Yesterday I mentioned that the extreme El Niño underway in the Pacific right now is making long-range climate predictions a little easier. Also yesterday, the Climate Prediction Center released their December—February Outlook:
The NWS Climate Prediction Center released their latest seasonal forecasts today. Here are the results for Illinois. The biggest news is that Illinois has an increased chance of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation for the winter months of December, January, and February. This forecast is based largely on the developing El Niño in the Pacific Ocean.
While the forecast of a milder winter may sound appealing, I would not leave the winter coat in the closet and throw away the snow shovel just yet. Two things to consider are: 1) this is not a 100% guarantee, other factors come into play in determining our winter weather, and 2) even a mild winter can contain short periods of intense cold and abundant snowfall.
In other words, prepare for a warm winter, but don't forget it's still winter.
CityLab and Slate are sharing an article today about how the warm Pacific surface temperatures are helping climatologists—because they're so extreme:
Now that the event is in full swing, we have an even better idea of how U.S. weather will be affected over the next nine months. That’s because El Niño acts like a heat engine that bends weather in a predictable pattern worldwide. Typically, the stronger El Niño is, the more predictable its influence. And this year’s event is on pace to be one of the strongest ever recorded. By some measures, it already is.
Globally, it’s now virtually certain that 2015 will be the hottest year in history. That’s a pretty remarkable thing to be able to say with more than four months of the year remaining. Last week data from NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed that last month was the hottest July on record, joining every month so far this year except February and April as the warmest ever measured, according to calculations from Japan. As of mid-August, the Pacific Ocean had configured itself into an unprecedented temperature pattern, with record-setting warm water stretching from the equator all the way northward to Alaska. Thanks to the pattern’s expected persistence, we can already piece together a pretty good guess of the implications—months ahead of time.
So look forward to a mild winter here in the Midwest, tons of rain (but not enough overall) in the drought-stricken Southwest, and tons of snow in the Northeast. Maybe.
Crain's reported this morning that the MacArthur Foundation has started making grants to help curb climate change:
Initial grants will help continue and accelerate U.S. greenhouse gas reductions, increase and sustain U.S. political consensus for climate action, and provide incentives for a low-carbon economy. The climate initiative is the second big bet MacArthur has announced in pursuit of transformative change in areas of profound concern; the first was a $75 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses its jails.
MacArthur’s initial $50 million investment in 2015 includes both unrestricted general operating support and specific project grants.
So far the money is going to the usual suspects (Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy), and it can only help. I would like to see other large organizations start making these kinds of grants; in particular, insurance companies, who have a financial stake in fighting anthropogenic climate change.
[M]any of the 4m Britons who travel to the United States each year will no doubt be delighted to hear of a plan to station American immigration officers at two British airports, London Heathrow and Manchester. These will process travellers before they leave the country, and with luck considerably speed up entrance at the other end. And, as the Telegraph goes on, processing people before they board the plane would be popular on both sides of the pond....
Pre-arrival clearance has been available for those flying from, or refuelling at, Shannon airport in Ireland for some time. This was one of the bonuses benefits of IAG, the parent of British Airways, acquiring Aer Lingus, an Irish carrier. Eight other European airports may also be included in the scheme, reports the Telegraph, including Schiphol in Amsterdam, Madrid-Barajas and Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. Still, it will probably take two years for officials on both sides of the Atlantic to agree upon and then implement the scheme in Britain. And, of course, there is always the danger that the immigration officers that are sent over here will be just as surly and incompetent as those they employ at home. But let’s stay optimistic.
The other benefit to pre-clearance is that travelers will be able to connect directly to domestic flights in the U.S. Right now, people going from London to, say, Des Moines, have to land at O'Hare, go through customs and immigration in Terminal 5, and then re-check their bags and go through security in whatever domestic terminal they're leaving from. This makes the minimum sane connection time about two hours. With pre-clearance, passengers can get off their plane and walk a few gates over to their connecting flight.
For me, though, it'll probably only save about fifteen minutes, thanks to Global Entry. (If you travel outside the U.S. more than once a year, definitely apply for this program.)
It's not clear when this will actually happen. There are challenges. The Department of Homeland Security has not yet announced a date for implementation.
With Apollo Chorus auditions set for September 10th and 13th, it's great that Slate just ran an essay explaining the benefits of singing:
Music is awash with neurochemical rewards for working up the courage to sing. That rush, or “singer's high,” comes in part through a surge of endorphins, which at the same time alleviate pain. When the voices of the singers surrounding me hit my ear, I'm bathed in dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness. Music lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals levels of stress. Studies have found that people who listened to music before surgery were more relaxed and needed less anesthesia, and afterward they got by with smaller amounts of pain medication. Music also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment. “Every week when I go to rehearsal,” a choral friend told me, “I'm dead tired and don't think I'll make it until 9:30. But then something magic happens and I revive ... it happens almost every time.”
Yep, every Monday in the fall and spring I drag myself in at 7pm, and by the time we go for beers at 9:30 I feel better. And, of course, concerts are a lot of fun, especially when we nail them.
Which reminds me, you should subscribe to Apollo. Our first (free!) concert is 3pm on November 8th at Second Presbyterian in Chicago.
The point of the Illinois State Fair is food. Despite most people in the state living in urban or suburban areas, most of the state's area is agricultural. So when one goes to the fair, one eats. A lot.
That said, a remarkable proportion of food choices at the fair are fried meats. Even in the "ethnic village" section, where ostensibly they have about 20 different cuisines represented, things aren't quite...ethnic:
At least this year the Romanian kiosk wasn't covered in vampires. But still...not sure what's Romanian about elephant ears and polenta.
Also, we observed a skunk slink under a wall into the Greek kiosk after it closed. I sure hope he left before they opened the next morning.
Every year, Beloit College in northern Illinois prepares its "Mindset List," trying to prepare the faculty for the way the new first-years think. This year's class:
...are mostly 18 and were born in 1997.
Since they have been on the planet:
3. They have never licked a postage stamp.
6. Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.
17. If you say “around the turn of the century,” they may well ask you, “which one?”
32. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.
47. They had no idea how fortunate they were to enjoy the final four years of Federal budget surpluses.
50. ...and there has always been a Beloit College Mindset List.
This year's list also includes some translations from 2015-era teenager argot into standard English.
Another consequence to a four-hour drive and lots of household chores yesterday was my first Fitbit goal miss since June 6th. I only got 8,000 steps yesterday, after exceeding 10,000 steps for the last 71 days straight. It was also the fewest steps I've gotten since May 29th. I traveled on all three days, which explains the correlation: lots of sitting in vehicles and not a lot of opportunity to move.
It didn't help that the temperature has hovered around 32°C for the past few days, forecast to cool off tomorrow or Wednesday.
Still, I hate missing goals, even arbitrary ones like this. Fortunately, since June 6th, I've averaged around 14,000 steps per day, so one day under 10,000 won't defeat my fitness plan.
Saturday I promised Illinois State Fair photos "tomorrow." Yesterday I drove home, and for a variety of reasons (including having to do everything I ordinarily do on weekends Sunday evening), didn't look at any of them.
They're not that great, unfortunately. I'm not happy with the light nor with the visual interest. So all I have for you is this one:
Also, here's Peter Scott, lead vocalist for Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters, an impressive local Springfield cover band:
I may post some of the less-interesting shots later.
I'm at the—no kidding—state fair. It's warm. And way outside my normal life. But I did see the butter cow, so it's worth the trip.
Full report tomorrow.