Future abrupt loss of Arctic sea ice

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:53 PM GMT on February 22, 2007

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We've heard a lot about the melting sea ice in the Arctic. The steady loss of the polar ice cap may endanger the polar bear, but provide new shipping channels and opportunities for commercial exploitation of the Arctic. Since 1979 (the year satellite imagery of the north pole first became available), the areal coverage of the Arctic sea ice has shrunk by about 10% in winter (4% per decade) and 20% in summer (8% per decade). The loss of sea ice, when plotted on a graph (Figure 1), has roughly followed a straight line over time. There are a few noisy ups and downs, reflecting colder and warmer years than average. A trend that approximately follows a straight line is called a "linear" trend. A continued linear summertime 8% per decade loss of sea ice would leave the summertime Arctic Ocean ice-free by 2100. The ocean would still partially freeze in winter, with about 50% of the ocean covered with ice.



Figure 1. Average September Arctic sea ice coverage as observed by satellites between 1979 and 2006. Image credit: NOAA's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

However, there is a distinct possibility that Arctic sea ice loss may show a sudden non-linear decline in coming years. The loss of sea ice with time may no longer follow a nice straight line, but instead suddenly accelerate, allowing the Arctic sea ice to suffer a sudden and complete disintegration in just a decade. The result would be an ice-free Arctic Ocean for the first time since before the last ice age. This possibility was explored in a December 2006 paper (Holland et al.), titled "Future abrupt reductions in the summer Arctic sea ice". The authors ran the Community Climate System Model, one of the top climate models used to formulate the "official word" on climate, the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The model was run for the years 1979-2006, and successfully predicted the 20% loss of summer sea ice during that period. The model then assumed that levels of greenhouse gases would continue to increase, until a doubling of CO2 levels occurred in 2100. This is considered a "middle-of-the-road" scenario, and assumes a reasonable sequence of events will unfold over the coming decades: humans will make some modest efforts to control greenhouse emissions, but not enough to prevent dangerous climate change. The model found that Arctic sea ice continued to decline linearly until about 2024, resulting in about 60% sea ice coverage in September (Figure 2). During this period, the vertical thickness of the sea ice declined from about four meters to one meter. Beginning in 2025, the rate of sea ice loss suddenly tripled, resulting in the total loss of the summertime polar sea ice by 2040. The authors theorize that once the ice reaches a critical thickness--in this case, one meter--the processes that create open water suddenly become more efficient, resulting in a rapid disintegration of the remaining ice.




Figure 2. September Arctic sea ice extent observed in 1979 (yellow line), and 2005 (white area). The predicted coverage of sea ice by Holland et al. (2006) is shown for 2015 (red line) and 2040 (green line). Their model predicts that sea ice in summer by 2040 will occur only in narrow bands along the Canadian Arctic coast. However, there will still be about 50% sea ice coverage in winter. Original image taken from NASA.

The authors tested 11 other models that were also used to formulate the 2007 IPCC report. Six of these 11 models also showed similar sudden losses of the summer sea ice. When these models were run assuming that dramatic efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be made over the coming decades, only 3 of the 15 models tested showed sudden summer sea ice losses.

The authors concluded that "abrupt changes in the summer Arctic sea ice cover are quite likely and can occur early in the 21st century, with the earliest event in approximately 2015". Given that just over 50% of the models tested show such an effect, it is by no means a sure thing that we'll see a total loss of Arctic sea ice by the middle of the century. However, the results should be impetus to drastically cut greenhouse emissions soon, as the probability of an ice-free Arctic increases significantly if we do nothing.

This is the fourth in a series of five blogs on climate change in the Arctic that will appear every Monday and Thursday. Part five is: Why should we be concerned about an ice-free Arctic Ocean? This one might wait a few extra days, as there are other topics I may want to talk about. My next blog will be Monday.

Also, be sure to visit our new Climate Change blog, written by Dr. Ricky Rood of the University of Michigan.

References
Holland, M.M., C.M. Bitz, B. Tremblay, 2006 "Future abrupt reductions in the summer Arctic sea ice", Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L23503, December 2006.

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56. V26R
10:38 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Great, Hopefully that will help the spring flowers down your way
Member Since: July 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1762
55. mrpuertorico
9:58 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
yes we had some rain during the week and now things seem to be a little more moist the days of not a cloud in the sky have stopped for the last 5 days
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 833
54. V26R
9:46 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Hey MrPR Get any Rain yet???
Member Since: July 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1762
53. mrpuertorico
9:22 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
so you had a shaker pottery i felt one the other day to
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 833
52. Fshhead
9:14 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
51. Fshhead
9:13 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Posted By: Fshhead at 6:56 AM GMT on February 23, 2007.

