Could Climate Change Reduce the Frequency of Tracks Like Hurricane Sandy's?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 10:14 PM GMT on September 03, 2013

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We're used to seeing hurricane-battered beaches and flooded cities in Florida, North Carolina, and the Gulf Coast. But to see these images from the Jersey Shore and New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy was a shocking experience. New Jersey rarely gets hit by hurricanes, because it lies in a portion of the coast that doesn't stick out much, and is too far north. Hurricanes generally move from east to west in the tropics, where the prevailing trade winds blow that direction. But the prevailing wind direction reverses at mid-latitudes, due to the spin of the Earth, and the flow becomes predominately west-to-east. Hurricanes that penetrate to approximately Northern Florida's latitude typically get caught up in these westerly winds and are whisked northeastwards, out to sea. However, the jet stream, that powerful band of upper-atmosphere west-to-east flowing air, has many dips and bulges. These troughs of low pressure and ridges of high pressure allow winds at mid-latitudes to flow more in a south-to-north direction. Every so often, a trough in the jet stream bends back on itself when encountering a ridge of high pressure stuck in place ahead of it--a so-called "blocking high". According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, a "blocking high" near the longitude of Greenland (50°W) only occurs about 2% of the time in the fall, and can cause winds that flow from southeast to northwest over the Northeast U.S. It is this sort of unusual flow that sucked Sandy into New Jersey and allowed the hurricane to take the most perpendicular track into this section of coast of any tropical cyclone in the historical record (Hall and Sobel, 2013.) Using historical climate data, these scientists estimated that the return period of a Category 1 or stronger storm hitting New Jersey at such an odd angle was 1-in-700-years.


Figure 1. Tracks of all tropical storms and hurricanes to hit Southern New Jersey, 1851 - 2012. Hurricane Sandy had a track unprecedented in the historical record. Image created by TWC's Stu Ostro using data from NOAA/CSC.


Figure 2. Hurricane Sandy at 10:10 am EDT October 28, 2012. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Was climate change responsible for Sandy's unusual track?
Either Sandy was an extremely rare event, or else climate change has shifted the odds of such a track to make it more likely. A paper published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Elizabeth Barnes of Colorado State and co-authors, "Model projections of atmospheric steering of Sandy-like superstorms", argues that our best climate models project we should see a decrease in the type of steering patterns that brought Sandy to the coast at such an unusual angle. Of the 22 models used to formulate the 2013 IPCC report, 17 predict a decrease in the type of "blocking highs" responsible for Sandy's unusual track. Nineteen out of 22 of these models also predict that the jet stream will shift farther to the north, particularly in the fall. The authors argue that this jet stream shift will bring about a decrease in easterly winds south of Greenland, resulting in fewer Sandy-like storms hitting the Northeast U.S. However, Dr. Jennifer Francis, who has authored several studies linking Arctic sea ice loss to unusual jet stream patterns, noted in an email to me that "One of the strongest pieces of evidence for the study’s main conclusion is that easterly winds are projected to decrease in a large zone north of Newfoundland. The location of the strongest decreases, however, is north of the location of the block during Sandy, exactly in the region where stronger west winds would occur when blocks like this existed. This suggests that the pattern may actually cause an increase in unusually high pressures in the same location of the Sandy blocking high."


Figure 3. Jet stream winds at a pressure of 300 mb on October 29, 2012, as Hurricane Sandy approached the coast of New Jersey. Note that the wind direction over New Jersey (black arrows) was from the southeast, due to a negatively tilted trough of low pressure over the Eastern U.S. caused by a strong blocking ridge of high pressure over Greenland. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.

