Lufthansa jet narrowly avoids crashing in German windstorm

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:39 PM GMT on March 05, 2008

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A Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 137 people on board nearly crashed at the Hamburg, Germany airport on Saturday, March 1, as the pilot struggled to land the airplane during high winds kicked up by winter storm "Emma". If you don't have a fear of flying, take at look at the remarkable video an amateur photographer captured of the landing. It's been uploaded to LiveLeak.com and YouTube. As seen in the still images captured from the video (Figure 1), the pilot attempted to land the aircraft with a strong crosswind blowing from right to left. The crosswind is so strong that the drift angle of the aircraft (the difference between where the nose is pointed and the actual track of the airplane along the runway) is about 20 degrees. As the pilot touches the wheels down, he kicks the rudder to straighten the airplane out, and at that moment, a strong gust of wind lifts up the right wing, pushing the left wingtip of the aircraft into the runway. The pilot is skillful and lucky enough to avoid having the airplane cartwheel down the runway and explode, and aborts the landing attempt. You can see the blast of the engines kick up a cloud of dust on the left side of the runway as he goes to full throttle for a "go around" (thanks to Jeff Weber of UNIDATA for making the correct analysis of this dust cloud). The plane landed safely on its second attempt. Do you think the passengers were praying during that second landing? I do! Only minor damage was done to the left wingtip, and the plane was back in service by the next day.


Figure 1. Still photo of the Lufthansa jet (left) as it approached the runway. Note sharp angle between the direction the airplane's nose is pointed, and the track it is taking along the length of the runway. Strong winds of 40 mph gusting to 63 mph were observed at the airport that afternoon. Right photo: the left wingtip of the jet scrapes the runway as a big gust of wind hits. Image credit: LiveLeak.com.

The weather that led to the near disaster
The initial press reports indicated that a wind gust of 155 mph hit the aircraft as it tried to land. That sounded rather dubious to me, so I took a closer look at the weather conditions that day. The only way a wind gust of that magnitude could have been generated would be from a powerful microburst flowing out from the base of a severe thunderstorm. The world record strongest thunderstorm microburst occurred on August 1, 1983, when winds of 149.5 mph were clocked at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C., just five minutes after President Reagan landed there aboard Air Force 1. So, a 155 mph wind gust is possible, but it would be a new world record.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image from 10:20 GMT Saturday March 1 2008. Winter storm "Emma", a 960 mb low pressure centered north of Hamburg over Norway, has pushed a cold front through Germany. A strong northwest to west-northwest flow of air coming off the North Sea (red arrows) brought sustained winds of 36 mph, gusting to 56 mph, to Hamburg, Germany. Image credit: University of Bern, Switzerland.

Were there severe thunderstorms near Hamburg on March 1 that could have generated such a wind gust? A powerful low pressure system (Emma) with a central pressure of 960 mb passed to the north of Hamburg, Germany that morning, dragging a strong cold front through in the late morning (Figure 2). After cold frontal passage, the wunderground history page for Hamburg at 12:50 GMT, five minutes before the time of the incident, shows sustained winds of 35 mph, gusting to 56 mph. A temporary wind reading of 40 mph, gusting to 63 mph, also occurred. The temperature was about 45°F, with occasional rain. This is classic post-cold front weather, and is not the sort of environment where severe thunderstorms with strong microbursts occur. Later press reports corrected the 155 mph wind gust, reducing it to 56 mph. Apparently, the aircraft's landing speed was 155 mph. In any case, the plane was operating very near to the maximum crosswinds an Airbus A320 is permitted to land in--38 mph, gusting to 44 mph. There are questions whether air traffic control should have used that runway for landings, and whether or not the pilot should have attempted a landing in those conditions. There is an interesting discussion at the LiveATC.net discussion forum where some pilots weight in on the near-disaster.

Winter storm Emma did considerable damage across Germany. Six people died in weather-related automobile accidents, power was cut to 150,000 homes, and high winds ripped the roof off of a school in Hesse. In neighboring countries, 260 buildings lost their roofs in Poland, flooding collapsed a bridge in Romania, and in the Czech Republic, 92,000 people (about 10 percent of the population) lost power.

