Connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:15 PM GMT on May 04, 2012

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Connecting the dots between human-caused climate change and extreme weather events is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. One the one hand, the underlying physics is clear--the huge amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere must be already causing significant changes to the weather. But the weather has huge natural variations on its own, without climate change. So, communicators of the links between climate change and extreme weather need to emphasize how climate change shifts the odds. We've loaded the dice towards some types of extreme weather events, by heating the atmosphere to add more heat and moisture. This can bring more extreme weather events like heat waves, heavy downpours, and intense droughts. What's more, the added heat and moisture can change atmospheric circulation patterns, causing meanders in the jet stream capable of bringing longer-lasting periods of extreme weather. As I wrote in my post this January, Where is the climate headed?, "The natural weather rhythms I've grown to used to during my 30 years as a meteorologist have become significantly disrupted over the past few years. Many of Earth's major atmospheric circulation patterns have seen significant shifts and unprecedented behavior; new patterns that were unknown have emerged, and extreme weather events were incredibly intense and numerous during 2010 - 2011. It boggles my mind that in 2011, the U.S. saw 14 - 17 billion-dollar weather disasters, three of which matched or exceeded some of the most iconic and destructive weather events in U.S. history."


Figure 1. Women who work on a tea farm in Assam, India hold up a dot in honor of Climate Impacts Day (May 5, 2012), to urge people to connect the dots between climate change and the threat to their livelihood. Chai is one of the most consumed beverages in India, but a prolonged dry spell and extreme heat has affected tea plantations in Assam and Bengal with production dropping by 60% as compared to the same period in 2011. Image credit: 350.org.

May 5: Climate Impacts Day
On Saturday, May 5 (Cinco de Mayo!), the activist group 350.org, founded by Bill McKibben, is launching a new effort to "connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather." They've declared May 5 Climate Impacts Day, and have coordinated an impressive global effort of nearly 1,000 events in 100 countries to draw attention to the links between climate change and extreme weather. Their new climatedots.org website aims to get people involved to "protest, educate, document and volunteer along with thousands of people around the world to support the communities on the front lines of the climate crisis." Some of the events planned for Saturday: firefighters in New Mexico will hold posters with dots in a forest ravaged by wildfires; divers in the Marshall Islands take a dot underwater to their dying coral reefs; climbers on glaciers in the Alps, Andes, and Sierras will unfurl dots on melting glaciers with the simple message: "Melting"; villagers in Northeastern Kenya will create dots to show how ongoing drought is killing their crops; in San Francisco, California, aerial artist Daniel Dancer and the Center for Biological Diversity will work with hundreds of people to form a giant, moving blue dot to represent the threat of sea level rise and ocean acidification; and city-dwellers in Rio de Janeiro hold dots where mudslides from unusually heavy rains wiped out part of their neighborhood. I think its a great way to draw attention to the links between climate change and extreme weather, since the mainstream media coverage of climate change has been almost nil the past few years. A report by Media Matters for America found out that nightly news coverage about climate change on the major networks decreased 72% between 2009 and 2011. On the Sunday shows, 97% of the stories mentioning climate change were about politics in Washington D.C. or on the campaign trail, not about extreme weather or recent scientific reports. You can check out what Climate Impacts Day events may be happening in your area at the climatedots.org website.


Figure 2. Front Street Bridge on the Susquehanna River in Vestal, NY, immediately following the flood of September 8, 2011. Image credit: USGS, New York. In my post, Tropical Storm Lee's flood in Binghamton: was global warming the final straw? I argue that during September 8, 2011 flood, the Susquehanna River rose twenty feet in 24 hours and topped the flood walls in Binghamton by 8.5 inches, so just a 6% reduction in the flood height would have led to no overtopping of the flood walls and a huge decrease in damage. Extra moisture in the air due to global warming could have easily contributed this 6% of extra flood height.

Also of interest
Anti-coal activists, led by climate scientist Dr. James Hansen of NASA, are acting on Saturday to block Warren Buffett's coal trains in British Columbia from delivering coal to Pacific ports for shipment overseas. Dave Roberts of Grist explains how this may be an effective strategy to reduce coal use, in his post, "Fighting coal export terminals: It matters".