Commentary
While the 2013 IPCC models used in the study are the best that we have, the uncertainties are very high in the sort of projected atmospheric changes the authors are analyzing. In the current climate, the models underestimate the frequency of the type of blocking high pressure systems that led to Sandy's unusual track. Thus, we should look with suspicion upon their predictions for a decrease in blocking highs in the future--something that Barnes et al. acknowledge in their paper. In addition, Arctic sea ice loss is occurring much faster than these models predicted; in 2012, September sea ice loss was more than 1 standard deviation below where these models predicted it should be. Thus, these models may be underestimating the influence of sea ice loss on hurricane steering flow in the North Atlantic. As I discussed in an April post, "Arctic sea ice loss tied to unusual jet stream patterns", three studies published in the past year have found that the jet stream has been getting stuck in unusually strong blocking patterns in recent years. These studies found that the recent record decline in Arctic sea ice could be responsible, since this heats up the pole, altering the Equator-to-pole temperature difference, forcing the jet stream to slow down, meander, and get stuck in large loops. The 2012 Arctic sea ice melt season was extreme, with sea ice extent hitting a record low. The 1-in-700 year Hurricane Sandy track could have had its odds boosted by the 2012 record sea ice loss, one can argue, based on this research. This research, however, is disputed by Dr. Barnes in a separate study just published in Geophysical Research Letters, "Revisiting the evidence linking Arctic Amplification to extreme weather in midlatitudes."

The Atlantic hurricane season has been getting longer in recent decades, in association with increasing ocean temperatures. A longer season gives the opportunity for more strong hurricanes to penetrate to the Northeast U.S. in late fall. Warmer ocean waters may also lead to an increase in strong hurricanes farther to the north, since cool ocean temperatures are a key reason why we see so few strong hurricanes affecting the Northeast. These influences would potentially offset any decrease in Sandy-like storms caused by fewer blocking highs forming in a future climate. Much more research is needed before we can be confident how climate change may or may not affect the tracks and frequency of future storms like Hurricane Sandy. One thing that is almost a sure thing: as global warming continues to cause sea levels to rise, the impacts of these storms will be worse as storm surge flooding penetrates farther inland.


Figure 4. Extent of Arctic sea ice predicted by the mean of 20 climate models used to formulate the 2013 IPCC report (thick red line); the pink area denotes plus or minus one standard deviation from the mean. The actual levels of sea ice (thick black line) fell below one standard deviation from what the model were predicting in 2012. The older predictions from the set of models used to formulate the 2007 IPCC report are shown in blue. Image credit: Stroeve et al. 2012, "Trends in Arctic sea ice extent from CMIP5, CMIP3 and observations", Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2012GL052676.

Europe expected to see a large increase in Hurricane Sandy-like hybrid storms?
While the new study by Barnes et al. gives some hope that global warming might lead to fewer Sandy-like storms hitting the Northeast U.S., dangerous part-hurricane, part extratropical hybrid storms like Hurricane Sandy are expected to be an increasing threat for Western Europe by the end of the century due to global warming, said a team of scientists led by Reindert J. Haarsma of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. In a paper called "More hurricanes to hit Western Europe due to global warming", published in April 2013 in Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers describe the results from runs of a high-resolution (25 km grid spacing) climate model based on the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) numerical weather prediction model. The model predicts that the breeding ground for Atlantic hurricanes will shift approximately 700 miles eastwards as the oceans warm this century. Hurricanes which form farther to the east can spend more time over warm tropical waters before turning north and northeast towards Europe, increasing the odds that these storms will have hurricane-force winds upon arrival in Europe. The model showed that wind shear will change little in the region over the coming decades, resulting in a large increase in storms with hurricane-force winds affecting Western Europe. Most of the these storms will not be hurricanes upon arrival in Europe, but will be former hurricanes that have transitioned to extratropical storms with hurricane-force winds. As we saw with Hurricane Sandy, these hybrid storms can be extremely dangerous. Summed over Norway, the North Sea, and the Gulf of Biscay, the model found that the number of hurricane-force storms in August - October increased by over a factor six, increasing from an average of two such storms in the current climate to thirteen per year by 2100. Almost all of these future Western European hurricane-force storms were predicted to originate as hurricanes or tropical storms in the tropics. The researchers conclude that "tropical cyclones will increase the probability of present-day extreme events over the North Sea and the Gulf of Biscay with a factor of 5 and 25 respectively, with far reaching consequences especially for coastal safety."