Jeff Masters

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353. NEwxguy
2:15 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
... A Tornado Warning remains in effect until 930 am EST for northern
Lafayette County...

At 904 am EST... trained weather spotters reported a funnel cloud
near Mayo. This storm capable of producing a tornado was located
near Mayo... moving northeast at 50 mph.
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351. nash28
9:16 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Storm- When you get the chance, check out the dynamics that are currently in place.
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350. cchsweatherman
9:13 AM EST on March 07, 2008
343. StormW 9:06 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Good morning all!
Missed everyone yesterday. Still a little sluggish this morning. Recovering from food poisoning yesterday.


Good God! I hope you're feeling much better today. I just had food poisoning about two weeks ago and did not enjoy it. Couldn't do anything the next day. We're going to need you today for this squall line.

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349. nash28
9:14 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Man, those cloud tops continue to become colder out in the Gulf and tops are beginning to overshoot.

Question will be will they survive after the warm water once they get closer to the coast?
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348. Buhdog
2:13 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
I hate to be a downplayer....but those in S Florida who have been here a long time do not get too worried. Why? These lines always lose there edge when they get to land. Right at about the calusahatchee river to the peace river.....there always seems to be breakdown. Most of the energy will go North of Ft.Myers NE and some will go south and maybe fire up inland towards the everglades(shallow water)

I am not saying we never get anything.....just very rare for these system to have any spark once they reach us in deep south Florida. Tampa/Sarasota gets the worst....The Lake Park Tornado system did not give us one drop of rain at all barely. This is just my opinion based on experience.
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347. NEwxguy
2:08 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
GM Storm,sorry to hear about the food poisoning,that's not a good experience.
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346. nash28
9:08 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Sorry to hear that StormW. Well, as you can see, we have a nasty severe wx event on our hands again. This time, we may not escape unscathed around here. The ingredients are all there.
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345. PGIFL
2:03 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
Tornadic activity yesterday afternoon- 4:00pm local.
Witham Airport, Stuart, Fl.
Several aircraft destroyed.
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344. NEwxguy
2:05 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
A Tornado Warning remains in effect until 930 am EST for east
central Taylor and northern Lafayette counties...

At 846 am EST... National Weather Service Doppler radar continued to
indicate a tornado. This tornado was located 6 miles east of
Athena... or 14 miles southeast of Perry... moving northeast at 50 mph.

The tornado will be near...
6 miles southeast of Buckville by 855 am EST...
Mayo by 900 am EST...
7 miles northwest of midway by 905 am EST...

In addition to the tornado... this storm is capable of producing
destructive straight line winds.

This is a particularly dangerous situation! Significant structural
damage has been reported in Taylor County with this storm. Seek
shelter immediately!
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342. nash28
9:04 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Man, there is alot of fuel for this line today! How many times can we get lucky in Tampa? All of the other events lost steam. I hope this is the same.
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341. MisterPerfect
2:02 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
Tornado warnings in Florida
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for North Florida until 9:15 a.m. At about 8:50 a.m., the doppler radar indicated a tornado moving near Rocky Creek. At about 55 mph, the tornado is expected to hit Cross City Airport by 9 a.m., and Old Town by 9:10 a.m.
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340. cchsweatherman
9:01 AM EST on March 07, 2008
337. nash28 8:57 AM EST on March 07, 2008
StormW needs to wake up:-)


I second that. We need all experts on board today!

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339. cchsweatherman
8:57 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Convection continuing to build as the front continues moving towards Florida. Storms will arrive in Central and Southern Florida at the worst time - during the late nighttime to early morning hours when very few people are awake at this time. This is what worries me most about this squall line developing. I hate to say this, but we could be looking at another Lake Park, FL situation somewhere in the state yet again.
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338. MisterPerfect
1:57 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
Where's the tornado NAsh?
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337. nash28
8:57 AM EST on March 07, 2008
StormW needs to wake up:-)
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336. TheCaneWhisperer
1:39 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
I agree with your way of thinking cchs. I would much rather say "Boy, I'm glad that didn't happen" than "Boy, what am I going to do now"
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335. cchsweatherman
8:52 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Take a look at the visible imagery. Really strong storms developing out in the GOM. Overshooting cumulonimbus occurring throughout the line. Very nasty weather on the way for Florida.
img src="Photobucket" alt="" />
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334. NEwxguy
1:50 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
330. cchsweatherman 1:43 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
This could become a rare squall line that maintains itself while entering SE Florida. All the elements are there and will develop for not only a major squall line to maintain itself, but quite possible strengthen over SE Florida. Time will only tell.

