The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Hottest decade in history

Data released today by NOAA and NASA confirm a frightening fact scientists had already guessed:

The past decade was the hottest ever recorded on the planet, driven by an acceleration of temperature increases in the past five years....

According to NOAA, the globe is warming at a faster rate than it had been just a few decades ago. The annual global average surface temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.13 Fahrenheit) per decade since 1880, NOAA found. However, since 1981, that rate has more than doubled since.

Alaska also had its hottest year on record in 2019. It included an alarming lack of ice cover during the winter in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and in the summer the temperature at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport hit 32°C for the first time.

Still, even as millions of protesters have taken to the streets to demand action, world leaders have so far shown little ability to move as fast as scientists say is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In a bleak report last fall, the United Nations warned that the world had squandered so much time mustering the willpower to combat climate change that drastic, unprecedented cuts in emissions are now the only way to avoid an ever-intensifying cascade of consequences. The U.N. report said global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.2°C by the end of the century, and that emissions must begin falling by 7.6 percent each year beginning 2020 to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris climate accord.

But hey, the President wants to make sure your shower and dishwasher waste more water, so that'll help.

Happy Y2K20!

Remember Y2K? Oh, boy, I do, especially as I had to spend part of New Year's Eve in a data center on 1 January 2000.

Apparently, some of the fixes people made to their software back then solved the problem...for a time:

Register reader, having sold a vehicle, filled out the requisite paperwork and sent it off to the agency, which is responsible for maintaining a database of drivers and vehicles in Blighty. An acknowledgement was received, which helpfully noted that it been printed in 1920.

Sadly, we doubt Doc Brown was involved in this one. A spokesperson for the agency told us that "it looked like a blip when printing the date on the letter", although we're mindful of the quick and dirty solution to the Y2K problem a large number of engineers opted for back in the day.

Rather than rewriting code to handle a four-digit year, many opted for a windowing approach, where systems would treat the 20 years from 00 to 19 as being from the 2000s.

New York parking meters stopped accepting card payments as the year turned, and some Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) sold by Trimble (formerly PeopleNet) threw a wobbly as 2020 arrived and a disconnect between GPS and server clocks left gear in a continuous reboot cycle.

In the case of the latter, it meant some US truck drivers were forced to switch to paper-based methods for logging until borked units could be dealt with.

A windowing approach also caused problems for a hardware manufacturer back in 2016...and will again in 2032, apparently...which will give them plenty to do before the 2038 problem ends civilization.

It was 20 years ago today

...that I finally passed my private pilot checkride and got my certificate.

I finished all the requirements for the checkride except for two cross-country flights for practice on 18 July 1999. Unfortunately, the weather in New Jersey sucked on almost every weekend for the next six months.

I finally took a day off from work in early December, took my checkride...and failed a landing. (I was too far off centerline to pass, but otherwise it was a perfectly safe landing.) It then took another six weeks to take that one part of my checkride over, on 15 January 2000.

Someday soon, I hope to get back in the air. Probably this spring. But as any private pilot can tell you, life sometimes interferes.

Fuel dumped on a schoolyard? Really, Delta?

A Delta 777 en route from LAX to Shanghai declared an emergency and had to dump thousands of kilograms of fuel to land under the safe landing weight. Planes, particularly heavy transport-class aircraft, do this so they don't destroy their landing gear and the runway itself when landing in an emergency situation.

Now, if you know LAX, you know that generally planes take off over the ocean. In those rare cases when they have emergencies and need to circle back, they dump fuel over the ocean.

Not this guy:

A Delta flight injured more than 50 people after dumping fuel on a Los Angeles schoolyard and school buildings when it declared an emergency shortly after departing for China from the Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.

At least 20 children were were treated for minor injuries after being exposed to the jet fuel, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The department said it had a total of 44 patients from four schools: Park Avenue Elementary, Tweedy Elementary, Graham Elementary and San Gabriel Avenue Elementary.

Another 16 people were treated from two schools, Jordan High School and 93rd Elementary, which were also exposed to jet fuel, the Los Angeles City Fire Department said.

Here's the plane's track:

Going by the track log, the plane had a relatively normal climb out for about two minutes to 5,000 feet, then started a turn to the north and leveled off at just below 8,000 feet. The diversion occurred nine minutes into the flight over Simi Valley. I suppose they needed to get him back into the approach path over land because there weren't any good alternatives once he got over land again.

The fuel dumping occurred about halfway between the final turn southwest and landing. At that point the plane was level at 2,400 feet and in no position to do much else but land. But Jet-A (aka kerosene) doesn't evaporate completely from that altitude. So kids got covered in it. Yuck.

The L.A. Times has more:

Ross Aimer, chief executive officer of Aero Consulting Experts, said fuel dumping is very rare and is used only in case of emergencies or if pilots have to lessen the load of the plane to land.

“Most pilots choose not to dump fuel unless the emergency really dictates it,” Aimer said.

Among the emergencies would be landing gear that is not functioning and would make it hard to control the plane.