References
Barnes, E.A, L.M. Polvani, and A.H. Sobel, 2013, "Model projections of atmospheric steering of Sandy-like superstorms", PNAS September 3, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308732110

Haarsma et al., 2013, More hurricanes to hit Western Europe due to global warming, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50360

Hall, T.M., and A.H. Sobel, 2013, "The impact angle of Hurricane Sandy’s New Jersey landfall," Geophysical Research Letters 40:23122315.

"Europe expected to see a large increase in Hurricane Sandy-like hybrid storms", my April 2013 blog post.

"Why did Hurricane Sandy take such an unusual track into New Jersey?" my October 2012 blog post.

Arctic Warming May Not Be Altering Jet Stream: Study
by Andrew Freedman of climatecentral.org, analyzing Dr. Barnes' paper disputing the link between Arctic sea ice loss and changes in the jet stream.

Quick update on 97L
The tropical wave that moved through the Lesser Antilles Islands on Tuesday morning (Invest 97L) is showing increasing signs of organization. It seemed like an atmospheric switch got thrown early this afternoon, and the storm began spinning up. Satellite loops show that 97L has developed some respectable low-level spiral bands, and we can see upper-level outflow channels opening to both the south and the north. There is no sign of a well-organized surface circulation, though, and dry air is still hampering the storm, as evidenced by surface-based outflow boundaries coming out of some of 97L's thunderstorms on its northwest flank. Upper level winds are favorable for development, with wind shear a low 5 - 10 knots, and an upper-level anticyclone overhead. In their 2pm EDT Tuesday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC bumped up the 2-day odds of development to 30%. I put these odds at 50%, and Puerto Rico and the Eastern Dominican Republic can expect 3 - 6 inches of rain from 97L on Wednesday and Thursday. I'll be back Wednesday morning with an update.

Jeff Masters

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Hey Gro remember this aug 22nd you posted?
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At the moment, it will have not place but to go very wnw for awhile and then respond to the trough. The high most likely will not be able to build back in enough to keep it further west. It will also be in a better condition to strengthen




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Quoting 958. KoritheMan:


ECMWF takes it to the central Bahamas before deepening it and turning it northward. That's a bit east of the 12z run, which showed it running into the east coast, but still, the operational ECMWF is a lot farther west than any of the other global models, including the GFS.

I think part of the GFS's problem is that it's trying to get it too caught up in the circulation of the tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles, which isn't going to happen.
so ecmwf tryna make this into a hurricane up the eastern seaboard basically
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Quoting 959. Grothar:


You think they call me Sensei because of my good looks?
:)

lol!!
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Quoting 956. bigwes6844:
LMAO yes gro i got off at 130 am


You think they call me Sensei because of my good looks?
:)

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Quoting 955. bigwes6844:
so a basic turn after cuba is more likely now i see. but has any of the major models come out and said anything yet on maybe where it could go?


ECMWF takes it to the central Bahamas before deepening it and turning it northward. That's a bit east of the 12z run, which showed it running into the east coast, but still, the operational ECMWF is a lot farther west than any of the other global models, including the GFS.

I think part of the GFS's problem is that it's trying to get it too caught up in the circulation of the tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles, which isn't going to happen.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 603 Comments: 21852
Very unlikely. As I think was explained today by a few people, weak systems get steered by low level winds and stronger systems are influenced by upper level winds. There is a mistaken misconception that because a system is weak it will automatically move west. That is not true. BAMM models are shallow models. The Doc explained each models function this week.


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Quoting 954. Grothar:


You got home an hour ago.
LMAO yes gro i got off at 130 am
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Quoting 952. KoritheMan:


The pattern is progressive enough that it does have an avenue into the Gulf if it wants to take it. However, the recurvature option is still viable, and it could really go either way.