The creator of wunderground's new Climate Change Center, atmospheric scientist Angela Fritz, has a blog post on Friday's unveiling of the new Heartland Institute billboards linking mass murderers like Charles Manson and Osama Bin Laden to belief in global warming. In Heartland's description of the billboard campaign, they say, "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen." The Heartland Institute neglected to mention that the Pope and the Dalai Lama are prominent advocates of addressing the dangers of human-caused climate change.

Jeff Masters

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Update: The storm should be near Churchill Downs at 4:45 pm. Storm crossing the Ohio River now, and more than 150,000 people are seeking shelter at Churchill Downs.
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154. angelafritz (Admin)
re: the Heartland Institute billboard campaign

From the Washington Post:

4 p.m. update: Heartland Institute President and CEO Joe Bast has issued the following statement:

We will stop running [the billboard] at 4:00 p.m. CST today. (It’s a digital billboard, so a simple phone call is all it takes.)

The Heartland Institute knew this was a risk when deciding to test it, but decided it was a necessary price to make an emotional appeal to people who otherwise aren’t following the climate change debate.
Quoting ncstorm:


Is that your personal pic Grothar? (before 1900)



Yes, my grandson took it. Twit!
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should the term, Global Warming..be changed since so many do not believe it, should the warning be..Global Weather changes instead?..I doubt many could doubt the weather IS changing,when I was a young boy up north, 3-4 foot snowstorms were expected at least once a winter, now..if they get a foot, thats a big one, the droughts now, arent in the desert states, now they are in the green belt and southern states,so the weather IS changing, and its happened within the last 50 years and is getting more serious in today's world...could the corps and those who profit off..global warming in denying it..could they..truthfully now..deny global weather changes and then maybe..we can all work Together to somehow, come up with a workable plan to maybe prevent or at least slow its progress?
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Quoting Grothar:
Image of Los Angeles before 1900.




Image of Los Angeles today.



Is that your personal pic Grothar? (before 1900)
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15666
Weather update for the running of the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky: They have returned the horses to the horse barns and have delayed the 10th race until severe weather has passed. Strong to severe storms with damaging winds, large hail, lightening and heavy downpours, wind gusts up to 60 mph with large hail is expected to be in the Louisville Metro area at 5 pm.

The infield is being evacuated and they are asking everyone to take shelter inside Churchill Downs.

Will keep you updated.

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Image of Los Angeles before 1900.




Image of Los Angeles today.

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Here's a cool scatterdiagram comparing 0-2 km Storm Relative Helicity, 0-1 EHI and CAPE for past violent tornadoes.

huh, my buddy posted this a little earlier on FB, to make a point about how one need not chase on "perfect" days only... is it circulating, or are we in a similar circle outside WU?
:)
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Image of the Southeast Coast of North America around 25,000 years ago. Of course I was living in North Florida at the time.


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Quoting txjac:


Wish that I could plus this more than once!


You can. Just keep coming on under different names, like some of them do on here. j/k
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Quoting swampdawg:


Well if sea levels rise........you will have to evacuate. I'm thinking, the Keys would disappear pretty quickly. Most places, you can see water on both sides.
You are correct there. In fact, Currently on high tides, the sea comes up into Duval and Front Streets. And some other low lying places in town. But we were talking about living in a place where you could bike to work. The internet is helping people live where they want and continue to work in their careers. Though I basically agree. It is going to be real hard to get Americans out of their cars. As much as I would want to, it's too hot, too muggy, too rainy, too buggy, or I am too tired. It would be a couple of miles one way for me. Maybe in the winter.......:)
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Quoting bappit:
AtHomeInTx post (#87) about the moon made me think about how bright the full moon can really be. The story is that with the sun at zenith shadows disappear and the reflective surface of the moon gets a boost.

When I saw an article about this they compared it seeing a halo around your head in the grass. Now I find another explanation for grass halos.

"On the record of his life at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau reported on an odd phenomenon.

“As I walked on the railroad causeway,” he wrote, “I used to wonder at the halo of light around my shadow.” Thoreau was probably seeing a phenomenon called “heiligenshein,” which is German for halo. This is a glowing light around the head and shoulders of your shadow."