Federal support for solar energy is at a critical turning point - and we need your help. With the newly introduced "Securing America's Energy Independence Act", we have our biggest opportunity yet to jumpstart solar energy in this country.

The bill does what it says. The bi-partisan legislation (introduced in the House as H.R. 550 and the Senate as S. 590 ) would make America's energy future a lot brighter by making solar energy more affordable across the country. In many states, solar would be cheaper than buying electricity from the grid.

The bill extends the 30% federal investment tax credit (currently set to expire at the end of 2008) for another 8 years, modifies the distributed photovoltaics incentive to $1500 per half-kW of capacity and removes the $2000 residential cap.

This is a huge opportunity. The federal government must support the long term development of the solar industry in order to bring solar energy into the mainstream, and this bill will do just that.

Solar energy has the potential to provide much of the electricity our country needs. Temporary financial incentives are necessary to build economies of scale - and extending the tax credits over a longer period gives the solar industry the market certainty necessary to make long-term investments.

The plan is to get as many co-sponsors to sign onto the bill as possible. Energy is a top-level concern for Americans, and politicians are ready to stand in favor of clean energy more than ever. Bills with legs, as demonstrated by the number of co-sponsors, are much more likely to get the tap to move forward and have a chance at passage.

The time for action is now. Use the link below to send an email to your representatives, asking them to co-sponsor and support this bill

LowerCal, just got an e-mail on that very subject from Solar Nation....
I encourage everyone to take a few minutes & fill this out. It has to start with us forcing change by letting your opinion be heard. I have said it before here, we are at a HUGE fork in the road here. Which path are we going to choose for future generations?? I am sure by now most of you know my view on this lol.

Like I have said it CAN be done!!!!! The time is now!!!!!!!!!!
Link
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
50. pottery
4:33 PM AST on February 23, 2007
Hi Skye, if you are there. yeah, we are fine after the quake this am. But I tell you, its a real nasty feeling to have things start moving around and jumping up and down. This area has been more active in the past few months, than in the past. This is the third 5 or over in a little while. Kind of makes me wonder................

Also, glad to hear its going to be Big Oil, not Tourism.
When we talk about how we affect the planet through global warming ( still in dispute ??), we need to factor in things like this. The warming ( in this instance ) is going to result in major environmental destruction,by oil exploration. Maybe time for a meteor the size of Minesota to save us all for true..
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24799
49. hurricane23
15:19 EST le 23 février 2007
Good afternoon,

Gamade is looking spectacular on infrared imagery as the eye is clearly becoming better defined on satelitte imagery futher intensification is very likely.


Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
48. bdkennedy1
7:55 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
No news on Cat 3 Favio hitting Mozambique. Go figure.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
47. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
6:55 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
10 min sustained wind stats

1800pm UTC 23Feb 2007
Metro France: RSMC Reunion


Cyclone Tropicale Gamede 75 knots with wind gusts up to 105 knots

◘ Mauritius has issued Tropical Cyclone Warning Class 3
◘ Reunion has issued a Vigilance Cyclone Alert

Forte Tempête Tropicale Humba 50 knots with wind gusts up to 70 knots
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46566
46. Skyepony (Mod)
6:21 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Pottery~ glad your good after your shake..

As for the big business winner that's oil. & every country in the area is staking it's claim. It's being called the North Pole Oil War..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 209 Comments: 39093
45. Skyepony (Mod)
6:20 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Some news from around the world..

3 People Missing in Guatemala Sinkhole

Aftermath of Cyclone Favio Could Bring Swollen or Flooded Rivers

Cyclone Favio claims 4 lives
23/02/2007 12:43 - (SA)


Maputo - A powerful tropical storm killed four people and injured at least 70 in Mozambique's resort town of Vilanculos, where thousands of homes were destroyed along with the hospital and power grid, said officials on Friday.

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 209 Comments: 39093
44. pottery
1:12 PM AST on February 23, 2007
Yeah indeed, its supposed to be terra FIRMA , after all.....