I think that if a more westward component ensues later on, it will be north of Cuba, rather than south of it.
so a basic turn after cuba is more likely now i see. but has any of the major models come out and said anything yet on maybe where it could go?
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Quoting 950. bigwes6844:
yes gro i said dat too it looks real good and i just got home too


You got home an hour ago.
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Quoting 949. bigwes6844:

anyone of you think it could take the track of the bamm model maybe? it seems real to me now


The pattern is progressive enough that it does have an avenue into the Gulf if it wants to take it. However, the recurvature option is still viable, and it could really go either way.

I think that if a more westward component ensues later on, it will be north of Cuba, rather than south of it.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 603 Comments: 21852
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Quoting 947. Grothar:
Don't you recognize a blob when you see one anymore people? That is about as well-rounded a system gets in the eastern Atlantic. At this rate and motion is will most likely move through the Mona passage and be in the Southern Bahamas as I said 3 days ago.

I was afraid of this happening if I left :)

yes gro i said dat too it looks real good and i just got home too
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Quoting 945. TampaSpin:



Its HORRIBLY organized....NO Concentrated Vorticity.....NO CONVERGENCE at all...NO SURFACE LOW
Quoting 946. KoritheMan:


Yeah, which is why I went with 30% in my own blog. :P

Chances of development are greater if it can avoid the most mountainous terrain of the Dominican Republic. Any development that occurs will be in the Atlantic, not the Caribbean.

anyone of you think it could take the track of the bamm model maybe? it seems real to me now
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948. FOREX
Quoting 943. Gearsts:


Looking at this radar it looks like a more Westerly movement of the coc has resumed. Any thoughts??
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Don't you recognize a blob when you see one anymore people? That is about as well-rounded a system gets in the eastern Atlantic. At this rate and motion is will most likely move through the Mona passage and be in the Southern Bahamas as I said 3 days ago.

I was afraid of this happening if I left :)

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Quoting 944. bigwes6844:
so u think it deserves a 30?


Yeah, which is why I went with 30% in my own blog. :P

Chances of development are greater if it can avoid the most mountainous terrain of the Dominican Republic. Any development that occurs will be in the Atlantic, not the Caribbean.
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Quoting 938. bigwes6844:

but y are they leaving it at 30? it looks more like 50 to 60% code red imo



Its HORRIBLY organized....NO Concentrated Vorticity.....NO CONVERGENCE at all...NO SURFACE LOW
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20450
Quoting 941. KoritheMan:


It does look decent now, but it hasn't all day.

There are other factors to consider though, like interaction with Hispaniola, and the continued broad nature of the circulation, which satellite images suggest is still poorly-defined.

As good as it looks, it remains a poorly-defined tropical wave axis for now.
so u think it deserves a 30?
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 3032
Quoting 928. redwagon:


Can you explain why it has not benefited any of our storms this year? And why storms are firing and developing in DMIN?


I already did. Subsidence warming near the tropopause is generating sinking air aloft, which is enhancing the mid-oceanic trough (TUTT), creating shear and dry air.

Earlier in the season the high was also abnormally strong and westward-extending, which helped to fling African dust into the Atlantic and suppress storm development there.

And... storms are firing at night. More so than during the day, even. Remember Dorian? Or the recent 92L that failed to become Fernand in the Gulf? :)
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 603 Comments: 21852
Quoting 938. bigwes6844:

but y are they leaving it at 30? it looks more like 50 to 60% code red imo


It does look decent now, but it hasn't all day.

There are other factors to consider though, like interaction with Hispaniola, and the continued broad nature of the circulation, which satellite images suggest is still poorly-defined.

As good as it looks, it remains a poorly-defined tropical wave axis for now.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 603 Comments: 21852
Wow really???
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Quoting 935. bigwes6844:
Kori wat da heck is going on y 30% still? I left for work it was 40 and now its 30?