I thought Grothar would like the heiligenshein bit. Maybe someone could go out on their lawn or golf course and test the theory. Does the grass have to have water droplets to get heiligenshein?


Yes, I am. That almost deserves a cookie. We are also proud of another German word in English for a phenomenon, Abendsonnenschein. Very good,babbit.
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Quoting aspectre:
There's always been the choice of not living a jillion miles away from where ya work.
But people are perverse.
Without living a jillion miles away from work, how will one waste time&resources growing a fake pasture that nobody uses for any purpose other than wasting time&resources maintaining?


The main reason people live "a jillion miles away" from their work is because of cost. I wouldn't mind living closer to my job, but it's simply not justifiable. For example, I would be moving into a smaller place with a higher crime rate and would cost more money than my current place. That's not really an attractive option.
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Good afternoon all!

Hurricane Katrina's eyewall
Link
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8144
I don't think east Texas had that much prairie. They don't call it the Big Thicket for nothing.
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AtHomeInTx post (#87) about the moon made me think about how bright the full moon can really be. The story is that with the sun at zenith shadows disappear and the reflective surface of the moon gets a boost.

When I saw an article about this they compared it seeing a halo around your head in the grass. Now I find another explanation for grass halos.

"On the record of his life at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau reported on an odd phenomenon.

“As I walked on the railroad causeway,” he wrote, “I used to wonder at the halo of light around my shadow.” Thoreau was probably seeing a phenomenon called “heiligenshein,” which is German for halo. This is a glowing light around the head and shoulders of your shadow."

I thought Grothar would like the heiligenshein bit. Maybe someone could go out on their lawn or golf course and test the theory. Does the grass have to have water droplets to get heiligenshein?
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Quoting StormTracker2K:
This is my day. As was obviously ncstorm's day yesterday


love that movie..love the family guy parady take on it as well..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15666
Later details about the Florida house with sinkhole in yard posted earlier:

Four trees have been swallowed so far by the giant backyard hole, WFTV.com reported. A fifth is on the edge.

The Lambroses rent the home, and the homeowner has sinkhole insurance, WESH said.
More about the sinkhole on WESH.com

No other neighbors have been forced to evacuate, but the family next door isn't taking chances.

"It's way too close to the house," Bryan Denis, who lives next door with his two sons, told BayNews9.com. "It's actually part of the yard now. I don't want my kids anywhere near it."

Windermere, Fla., located about 15 miles outside of Orlando, has suffered from Central Florida's monthslong drought, contributing to the sinkhole. The water table below the ground's surface dried out, resulting in everything on top of it dropping as well, experts told BayNews9.
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Quoting kwgirl:
Good afternoon all. I am a bit late in the discussion and have been catching up. This little comment caught my eye. I don't know about where you are located, but in Key West, we see a lot of people who move down from the rat race, sell their car and get a bike and live down here very happily. It can be done if you truly want a change in lifestyle. Of course, you will need two jobs and won't have any extra spending money for luxuries, like a car. But who needs to evacuate? Just a thought.


Well if sea levels rise........you will have to evacuate. I'm thinking, the Keys would disappear pretty quickly. Most places, you can see water on both sides.
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136. txjac
Quoting Grothar:
Having about 90% of this disappear in less than 2 centuries had to have some effect.




Vast areas of our country were covered with scenes like this"



To be replaced with this.





Wish that I could plus this more than once!
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Here's a cool scatterdiagram comparing 0-2 km Storm Relative Helicity, 0-1 EHI and CAPE for past violent tornadoes.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32275
This is my day. As was obviously ncstorm's day yesterday
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Quoting jeffs713:

I was. This browser isn't set to auto-refresh.


oh okay
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15666
Somebody stole my stapler

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Having about 90% of this disappear in less than 2 centuries had to have some effect.




Vast areas of our country were covered with scenes like this"



To be replaced with this.



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Quoting Jedkins01:




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Quoting Articuno:
Good afternoon guys,

May the 4th be with you.