I'm out till later.........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24799
43. V26R
5:04 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Never does feel good to have the ground shaking underneath you Pot!
Member Since: July 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1762
42. pottery
12:56 PM AST on February 23, 2007
Snowboy, your comment that the reduction in Arctic ice cover will affect us all is true. The ONLY ones to benefit, as seen from several comments around the place, will be Global Big Business, who are already saying things like " new shipping routes ", .." more agricultural land " etc. Just think of the potential for cruise ship tourism up there, We can even put the last 3 polar bears in a refrigerated room for people to gawk at. It will be great............
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24799
41. pottery
12:50 PM AST on February 23, 2007
V26R. Yes , thats the one. Did not feel like a 5 mag. to me. But disconcerting anyway ! thanks for the link.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24799
40. arubakid
4:32 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
I have noticed it is extremely cold in Alaska and the Northern Territories.
Any thoughts on when it will come South and now cold the mass will still be?
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39. V26R
4:34 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
Hey Pottery is this the one you felt???
Link
Member Since: July 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1762
38. snowboy
4:22 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
The pending abrupt loss of year-round Arctic sea ice is one of the aspects of global warming that concerns me most. The northern sea ice plays a huge role in the world's climate, and its loss will be irreversible on the time scale of our civilization. No one knows exactly what changes to climate will result from its loss, but I am certain that those changes will be profound and not seen as positive by humanity.
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37. ryang
12:28 PM AST on February 23, 2007
Hey Mike.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12453
36. stormchasher
11:27 AM EST on February 23, 2007
cool!! Link
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33. mrpuertorico
12:07 PM AST on February 23, 2007
that low pressure system off the east coast is going to supply some nice waves to puerto rico's north coast on sunday surfers grab your sticks!
Member Since: July 10, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 833
32. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
4:02 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
10 min sustained winds stats

1500pm UTC 23Feb 2007
Metro France: RSMC Reunion


Cyclone Tropicale Gamede 70 knots with wind gusts up to 100 knots

◘ Mauritius has issued Tropical Cyclone Warning Class 3
◘ Reunion has issued a Vigilance Cyclone Alert

Tempête Tropicale Modéree Humba 45 knots with wind gusts up to 65 knots
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46566
31. pottery
10:54 AM AST on February 23, 2007
>>>>>>>>>>> News break>>>>>>>

Earthquake here 5 mins ago. I would guess 3 or 4 mag. I'll check it out.
Sloshed the water in the pond around though.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24799
30. Johny
2:26 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
In reference to the Artic ice meltdown, Since only surface area is usually monitored and graphed, and ice is actually 3-D. Applying simple physics would predict that the actual rate of mass melting would be squared or 20% per decade. On top of that, small pieces of ice melt at a faster rate since the mass is radius cubed, and the area (where heat may enter)is radius squared, so now we are up to 40% mass per decade. On top of that are the darker waters absorbing more heat yet, and the tendency for ice to melt from the bottom up - making the 10 year meltdown very believable.

Want a simple kitchen table proof: put a 1Lb block of ice and 1Lb of of ice cubes in 2 identical pans of water and record the melt times. If you have a big table, you try crushed ice too. You can add the dark water effect by repeating the test with a big (more open water) and little pan and add 250W flood lights. Maybe an idea for a school science project - in like Greenland.

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29. pottery
10:49 AM AST on February 23, 2007
>>>>>>>YOIKES indeed ! I'm sorry.......Reading in a rush, not concentrating. All temps obviously in in F, and I saw 87F and read 37c. Not too bad after all. Also some showers on the way, looking East........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24799
28. pottery
10:40 AM AST on February 23, 2007
Good morning : Trinidad Weather, ( enter piarco in the search box )

Temps, today 84
sat 86
sun 86
mon 87 = 99 F !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thats real hot for Trinidad, and if it pans out that way, it will be an alltime record high. Add the index to this and ???????

YOIKES !
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24799
27. Patrap
7:22 AM CST on February 23, 2007
To my SE Louisiana and Gulf Coastal fellow FEMA trailer..and Mobile Home residents.Tommorw,Sat the 24th..a powerful storm systrm is Forcasted to move thru the SE La..Coastal Miss region.There is a risk of Severe Activity along with damaging winds and Possible Tornadoes.PLease keep up on the Situation as it develops tommorrow.At this time the threat timing looks to be between 6pm-12midnight CST Saturday.However,the exact timing of the System is still uncertain.If one hasnt already,purchase a NOAA radio to compliment your Action Plan.Its Money well spent and could possibly be the only warning youll get in a rapidly Developing Serious Weather event as forecasted..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129439
26. Patrap
7:21 AM CST on February 23, 2007
From the New Orleans NWS office this AM.../// .....Forecast thinking has not changed much over the last 24 hours. The
surface high over the southeast will shift eastward today as the
upper level low over the western United States moves over The
Rockies. As a result...southerly flow returns today...which will
help to feed Gulf moisture to the surface low that will develop
over the Central Plains. Saturday will definitely be one breezy
day as 15 to 20 miles per hour southerly winds prevail across the entire area.