3D
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Quoting 936. KoritheMan:


I think it's been 30 all day, but I might be wrong.
Quoting 937. RGVtropicalWx13:

It's been at 30% the whole time. With conservative forecaster pasch :P

but y are they leaving it at 30? it looks more like 50 to 60% code red imo
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Quoting 930. bigwes6844:
good morning everybody just got off i see we still have invest 97L. but the heck is it at 30% wats going on?


It's been at 30% the whole time. With conservative forecaster pasch :P
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Quoting 935. bigwes6844:
Kori wat da heck is going on y 30% still? I left for work it was 40 and now its 30?


I think it's been 30 all day, but I might be wrong.
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Quoting 933. KoritheMan:
Blog update if anyone wants to read.
Kori wat da heck is going on y 30% still? I left for work it was 40 and now its 30?
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wow split models. Cant understand but here comes Debby again. Models to the right and models to the left
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Blog update if anyone wants to read.
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EP, 99, 2013090406, , BEST, 0, 168N, 1046W, 25, 1007, DB
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AL, 97, 2013090406, , BEST, 0, 158N, 648W, 30, 1008, LO
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good morning everybody just got off i see we still have invest 97L. but the heck is it at 30% wats going on?

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Quoting 919. KoritheMan:

There is no demise of dmax, lol. The physical processes that govern it literally have to operate. It's physics.


Can you explain why it has not benefited any of our storms this year? And why storms are firing and developing in DMIN?
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Quoting 925. SuperSkeptic:
It seems anything is possible, especially after following the weather predictions for the last three years.......I am afraid for my palm trees this winter based on the almanac.


you need help
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Quoting 922. sar2401:

If it wasn't, I'd be down on Ipanemea, sipping those drinks with umbrellas, served by those beautiful Brazilian girls. :-



I like your thinking. ;)
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It seems anything is possible, especially after following the weather predictions for the last three years.......I am afraid for my palm trees this winter based on the almanac.
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924. JRRP
00 GMT 09/4/13 15.4N 64.0W 30 1008 Invest
06 GMT 09/4/13 15.8N 64.8W 30 1008 Invest
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923. JRRP
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Quoting sunlinepr:


Interesting your point of view...

But then, the alleged uses and attributes explained in the US pattents are fake?

The alleged uses or studies (official) being performed are fake?

The pattents make the allegation that the technology equals the use of nuclear energy without using it...

and unofficially I've read papers alleging to be able to heat up the stratosphere to high temps up to a 400x400km squared area...
Thats my curiosity...

I can see you've never gotten a patent before. You only need four thing:

1. Show your patent doesn't infringe on an existing patent.

2. Provide a working drawing and explanation of the patented application, sometimes a working model if it's small enough.

3. No perpetual motion machines. The patent Office outlawed them decades ago.

4. Pay your money. It's was $175 when I got my last patent, but that was 20 years ago, so I'm sure its more now.

The item doesn't have to to work at all. The Patent Office doesn't require patented items to work. There are thousands of crazed patents issued for things that had no chance of working.

Again, I go back to my main theme. Any microwave that could heat up a 400 by 400 kn area would require unimaginable amounts of power. I can't even estimate on how much, but it would be at least in the millions of kilowatts. This kind of power would knock out all other microwave transmission, including cell phone. Even if you believe all the governments that monitor microwave would lie to cover up HAARP, there are hundreds of thousands of ham operators around the world that would immediately notice this kind of huge microwave pulse, and the news would spread in seconds. To my knowledge, this has never been reported on any ham blog or message service I belong to.

BTW, my patent was for something that worked but it was too expensive to build, so was a commercial flop. If it wasn't, I'd be down on Ipanemea, sipping those drinks with umbrellas, served by those beautiful Brazilian girls. :-
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Quoting 920. moonlightcowboy:
This is hardly characteristic of a tropical storm.





That tropical wave to the east is not only part of the reason 97L has failed to develop in a favorable upper-level wind environment, it's also part of the reason the models show such a sharp recurve.

Tricky situation.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 603 Comments: 21852
This is hardly characteristic of a tropical storm.