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Quoting LargoFl:
hmmm off topic a tad, but it has been discovered that ALL species on this planet with a spinal cord..hmmm..evolved from THIS creature....................................



good luck convincing intelligent thinkers who think for themselves on that one :)
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Quoting aspectre:
77 aspectre: No he hasn't. He is dependent on scavenging products from the agricultural and industrial society at large. While such recycling&reusing is more honorable than what most of us do, a society can't exist on scavenging alone; not even a meaningfully large fraction of society.

And the hunter-gatherer portion of his lifestyle could not be adopted by everyone. There just isn't a sufficient amount of space-per-person to provide those wildlife calories/etc without causing most of the world's population to die off first. Not even if one were to convert all agricultural land to wildlands.
And since folks don't voluntarily starve to death, there'd be HUGE population crashes in edible species... possibly to an ExtinctionEvent level.

I wasn't holding my breath for everyone to rush out and eat road kill like this guy.

Edit: do they have double coupons on roadkill?
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Quoting ncstorm:


I was looking at an old map or you?


I was. This browser isn't set to auto-refresh.
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Quoting jrweatherman:
No doubt that global warming is real. Human caused, na. In the 1970's scientists said we were heading for the next ice age. I find it impossible to believe that in 25 short years that humans have altered the earths climate forever for an earth that is 15 billion years old.


There's a lot of misinformation in this short paragraph.

First, a few fringe scientists were hypothesizing about an ice age which the press picked up and ran with. A search of reviewed scientific papers on the topic of climate during the 1970's shows no indication that the scientific community thought that there was going to be an imminent ice age. Quite the opposite actually.

Second, in "25 short years" humans have not altered the climate forever, nor is any respectable climate scientist claiming any such thing. They are saying our climate will be altered for hundreds to thousands of years depending on how nature (and humans) respond. That's a very far cry from "forever".

Third, the earth is not 15 billion years old. Current scientific estimates place the Earth at around 4.5 billion years old.
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Good afternoon guys,

May the 4th be with you.
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Quoting bwi:


Biking can be faster than driving in Washington DC area. Plus you get your workout while you commute! Lowers stress too, not having to fight traffic. Not for everyone, perhaps, but it's annoying that so little effort and funding goes into providing safe bike routes given the multi-billions we spend on car-only roads. Better planning is the solution.

So true
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Quoting RTSplayer:


People live in homes where land is available, so that they are at least working towards owning something of their own, instead of giving all their money to a landlord and having nothing to show for it at the end of life.

As for lawns, I don't know why anyone would actually choose that. I'ts always bothered me how insane most home owners actually are when it comes to that, because all it amounts to is more work to do for no good reason.
I will speak up for the lawns. Where I live, if I didn't have a nice green lawn, I would have coral rock and weeds and dust. Well, part of the lawn is weeds, but it is still green. The grass helps cool off the atmosphere, doesn't reflect the sun as white rock does, so it keeps my home cooler. Helps absorb water so I don't have a lot of standing water in which mosquitoes would breed. It looks nice and it contributes oxygen to the air. Now, Golf Courses....there's a waste of money!
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Quoting aspectre:
77 bappit: Okay, time to put up or shut up. This guy has set a lifestyle standard.

No he hasn't. He is dependent on scavenging products from the agricultural and industrial society at large. While such recycling&reusing is more honorable than what most of us do, a society can't exist on scavenging alone; not even a small majority of society.

And the hunter-gatherer portion of his lifestyle could not be adopted by everyone. There just isn't a sufficient amount of space-per-person to provide those wildlife calories/etc without causing most of the world's population to die off first. Not even if one were to convert all agricultural land to wildlands.
And since folks don't voluntarily starve to death, there'd be HUGE population crashes in edible species... possibly to an ExtinctionEvent level.


I have to agree with you on this one, aspectre. Have you ever seen double coupon day at your local supermarket???
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Quoting jeffs713:

helps to refresh my browser... was looking at an old map.


I was looking at an old map or you?

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15666
Quoting jeffs713:

What you described was a pretty utopian vision.