As the low lifts northeastward...it will push a squall line and
cold front through our area Saturday night. The bulk of the energy
continues to be forecast to pass to our north. However...given the
amount of moist Gulf air that will be in place combined with a 50+
knot low level jet and favorable shear profile...local parameters
still favor strong to severe thunderstorms across the forecast
area. The Storm Prediction Center has issued a moderate risk for
day 2 for areas along and north of a line from Grosse Tete to
Baton Rouge to Amite to Tylertown...while the rest of the area is
under a slight risk. Tornadoes and damaging winds will be the main
threats.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129439
25. Patrap
7:20 AM CST on February 23, 2007
Nothing Funny about that severe Threat ..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129439
24. notabene
1:14 PM GMT on February 23, 2007
...de-lurking....

O/T but there's a funny looking storm system coming thru the Midwest in the next day or two....was reading NWS summary for KC and they mentioned this--

Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service Kansas City/Pleasant Hill MO
445 am CST Friday Feb 23 2007


Discussion...


A powerful storm system will affect the central U.S. This weekend
with a combination of both Spring and winter like weather likely in
our County Warning Area. Water vapor imagery shows a sharp upper level trough slowly
taking on a more negative tilt. This will become more obvious
tonight as a 120kt+ upper level jet segment rotates through the base
of the trough. GFS/NAM-WRF are quite similar in handling both the
strengthening of both the middle levels and surface systems as well as
timing...even to the Point of showing the fujiwhara effect of
vorticity centers rotating around each other over northern MO
Saturday night.
Main difference between the two models is in the low
level moisture fields/qpf. As is typical the GFS has overdone the
moisture. The 00z GFS did a poor job initializing the 850mb
dewpoints over south and West Texas as evidenced by drt's dewpoint.
Thus the GFS is too soon and too wet with the moisture return. So
have backed off on the probability of precipitation for today and limited them to far
northwest MO and the northeast corner of Kansas.


This system will tap into the Gulf of Mexico and eventually draw
deep moisture into the lower MS valley for significant rainfall on
Saturday. Prior to this rain we should see elevated convection
form tonight in response to increasing warm air advection and the
ascent associated with the left exit region of the upper level jet
segment. Feel confident enough on this occurring to increase probability of precipitation
for tonight.


Have some concern for locally heavy rainfall tomorrow as soil
temperatures remain frozen a few inches below the surface...so just
about all of the rain will run off. Toyed with the idea of issuing a
Flood Watch for Saturday. However...06z NAM-WRF quantitative precipitation forecast is not as robust
as the 00z run...GFS is too wet...plus the nearly unidirectional and
strong windfields through a deep layer indicate the convection will
move through quite fast. Will handle with an esf and highlight in
the severe weather potential statement. The other concern is the potential for severe weather late
Saturday morning and afternoon mainly south of the MO river.
Although instability will be marginal at best southerly 850mb winds
in excess of 50kt and the juxtaposition of the left exit region of
the 250mb jet supports the possibility of isolated low topped
suprecells. The latest GFS and NAM both drive the dry slot into west
central MO by early afternoon and race it across the southern County Warning Area.


By Saturday night cold air will rush south on the backside of the
departing surface low. Tail end of the deformation zone is expected
to swing across the northern counties during the evening. Although
the cold air will sweep through the entire County Warning Area overnight with
temperatures falling below freezing most of the accumulating snow
will be across northern MO. Two to three inches across northwest MO
and one to two across the rest of northern MO...along and north of
Highway 36 seems reasonable. Too early to put out an advisory but
one will likely be needed within 24 hours.


Wrap around light snow could linger north of the MO river on
Sunday...especially over northeast MO where likely probability of precipitation inserted.
Also expanded the chance probability of precipitation further southwest. Not much of a
diurnal temperature range either for Sunday. Otherwise...made only
some minor cosmetic changes to the forecast past Sunday.


Pretty crazy, eh?

....re-lurking....
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23. Tazmanian
5:42 PM PST on February 22, 2007
Gamede winds up to 90kt from 80kt

16S wind up to 45kt from 35kt
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22. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
10:13 AM JST on February 23, 2007
10 min sustained winds stats

0000am UTC 23Feb 2007
Metro France: RSMC Reunion


Cyclone Tropicale Gamede 60 knots with wind gusts up to 90 knots
◘ Mauritius has issued Tropical Cyclone Warning Class II

Ex-Favio Dépression sur Terra 40 knots with wind gusts up to 60 knots

Dépression Tropicale 11R 30 knots with wind gusts up to 45 knots
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46566
21. 147257
12:58 AM GMT on February 23, 2007
Dr Jeff Master i look every thursday and monday and other days if u have posted something and i want to say thnx for all the effor ur doing in posting this cause it is very interesting i'm curious to the last blog
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20. Tazmanian
4:25 PM PST on February 22, 2007
Posted By: HCW at 1:54 PM PST on February 22, 2007.