I agree,your in for a rough night and then it sets its sight on us up here in New England all kinds of flood warnings and high wind warnings are going up tomorrow.Don't think it matches the scale of the super storm of 93 though.
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333. Weather456
9:42 AM AST on March 07, 2008
CCH
Taking a look at the possible invest in the Central Atlantic, there has been one major development. It has lost the frontal boundary that had been attached to it yesterday.


The front is still there but its occluding. Which means it will eventually weaken but not completely gone yet.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
332. nash28
8:45 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Water spout survived and is now on land as tornado. Damage reported.
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331. MisterPerfect
1:43 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
Hearing that it'll be active in south florida tonight around midnight...boomers and strong wind
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330. cchsweatherman
8:42 AM EST on March 07, 2008
This could become a rare squall line that maintains itself while entering SE Florida. All the elements are there and will develop for not only a major squall line to maintain itself, but quite possible strengthen over SE Florida. Time will only tell.
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329. cchsweatherman
8:40 AM EST on March 07, 2008
327. NEwxguy 8:37 AM EST on March 07, 2008
this system is really going to wrap up,so theres plenty of energy for that squall line,so you people in Florida better prepared tonight


I sent out warnings for this storm on Tuesday when I saw the models were really blinded by the first storm. I knew this storm would be worse than the first since this storm can now use the first storm and tap into its energy. Its going to be one wild night here throughout Florida.

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328. cchsweatherman
8:35 AM EST on March 07, 2008
326. TheCaneWhisperer 8:32 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Morning All!

I wanted to stop by and say to cchsweatherman, great job yesterday. Your predictions were exactly correct. It was pretty rocky last night in Wellington with over 3" of rain. Tornado Warning in North Broward as well.


Thanks CaneWhisperer. Hope you didn't get any damage yesterday. Here in Cooper City, we got nearly 5" rain with the highest wind gust around 57 mph. Pretty intense thunderstorms yesterday. Still waiting to see how Lake Okeechobee will respond to the several inches it got yesterday from these slow-moving storms.

By the way, when I make my forecasts, I make sure to give people the truth of what could possibly happen, rather than try and be optimistic just so that people do not panic. It is far better to overhype a weather situation than to underestimate a weather situation. I get people prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. That is my MO with forecasting.
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327. NEwxguy
1:34 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
this system is really going to wrap up,so theres plenty of energy for that squall line,so you people in Florida better prepared tonight
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326. TheCaneWhisperer
1:29 PM GMT on March 07, 2008
Morning All!

I wanted to stop by and say to cchsweatherman, great job yesterday. Your predictions were exactly correct. It was pretty rocky last night in Wellington with over 3" of rain. Tornado Warning in North Broward as well.
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325. nash28
8:11 AM EST on March 07, 2008
My thoughts are basically the same as yours my man. Even some of the local mets are starting to lean more toward the severe end of the spectrum. I think many of them are waiting on the next SPC report.
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324. cchsweatherman
8:08 AM EST on March 07, 2008
I've already sent out warnings to all my friends throughout the entire state. I'm not joking around with this storm.

Nash, it looks like a very ominous situation developing overnight and into tomorrow morning here in Central and Southern Florida. I'm expecting a major squall line to move through during that time. It already has begun developing out in the GOM. People in Florida need to be prepared for severe weather tonight. What are your thoughts?
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323. nash28
8:05 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Morning all. Gonna be another busy day for the FL peninsula. Where have we heard that before??? N FL gets it first. W. Central, Central and S. FL tonight. With the warm front moving NWD, that should burn off a little of the cloud cover for a short period today. Shear is pretty solid at 0-6km around 60kts.
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322. cchsweatherman
7:47 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Good morning all! It looks like a major squall line has begun developing in the GOM along the cold front. May have to pull an all-nighter since it will likely come into Florida sometime tonight into tomorrow morning. Many people have been discussing the 93 SuperStorm and have thoughts that this storm could compare to it. I'm not so convinced this will be as bad as the 93 SuperStorm, but it would not surprise me if it did.