Aimer said that without knowing what Flight 89’s emergency was, the pilot may have been in the final stage of dumping fuel as it was heading toward LAX, resulting in today’s controversial fuel dumping incident.

The L.A. Times also believes the world is flat, as both articles about the incident by staff writer Matt Stiles insist that the plane diverted over Santa Monica Bay, rather than over Hidden Hills, as the track shows. The great-circle departure vector from LAX to PVG is 312°, or northwest. And the flight plan as filed called for the plane to fly 336° (nearly north) and intercept today's westbound route over the Pacific, which it would probably have picked up some distance due north over California or Oregon.

I can't wait to read the NTSB incident report. And I do wish reporters knew aviation better.

Busy day links

I had a lot going on at work today, so all I have left is a lame-ass "read these later" post:

I'd say "back to the mines," but I believe I have a date with Kristen Bell presently.

Spot the theme

A few articles to read at lunchtime today:

  • Will Peischel, writing for Mother Jones, warns that the wildfires in Australia aren't the new normal. They're something worse. (Hint: fires create their own weather, causing feedback loops no one predicted.)
  • A new analysis finds that ocean temperatures not only hit record highs in 2019, but also that the rate of increase is accelerating.
  • First Nations communities living on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron—the largest freshwater island in the world—warn that human activity is disrupting millennia-old ecosystems in the Great Lakes.

Fortunately, those aren't the only depressing stories in the news today:

Now that I'm thoroughly depressed, I'll continue working on this API over here...

Get them while they're young, Evita, get them while they're young

The New York Times analyzed eight social-studies textbooks published in both California and Texas. Both states have state-wide standards for education, which textbook makers have to honor given the number of students in each state. You can guess some of the results:

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards; state laws; and feedback from panels of appointees that huddle, in Sacramento and Austin hotel conference rooms, to review drafts.

Requests from textbook review panels, submitted in painstaking detail to publishers, show the sometimes granular ways that ideology can influence the writing of history.

Context: I have a Bachelor's in history, and a law degree, which means I have read a lot of social studies texts (not just textbooks) in my life. I have Howard Zinn next to Paul Johnson in my bookshelf, for example. So I favor the California method of teaching kids about the warts. I also believe that knowing how we screwed up in the past helps us become a better nation.

I'm glad the Times did this analysis. It helps show one more way in which we live in two Americas, and how politicians try to keep it that way.

But I think George Washington's farewell address might guide us even today: "One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection."

(The title of this post refers to this bit from Evita.)

Lovely Chicago weather

...as long as you aren't in Chicago:

Lake Shore Drive was being hammered with waves Saturday morning causing officials to shut down the bike path in some parts on the North and South sides.

Officer Michelle Tannehill, a spokeswoman for police, said the northbound path remains closed between Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue as of 11:30 a.m. There also were reports of trouble on South Shore Drive in the northbound lanes from 7100 to 6700 South Shore Drive.

Still under a winter weather advisory until 3 a.m. Sunday, parts of Cook County along the shoreline were expecting winds to reach up to 50 mph as rain showers threaten to create slick conditions.

It gets better:

Those in and around Chicago can expect snow by Saturday night, but before then, a complex and messy storm will possibly bring freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.

A winter storm warning was in effect for McHenry and other outlying counties northwest and west of the city from 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday, with snow as deep as 7 inches predicted in some areas. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Lake and Kane counties starting at 3 a.m. Saturday and for Cook, DuPage, Kendall and LaSalle counties, lasting until 6 a.m. Sunday.

Officials said the storm will start with rain and sleet. There may also be ice pellets, but it might not freeze all surfaces, which may cause patchy slick spots in the area. It is expected to snow after 5 p.m. Saturday and continue snowing till 1 a.m. Sunday, Friedlein said.

Tonight I'm hosting some fellow singers for madrigals and wine. (You read this blog and didn't realize I'm a nerd?) Fortunately I'm close to public transit. I hope I'm not stuck with too much extra cheese and wine; that would be tragic.

Hurry home, little blue book

On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.

Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.

I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.

The joys of Chicago winters

The National Weather Service predicts tonight will be fun:

A hard-to-forecast, complex and messy storm will hit the Chicago area starting Friday night, bringing possibly freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet, snow and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.

Ice accumulation of a quarter inch could hit the far northwest parts of the area, with another inch of sleet, but Thursday and Friday’s warm weather could help keep the ground warm enough to keep totals down.

With strong winds of 60–80 km/h predicted with the storm, a lakeshore flood warning was in effect from midnight Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday, with “Significant lakeshore flooding” expected, according to the weather service.

“Waves of 4.2–5.4 m are forecast along the northeast Illinois shore and 3.6–4.9 m along northwest Indiana lakeshore will result in inundation of flood prone areas, possibly including some roads and likely bike paths,” with waves sometimes as high as 7 m, according to the weather service.

Waves of how big? Don't plan on driving down Lake Shore Drive, people.

Updates as events warrant.