Jeff What are your thoughts on the major severe weather outbreak this weekened ? Do you think that it will be an historic event ?



HARDCOREWEATHER.COM


he is not her aron did the blog for him dr M is on vacation
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19. HurricaneMyles
12:18 AM GMT on February 23, 2007
Bgoney...Models are ran on past climate to test if they accurately simulate the Earth. If they are completely off on previous climate then they can be discounted to predict future climate.
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18. Bgoney
7:07 PM EST on February 22, 2007
Shouldn't the model that predicted 20% loss of ice coverage for the years 1979-2006 have predicted that in 1978.It's not a prediction if information is constantly updated over the whole period.
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17. LowerCal
2:06 PM PST on February 22, 2007
Thanks for bringing up that point Skye. It prompted me to do a little more research.

Bills of the same name "Securing America's Energy Independence Act" were introduced in the 109th Congress H.R. 5206 and S. 2677 but they never became law and no more action can occur on them.

These bills have been introduced to the current (110th) Congress as H.R. 550 and S. 590. If you supported these bills a few months ago you still need to tell the current Congress, especially if you have a new Representative or Senator.

As Dr. Masters says in today's blog entry, "... the results should be impetus to drastically cut greenhouse emissions soon ...".
Member Since: July 26, 2006 Posts: 58 Comments: 9228
16. HCW
9:53 PM GMT on February 22, 2007
Jeff What are your thoughts on the major severe weather outbreak this weekened ? Do you think that it will be an historic event ?



HARDCOREWEATHER.COM
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
15. weatherboykris
7:21 PM GMT on February 22, 2007
Thanks for the blog Dr. Masters.
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14. Skyepony (Mod)
7:15 PM GMT on February 22, 2007
LowerCal, The solar write offs where just extended for 2007. This would eliminate some govt yearly redundancy. The link was great, never wrote 3 polititions so fast.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 209 Comments: 39093
13. LowerCal
11:01 AM PST on February 22, 2007
"Securing America's Energy Independence Act"

The bill does what it says. The bi-partisan legislation (introduced in the House as H.R. 550 and the Senate as S. 590 ) would make America's energy future a lot brighter by making solar energy more affordable across the country. In many states, solar would be cheaper than buying electricity from the grid.

The bill extends the 30% federal investment tax credit (currently set to expire at the end of 2008) for another 8 years, modifies the distributed photovoltaics incentive to $1500 per half-kW of capacity and removes the $2000 residential cap.

Use the link below to send an email to your representatives, asking them to co-sponsor and support this bill.

Link
Member Since: July 26, 2006 Posts: 58 Comments: 9228
12. Skyepony (Mod)
6:21 PM GMT on February 22, 2007
This is wild.. go here & click on one of the years (2004 was good). You can watch the whole year of sea ice animation.

grayingwindsurfer~ Do try, would like to see the pics.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 209 Comments: 39093
11. franck
6:28 PM GMT on February 22, 2007
grayingwindsurfer...the reflexive interaction of global ice loss/warming is a large contributor to the acceleration of global warming. The three degrees of centigrade warming expected to occur in the next century may happen in the next five years, or less.


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10. Thunderstorm2
6:27 PM GMT on February 22, 2007
It's certainly is looking good.
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9. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
3:25 AM JST on February 23, 2007
Mauritius has a CYCLONE WARNING in effect for Severe Tropical Storm Gamede.

Mauritius Bulletin

10 min sustained winds stats

1800pm UTC 22Feb 2007
Metro France: RSMC Reunion


Forte Tempête Tropicale Gamede 60 knots with wind gusts up to 85 knots

Forte Tempête Tropicale Favio 60 knots with wind gusts up to 85 knots

Dépression Tropicale 11R 30 knots with wind gusts up to 45 knots
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46566
8. hurricane23
1:25 PM EST on February 22, 2007
Indeed!Forcasted to reach 90kts as off right now but futher intensification then currently forcasted seems quite possible.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
7. Thunderstorm2
6:23 PM GMT on February 22, 2007
Strong Cyclone Coming?
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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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