Taking a look at the possible invest in the Central Atlantic, there has been one major development. It has lost the frontal boundary that had been attached to it yesterday. Now, it has become very well organized. If it can keep the upper level trough overhead while drifting southward into warmer 24-26C waters, we may have something to watch. Just another meteorology lesson in the making.
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321. Weather456
7:20 AM AST on March 07, 2008
SPECIAL AREAS OF INTEREST....

A 1006 mb non tropical low is centered near 28.5N/37.3, remaining quasi-stationary. This morning's QuikSCAT pass showed a well define low level circulation a large area of gale force mainly within the northern quadrants where the low is interacting with a high pressure ridge to the north and where shower activity is most prevalent. QuikSCAT also showed wind shifts and changes in wind speed towards the system southeast, reflects the present of a weak frontal boundary. Visible imagery this morning showed a system nowhere near to becoming subtropical soon, with a large dry slot covering the southeastern half of the circulation and bands of convection on the opposite, whose signature is highly baroclinic. Satellite derived winds from the CIMSS of both the low levels and upper levels indicated the system is vertically stacked and the system remains associated with a broad upper level trough. This system remains in a highly baroclinic zone with SSTs between 20-22C and a vertical wind shear gradient of 10-30 knots. Barely sufficient for subtropical development and until the system completely sheds its frontal boundary, the chance of a subtropical cyclone forming is low. The GFS, the only computer model found to indicate subtropical cyclogenesis, fills the low in 60 hrs. What most models agree on is that the system will meander slowly southwestward around the blocking ridge and gradually weaken. Still monitor the system for signs of subtropical development.

....SYNOPSIS....

GULF OF MEXICO/NORTHWEST ATLANTIC OCEAN WEST OF 50W....

An upper trough is digging across the Eastern Rockies from the Canadian Border to Northern Mexico. The associated surface frontal boundary extends across Northern Mexico from 28N/103W to the coast at 25N/98W...then continues northeastward to a 1003 mb low near 29N/90W. A warm front continues across the Northeast Gulf to Central Florida at 26N/81W. Upper diffluent flow and low level lift near the front/low is producing vigorous convection over the area with Doppler radar showing scattered showers and thunderstorms across the Gulf north of 25N and the Southern United States from Eastern Texas to the Western Atlantic. Fair weather is seen elsewhere across Mexico and the Gulf south of 25N. A surface southeasterly flow dominates the Gulf, generating 20 knot winds and 3-4 ft swells. These conditions should worsen as the cold front pushes across the remainder of the Gulf and a surge of northwesterlies behind the front generate up to 18 ft swells.

Most of the significant weather in the Western Atlantic Ocean is seen extending offshore the Southeast United States to 73W north of 28N. Again, this activity is tied to frontal activity associated with a warm front lying with a diffluent/strongly baroclinic zone. Meanwhile, a sharp surface ridge centered on a 1030 mb high near 35N/51W has it axis along 29N/65W 23N/70W and into the Caribbean at 19N/75W. The leading edge of a stable air stratocumulus cloud deck is seen rotating around the ridge between 10N and 30N...east of 70W.

CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN REGION....

A deep layer anticyclone is centered over the Caribbean basin at 12N/75W. This feature is supporting very dry mid-upper level air over the Caribbean resulting in fair weather at the surface over the Caribbean north 11N from Central America to Lesser Antilles. Scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms are seen along the Nearequatorial Convergence Zone from Panama across Northern South America to 60W. Meanwhile, the Eastern Caribbean is being bombarded by widespread tradewind moisture which is advecting cold air stratocumulus across the region east of 70W. This flow is advecting chilly air into the region, producing 15-25 knot winds and seas of 11 ft along the Atlantic side of the islands. Small craft advisory remains in effect for choppy seas. 4-5 ft seas elsewhere through the Caribbean with 6-7 ft seas along South American coast and Southwest Caribbean.

by W456
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
320. Weather456
6:43 AM AST on March 07, 2008
Have a good one!