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Quoting 918. redwagon:


There IS the immediate absence of DMAX this year, which we used to be able to set our clocks by. Can you explain the demise of DMAX all of a sudden?
There is no demise of dmax, lol. The physical processes that govern it literally have to operate. It's physics.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 603 Comments: 21852
Quoting 904. KoritheMan:
Thing is mlc (and I'm not saying you're advocating this theory), we have no evidence that there is something unusual going on with the weather other than normal synoptic fluctuations.

If anything, I would blame global warming and its influence on large-scale jet stream patterns before I would government weather modification.

Until we have actual evidence of something mysterious going on, there is no logical corollary to assume it.


There IS the immediate absence of DMAX this year, which we used to be able to set our clocks by. Can you explain the demise of DMAX all of a sudden?
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Quoting 912. GatorWX:


Are Humans Causing It?


LOL, here I go. I said I wasn't going to get into the AGW issue. Gonna try to stay that way. GatorWX, might do you good to get to know Jerry Brown, or Sebastionjer on WU, that is if he still posts here. And, I'll leave it at that. :)
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Quoting 847. GatorWX:


97L looking pretty good at present. Interesting to see how dmax plays out for it and if it can sustain. Seems it's further south than perhaps thought, maybe.
Fujiwhara effect?
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Quoting 910. sar2401:

When it comes to portable nuclear power, nothing beats the USN.


Good ol' USN! Love our military men and women.

Bunch of 'em gathered up near Syria now, unfortunately. Heard part of General Dempsey's speech before Hearing Committee today, wasn't interested whatsoever in his political opinion of whether or not we should engage there, not his job. But, I was interested in knowing how he would actually secure the chemical weapons themselves, what will be achieved. How can that be done without boots on the ground. And, with all this advance warning how likely is that anyway? No one answered those questions. Kerry said "boots on the ground" would not be taken off the table. Here we go again, I'm afraid. Seems both sides of the aisle want it.

Personally, I think it's all tactical diversion from far more serious problems, but we don't hear of those in the LSM or from our so-called political servants.
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Quoting 910. sar2401:

There is no evidence of HAARP facilities outside of Alaska, - none - zero. USN.


Thanks for info... found

HAARP Facility Shuts Down
TAGS: air force, Alaska, 07/15/2013

The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) a subject of fascination for many hams and the target of conspiracy theorists and anti-government activists has closed down. HAARPs program manager, Dr James Keeney at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, told ARRL that the sprawling 35-acre ionospheric research facility in remote Gakona, Alaska, has been shuttered since early May.

Currently the site is abandoned,%u201D he said. It comes down to money. We dont have any.
Link

Too bad.... For me, I believe China and Russia will keep theirs open....

Alaska has 3 other facilities

Russia

Antennas at Sura facility, Russia.

The Sura Ionospheric Heating Facility, located near the small town of Vasilsursk about 100 km eastward from Nizhniy Novgorod in Russia, is a laboratory for ionosphere research. Sura is capable of radiating about 190 MW, effective radiated power (ERP) on short waves. This facility is operated by the radiophysical research institute NIRFI in Nizhny Novgorod. The Sura facility was commissioned in 1981. Using this facility, Russian researchers achieved extremely interesting results regarding the ionosphere behavior and discovered the effect of generation of low-frequency emission at the modulation of ionosphere current[1]. At the beginning, Soviet Defense Department mostly footed the bill. The American HAARP ionospheric heater is similar to the Sura facility. The HAARP project began in 1993.


Do Luiz Space Observatory
HAARP Like Facility
Cruzeiro Santa Barbara, Sao Luis-MA, Brasil
-2 35' 40.47", -44 12' 35.90"




Why does Google Earth blurs most of these facilities, if they don't exist or if they dont have anything to hide...??

There is evidence (photograpic, internet presence, physical presence that they DO exist... they have copied our pattents.. and are experimenting

There are many other facilities...

Good night all....
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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