The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Last weekday of the winter

I get to turn off and put away my work laptop in a little bit in preparation for heading back to the office on Monday morning. I can scarcely wait. 

Meanwhile, I've got a few things to read:

OK, one more work task this month, then...I've got some other stuff to do.

"Don't call me stupid"

I read the news today, oh boy. And one of the stories reminded me of this movie:

See if you can guess which one.

Finally, Chicago managed 58 hours of above-freezing temperatures (from 1pm Monday until 11pm yesterday) leaving us with only 15 cm of snow on the ground and a chance it'll all be gone by this time tomorrow. The forecast calls for daytime highs above freezing every day through next week, possibly hitting 10°C over the weekend. Spring!

Cities don't actually collapse like that

Annalee Newitz, author of Four Lost Cities, explains that urban collapse doesn't look anything like dystopian fiction would have it:

It’s always lurking just around the corner, seductive and terrifying, but it never quite happens. Lost-city anxieties, like the ones aroused by the pandemic, result from a misunderstanding of what causes cities to decline. Pandemics, invasions, and other major calamities are not the usual culprits in urban abandonment. Instead, what kills cities is a long period in which their leaders fail to reckon honestly with ongoing, everyday problems—how workers are treated, whether infrastructure is repaired. Unsustainable, unresponsive governance in the face of long-term challenges may not look like a world-historical problem, but it’s the real threat that cities face.

This slow-motion catastrophe—a combination of natural disaster and political indifference—was far more important to [Angkor's] transformation than the Ayutthaya invasion [in 1431]. And it stands as a warning to many cities in the U.S. Without a coherent response from local government, cities lashed by climate change will gradually lose their populations. The demise won’t be spectacular, even if the storms are monstrous. Instead, people will leave in dribs and drabs, and the exodus could take generations.

So, I'm going to stay in Chicago, which will likely remain a thriving urban center for hundreds more years.

Deferred infrastructure maintenance + climate change = ...?

A 25-meter section of the Pacific Coast Highway slid into the Pacific about 30 km south of Big Sur this week:

Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers said the damage to the highway is called a slip out. "It's where we lose a part of the highway and now we're facing a project to clean and repair that stretch," Shivers said. "This is the only location we're aware of where this happened in the storm. Our maintenance team is patrolling the highway now to look for other damage."

The closure is in Rat Creek between MPM 40 and the San Luis Obispo county line, the California Highway Patrol said.

A common phenomenon called an "atmospheric river" delivered half a meter of rainfall to the region last week. CA-1 has a history of sliding into the ocean; for example, the area just south of Pacifica, Calif., known as "Devil's Slide" collapsed so frequently that that Caltrans bored two 1200-meter tunnels through solid rock from 2005 to 2013 to keep the road open.

This wobbly earth (and other stories)

I'm having a series of productive days lately, which has taken me away from wasting a bunch of time. So for example, I haven't yet today read these items:

And all of this on the coldest day in two years, in a month in which most days have had no sunlight. But hey, we're still having an abnormally-mild winter, so again, we're not complaining.

Waiting for one CI build, then another

It's every other Tuesday today, so I'm just waiting for the last continuous-integration (CI) build to finish before deploying the latest software to our production environment. So far, so boring, just the way I like it. Meanwhile, in the real world:

  • In a symbolic but meaningless vote, all but 5 Republican members of the US Senate voted to let the XPOTUS off the hook for inciting an insurrection against, well, them, as this way they believe they get to keep his followers at no cost to themselves. If this past year were a novel, the next sentence might begin with "Little did they know..." Which, you know, describes those 45 Republicans to a T.
  • Dutch police arrested more than 180 people in Amsterdam and Rotterdam for rioting against Covid-19 lockdowns: "A leading Dutch criminologist, Henk Ferwerda, said the riots involved 'virus deniers, political protesters and kids who just saw the chance to go completely wild – all three groups came together.'"
  • Air travelers across the US can rejoice that CNN Airport News will go away on March 31st.
  • Over 1 teratonne of ice melted over each of the past few years, increasing concerns about global sea level rises.
  • Two mathematicians argue that time-travel paradoxes don't exist, because the universe routes around them.

Finally, snow continues to fall in Chicago, so far accumulating to about 100 mm by my house and as of noon about 125 mm at O'Hare. Calling this a "snowstorm" seems a bit over the top as it's coming down at under 10 mm per hour and forecast to stop before too long. Plus it's barely below freezing for now—but forecast to cool down to -11°C by Wednesday night before creeping above freezing Friday and Saturday. So we might have a blanket of snow for a bit. Still, it's the most snow we've gotten all season, with less than 5 weeks to go before meteorological spring starts March 1st. I'm OK with this mild winter, though it might presage a very hot summer.

Catching up

Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:

Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.

Not a typical January

We've only had six days where the temperature stayed below freezing since November 1st, and the third year in a row where we've not had a temperature below -18°C by this point. This shouldn't surprise anyone who knows that 2020 either tied or set the record for warmest year in history:

[An] analysis of global temperatures, by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and released Thursday, found that 2020 was slightly warmer than 2016. But the difference was insignificant, the institute’s director, Gavin Schmidt, said in an interview.

“Effectively it’s a statistical tie,” he said.

Other analyses issued Thursday, one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and another by Berkeley Earth, an independent research group in California, found that 2020 was slightly cooler than 2016, as did one published last week by the Copernicus Climate Change Service in Europe. But the difference was small enough to not be statistically significant.

With the 2020 results, the last seven years have been the warmest since the beginning of modern record-keeping nearly a century and a half ago, Dr. Schmidt said.

But the numbers are only a small part of the story. As climate scientists have predicted, the world is seeing an increase in heat waves, storms and other extreme weather as the planet warms, and in disasters like droughts, floods and wildfires that result. Last year offered no respite, with record fires in Australia and California, and severe drought in central South America and the American Southwest.

Some climate forecasters had thought that the arrival of cooler sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean — part of the recurring global climate phenomenon called La Niña — would tamp down temperatures this year. It is difficult to quantify the influence of La Niña, but it is clear that any effect was eclipsed by the emissions-related rise in temperatures.

As I've said for a very long time, global warming will make Chicago a much more comfortable place to live for a century or two at least, though changing precipitation patterns could seriously alter the Great Lakes' shorelines in ways that make us much less comfortable later on.

Last lunchtime roundup of the year?

We're so close to ending 2020 that I can almost taste it. (I hope to be tasting tacos in a few minutes, however.) True to form, 2020 has apparently decided not to leave quietly:

Finally, the Washington Post's Michael Rosenwald reports that Bloom asked 28 historians to determine whether 2020 was the worst year ever. It wasn't even close.

It's really not that cold

Sure, the temperature got down to -13°C this morning, but we haven't had any real cold yet this winter, despite the 25°C temperature drop yesterday. Yesterday's high of -3°C was the first below-freezing high temperature of the winter. We've only had that occur this late in the year on five other occasions—two of them this century. Chicago gets its first below-freezing high temperature by November 24th on average. Yesterday's event ties 2001 and is only a few days before the latest occurrence of January 1st (2013 and 1924).

The Climate Prediction Center forecasts above-average temperatures all winter:

Also in early 2021 we should get the revised climate normals as the 1991-2020 data supersedes the 1981-2010 data we've used for 10 years. We expect normal temperatures to rise in most parts of the United States, with dramatic jumps expected in Alaska. Even with the revised numbers, we expect above-normal temperatures to outnumber below-normal temperatures for the next decade.