You too
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
319. Weather456
6:33 AM AST on March 07, 2008
Excellent curve banding around a small CDO with a clouded embedded eye

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
318. BahaHurican
5:35 AM EST on March 07, 2008
It would have to drift a ways south to get into 24-25 degree water, from what I saw.

Anyway, hopefully it will still be around when I get back this afternoon.

Have a good one!
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22680
317. Weather456
6:28 AM AST on March 07, 2008
What are SSTs like in that area? Is there any serious chance of this becoming sub-tropical?

SSTs are around 20-22C. Barely sufficient for subtropical development and until the system completely sheds its frontal boundary, the chance of a subtropical cyclone forming is low. The GFS, the only computer model found to indicate subtropical cyclogenesis, fills the low in 72 hrs. What most models agree on, is that the system will meander slowly southwestward around the blocking high and gradually weaken. Still monitor the system for signs of subtropical development.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
316. Weather456
6:22 AM AST on March 07, 2008
RAMSDIS has provided us with an up close floater of the area.b Storm-Relative Visible imagery

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
315. BahaHurican
5:23 AM EST on March 07, 2008
Morning 456,

That low does have a strong signature in the upper levels, but it is definitely also present at the surface.

It sure makes an interesting feature in March, I agree. Makes you wonder what June will be like.

What are SSTs like in that area? Is there any serious chance of this becoming sub-tropical?
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22680
314. Weather456
6:13 AM AST on March 07, 2008
.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
313. Altestic
8:20 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
An invest in MARCH...? Seems like utter madness to me.

That feature however is an ULL at 37W 28N that you pointed out.
312. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
4:30 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
its cranking up good pat worst is yet to come
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311. MichaelSTL
10:30 PM CST on March 06, 2008
Someone mentioned the unusually wet weather for SE US under La Nina conditions; I'm wondering if the relatively "late" onset time for this la Nina is enhancing effects, or if it's simply the MJO.

Looking at this, it looks like an average La Nina in terms of onset (and some people, in the weather-climate area, suggest that the atmospheric conditions that lead to La Nina appeared as early as the fall of 2006, truncating the El Nino).

PS: I think the CPC is on crack or something; there is no way that ONI of -1.5 for December-February is right, based on the monthly readings (which are quite a bit lower than the 1998-2000 La Nina at its peak). I even sent Dr. Masters a message asking him about this (the CPC says that the ONI is a 3 month average, but the monthly values don't average out to what they have - especially when they have broken records, like for February, at -1.9, breaking the record of -1.77 in 1950, the SOI also broke a record). More properly, it is a late peaking La Nina (the record for March may also fall, currently -1.24 in 1989, the latest weekly value is -1.6).
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
310. Patrap
10:25 PM CST on March 06, 2008
3 and a quarter inch hail in Storm C-8 indicated..WOWSa..


NEXRAD Radar
Lake Charles Base Reflectivity 1.45 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI
Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129315
309. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
4:22 AM GMT on March 07, 2008
atl.basin
possible invest
track mark 37.5w/28.1n
stationary
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308. BahaHurican
11:12 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Just thought I'd add this jet stream analysis map that I got here before I head out for the evening:

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22680
306. BahaHurican
10:34 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Here's the latest sat image of the SW portion of the basin via the Mauritius weather service.



And this is the Oz BoM view of their tropical zone. Notice Ophelia is basically off the screen.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22680
305. HIEXPRESS
10:38 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Full CONUS Radar - "The big Picture"
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
304. BahaHurican
10:24 PM EST on March 06, 2008
Hmmm. . . . looks like Jokwe is going to threaten Mozambique as a cat 1 storm.



Meanwhile Ophelia seems to be winding down, though it may bring a bit of rainy weather to SW Australia.




Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22680
303. Patrap
9:24 PM CST on March 06, 2008
NEXRAD Radar
New Orleans Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 1.45 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI

Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 427 Comments: 129315

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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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