named storm forms after July 10.
IMO, one of the key indicators that this is an active period has been the increase in May-Jun activity. I have lived in the Bahamas all my life [with breaks for university et al] and prior to about 1998 we rarely, if ever, saw more than a Twave pass through here before the second decade of August. Twaves in June were common rainmakers, but organized systems were uncommon, even in the weather news or forecasts which always included some comment like "tropical storm formation is not expected" throughout the summer months.

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Quoting FLwolverine:
Don't worry, Sar. He means the facts are civilized. Your reputation is safe. :-)

(Emoticon included because it looks friendlier than "j/k")


LOL - not if your Nea (according to other folks - not me).
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Quoting zampaz:

Fascinating. Finally I had to take the bait.
What models or method do you base your predictions on notanotherwrong?
Old timers have said; "It's too early to tell..."
and forecasters generally say; "According to this model;"
and the group as a whole tends to look at data.
Upon what basis do you make your predictions notanother wrong?



I think RTLSNK posted the models this guy uses yesterday. Something about how even mentioning those models will get a long term ban.
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Quoting zampaz:

Fascinating. Finally I had to take the bait.
What models or method do you base your predictions on notanotherwrong?
Old timers have said; "It's too early to tell..."
and forecasters generally say; "According to this model;"
and the group as a whole tends to look at data.
Upon what basis do you make your predictions notanother wrong?



Z

as naw admitted earlier, this is one of many mnames acquired over the years . . . I can only speculate at the reasons.

So, i wish you well . . . :D
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Quoting sar2401:

Well, thank you, Teddy. I haven't had anyone call me civilized in a quite a while. :-)
Don't worry, Sar. He means the facts are civilized. Your reputation is safe. :-)

(Emoticon included because it looks friendlier than "j/k")
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Quoting sar2401:

Yes, no question about that, but how big a part is longevity in the total ACE score for a storm? It really seems like, using Phillipe as an example, that he was barely a tropical storm most of his life, and only survived as long as he did because there were no steering currents strong enough to take him into the shear and kill him, even though we all expected it to happen any time now. It almost seems like he should have points deducted for not comitting hari-kari and putting us (and him) out of our misery. :-)


LOL - longevity is a big part in the ACE score, and very indicative of the environment. So, i get what Levi stated. But I do understand what you are saying, too - and was my question regarding a "fudge factor" for comparing ACE across basins.

The fact that many Atlantic storms can terminate due to interaction with land, vs. the EPAC in which most storms (not all of course) simply head out to sea has me wondering . . .
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1522. zampaz
Edit:
sorry...I took the bait, comment removed.

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Quoting sar2401:

Well, thank you, Teddy. I haven't had anyone call me civilized in a quite a while. :-)
It's the avatar got them all fooled...
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Quoting yonzabam:


In 50% of years, the first named storm forms after July 10.


In the 1995-2012 period the average date of the first named storm was June 22. This year brought the average a day earlier.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I feel I wouldn't be doing some of our old favorites who we've lost over the last few years justice without posting this:


Given it's only June 23rd and we've already seen two named storms, I wouldn't doubt that this season will be active.
LOL... thank u, superTed...

I really need to swipe this image... talk about a great screen backdrop... lol
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Quoting BahaHurican:
On the subject of Jun and Jul activity... I hope everyone realizes average date for a first hurricane is well down into July, and first major isn't usually seen until August? There's methodology attached to The CHART - it's not just a pretty picture.



In 50% of years, the first named storm forms after July 10.
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1517. sar2401
Quoting CybrTeddy:


You get to stay because you bring civilized facts and logic to a discussion. There's no sin in being wrong with a forecast. :)

Well, thank you, Teddy. I haven't had anyone call me civilized in a quite a while. :-)
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Nothing new with pple calling the season bust before we are out of June... typical blog action.

Unfortunately, there's very little out there right now to verify such a forecast. Even in 2006 we knew in the blog by August that el nino was coming strongly, and that it was likely the previously anticipated busy season would not materialize. If, and a big IF, we move away from neutral, I might be willing to go along with the above average 'cast, or at least see it as a serious possibility.

Right now? Not so much.

I'm just hoping I don't have to be out of town in August....
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By me as well sar2401
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1514. sar2401
Quoting auburn:
Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering. Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the ! button and ignored.

OK...no problem. This person has been reported by me, at least, and I'm sure many others, since May. When may we expect to see his handle disappear?
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Quoting sar2401:

Let's see, I've had an account here for...holy cripes...almost 13 years. I have to get a life. Anyway, I've had the same name the whole time. Of course, I'm usually wrong about predictions, so maybe that's why they let me stay.


You get to stay because you bring civilized facts and logic to a discussion. There's no sin in being wrong with a forecast. :)
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Quoting BahaHurican:
On the subject of Jun and Jul activity... I hope everyone realizes average date for a first hurricane is well down into July, and first major isn't usually seen until August? There's methodology attached to The CHART - it's not just a pretty picture.



I feel I wouldn't be doing some of our old favorites who we've lost over the last few years justice without posting this:


Given it's only June 23rd and we've already seen two named storms, I wouldn't doubt that this season will be active.
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1511. sar2401
Quoting notanotherwrong:
every time i would prove the experts wrong and make a few statements they would ban me so a new account was right around the corner. i guess that hate being proved wrong every year

Let's see, I've had an account here for...holy cripes...almost 13 years. I have to get a life. Anyway, I've had the same name the whole time. Of course, I'm usually wrong about predictions, so maybe that's why they let me stay.
Edit: I just realized that I can't subtract either. It's been almost 8 years...but I still need to get a life. :-)
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On the subject of Jun and Jul activity... I hope everyone realizes average date for a first hurricane is well down into July, and first major isn't usually seen until August? There's methodology attached to The CHART - it's not just a pretty picture.

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.
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1508. auburn (Mod)
Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering. Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the ! button and ignored.
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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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