Think about it... no need for cars (reduced expenses), you are close to work/school, less pollution, more greenery, better lifestyles.... and completely irrational and nigh impossible to implement given the complexity of today's society.
Good afternoon all. I am a bit late in the discussion and have been catching up. This little comment caught my eye. I don't know about where you are located, but in Key West, we see a lot of people who move down from the rat race, sell their car and get a bike and live down here very happily. It can be done if you truly want a change in lifestyle. Of course, you will need two jobs and won't have any extra spending money for luxuries, like a car. But who needs to evacuate? Just a thought.
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Any thoughts on rain moving into Louisville in the next few hours. Looks like a nasty line now just east of Evansville.
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Quoting aspectre:
65 jeffs713: Just in the Houston area, there is a push to make some sections more "walkable" with features just like described. But then there are subdivisions going up with cheap homes packed onto tiny lots well away from jobs and mass transit. Or there are large industrial areas that require lots of employees... but the nearest residential area is across a freeway. Not many people want to live next to a steel foundry, oil refinery, or port facility.

That's just due to deliberate political choices: and deeply corrupt political practices at that.
If one can create and enforce eg hurricane-standard building codes, then one can also create liveable industrial areas. Insisting that subdivision developers provide job-creating space along with excellent mass transit is little different than insisting that they provide electricity and a decent sewage system.

I wouldn't want to live anywhere near a refinery. Too many explosions, releases of poisonous gases and just everyday pollution. I'm dubious that "deeply corrupt political processes" are always responsible.

Since people do live near refineries, I suppose they are already "liveable" though I think some neighborhoods have been bought out to eliminate law suits--not sure, have to check that.

What is a "job-creating space"?
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STANDARD INTER-SEASONAL MESSAGE
3:00 PM EST FRI MAY 5 2012
NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL

T-MINUS EXACTLY 4 WEEKS UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF
HURRICANE SEASON 2012, THOUGH SOME ACTIVITY IS
ALREADY BREWING IN THE CARIBBEAN. IT IS HIGHLY
UNLIKELY THAT ANYTHING WILL BECOME OF THIS STORM.
THIS IS THE LAST MESSAGE UNTIL JUNE 1ST, UNLESS
SOMETHING HAVING A GREAT CHANCE OF FORMING APPEARS.

FORECASTER AVILA
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Quoting 2atod:


hmmm..not sure im understanding the point of this post. hmmm....
just wondering what happened to it, why did it vanish and what climate change back then might have to do with it,but amazing when you think about, how close, internally we are to all creatures with a spinal backbone..we all came from ONE organism if the science is right
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Looks like this is going to turn into quite a nasty high wind threat.  Ample moisture and instability out all along and ahead of the tracking MCS.   It will be very interesting to see just how sharp of a turn this will take to the southeast.

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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:



Link


That was what I was looking for.Thanks for posting it.
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Quoting ncstorm:
Looks like the potential is there next week


helps to refresh my browser... was looking at an old map.
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77 bappit: Okay, time to put up or shut up. This guy has set a lifestyle standard.

No he hasn't. He is dependent on scavenging products from the agricultural and industrial society at large. While such recycling&reusing is more honorable than what most of us do, a society can't exist on scavenging alone; not even a small majority of society.

And the hunter-gatherer portion of his lifestyle could not be adopted by everyone. There just isn't a sufficient amount of space-per-person to provide those wildlife calories/etc without causing most of the world's population to die off first. Not even if one were to convert all agricultural land to wildlands.
And since folks don't voluntarily starve to death, there'd be HUGE population crashes in edible species... possibly to an ExtinctionEvent level.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Cant find it but I remember that you posted a pdf link of the North Atlantic April forecast.



Link
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Not sure of your question, the link on that page is to a pdf.


Cant find it but I remember that you posted a pdf link of the North Atlantic April forecast.
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Looks like the potential is there next week

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15666
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
nrtiwlnvragn, do you have the link to the pdf format by TSR? I ask because they released today the NW Pacific May forecast of 26/16/9.

Link


Not sure of your question, the link on that page is to a pdf.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Yeah, that story is lighting up the internet. (Even WU's own Angela Fritz has posted a blog entry on the subject.) Definitely a 'jump the shark' moment for the fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute; for those who still lend them even a little credibility, this should tell them everything they need to know about the group, and the deplorable depths to which they'll sink as they get more and more desperate for something, anything on which to hang their anti-science points of view.


Yes, I was checking to see if that blog issue was fixed and I noticed her blog and passed it on.
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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.