The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Politically-motivated Spam from an island nation's PR department?

Over the past few weeks I've gotten several emails from someone purporting to be "Jess Miller" in New Zealand, mentioning she'd noticed a post I did on the Maldives in 2012. That post reported on the violent coup d'état that overthrew the democratically elected government of the island nation just southwest of the Indian subcontinent. And just a few weeks ago, the military dissolved Parliament and threw the country into more unrest. The U.S. State Department has issued a level-2 caution. Understandably, tourism has declined somewhat, which is a pity because it's unlikely the country will exist after another 50 years of climate-change-induced sea-level rise.

Anyway, "Jess" sent me an email about my "wonderful blog post" and called out "a solid blog post [she'd] read in the past," which turned out to be the U.K. Foreign Office travel warning about the place.

Then there's the punchline: "Jess" wants to cross-post with her "best things to do in the Maldives" article on her own site.

I think the best thing to do in the Maldives right now is not to go there.

So, "Jess," your article is very attractive and I think a wonderful list of things to do once the government of the Maldives returns to civilian control, their economy stops its free-fall, tourists stop getting robbed in their hotel rooms, and climate change goes into reverse so they stop suffering the existential peril that is driving all these problems.

Any takers on a bet that "Jess" has funding from a Maldives tourist agency?

Warming Arctic, chilling Northeast

Writing in the New York Times, University of Washington professor Cecilia Bitz sounds a four-klaxon alarm about the rapidly-warming Arctic:

In late February, a large portion of the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole experienced an alarming string of extremely warm winter days, with the surface temperature exceeding 25 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

These conditions capped nearly three months of unusually warm weather in a region that has seen temperatures rising over the past century as greenhouse gas concentrations (mostly carbon dioxide and methane) have increased in the atmosphere. At the same time, the extent of frozen seawater floating in the Arctic Ocean reached new lows in January and February in 40 years of satellite monitoring.

In recent years, the air at the Arctic Ocean surface during winter has warmed by over 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. So was this recent spate of warm weather linked to longer-term climate change, or was it, well, just the weather?

What we can say is this: Weather patterns that generate extreme warm Arctic days are now occurring in combination with a warming climate, which makes extremes more likely and more severe. What’s more, these extreme temperatures have had a profound influence on sea ice, which has become thinner and smaller in extent, enabling ships to venture more often and deeper into the Arctic.

This coincides with an article in the Washington Post describing new research that the unusually cold and snowy winter just ended in the Northeast U.S. and in Europe is a direct consequence of warmer Arctic weather:

The study, titled “Warm Arctic episodes linked with increased frequency of extreme winter weather in the United States,” shows that severe winter weather, late in the season, has increased over the eastern United States since 1990 as the Arctic has dramatically warmed, faster than any other part of the world.

When the Arctic is warm, the study finds, cold weather and heavy snowfalls in the eastern United States are two to four times more likely than when it is cold.

“This paper argues that the weather was cold not in spite of climate change but likely because of climate change,” said Judah Cohen, lead author of the study.

As Arctic temperatures have warmed in recent decades, late winter weather severity has increased in the East while decreasing in the West, the study found.

Because the increase in winter weather severity in the East has been most pronounced in February and March, when the biggest winter storms tend to form, major East Coast cities have seen an uptick in the frequency of crippling snowstorms. “We found a statistically significant increase in the return rate of heavier snowfall in Boston, New York  and Washington,” Cohen said.

Scientists haven't found the exact causes of the relationship, but evidence for the correlation got a lot more significant this year. But the prediction that anthropogenic climate change would lead to a feedback loop and rapidly-warming Arctic, in combination with extreme weather events elsewhere at the same time, has been around for decades. We're now seeing the predictions come true.

In other words, we're going to experience harsh winters in places that haven't had them for a few years, before the ocean becomes so warm that weather patterns shift again, probably suddenly (i.e., within a couple of decades). We don't know what the next pattern will look like. But we can predict it will be more extreme, and that beachfront property in the mid-Atlantic looks like a bad investment.


Late winter and early spring in Chicago have always had some ups and downs in temperature. This year, with a week left to go in meteorological winter, has been nuts.

It got down to -2.8°C just before 8am today. That's not too far from normal—for March 8th. But here are the temperatures over the past 10 days:

Date High Low Avg
Tue Feb 20 18.9°C 1.1°C 10.0°C
Mon Feb 19 15.6°C 2.8°C 9.2°C
Sun Feb 18 5°C -11.1°C -3.1°C
Sat Feb 17 1.7°C -8.3°C -3.3°C
Fri Feb 16 2.8°C -6.7°C -1.9°C
Thu Feb 15 8.9°C 3.3°C 6.1°C
Wed Feb 14 6.7°C -4.4°C 1.2°C
Tue Feb 13 1.7°C -13.9°C -6.1°C
Mon Feb 12 -2.8°C -15.6°C -9.2°C
Sun Feb 11 -5.6°C -11.7°C -8.7°C

But looked at another way, using the normal temperatures for each day in Chicago, we've been all over the calendar:

Date Felt like
Tue Feb 20 May 2 Mar 30 Apr 17
Mon Feb 19 Apr 17 Apr 9 Apr 13
Sun Feb 18 Mar 2 Brrr! Feb 11
Sat Feb 17 Feb 13 Feb 4 Feb 11
Fri Feb 16 Feb 19 Feb 16 Feb 16
Thu Feb 15 Mar 19 Apr 12 Apr 6
Wed Feb 14 Mar 9 Feb 26 Mar 6
Tue Feb 13 Feb 13 Brrr! Brrr!
Mon Feb 12 Brrr! Brrr! Brrr!
Sun Feb 11 Brrr! Brrr! Brrr!

In other words, yesterday's high temperature felt like April 30th; the low felt like March 30th; but the overall temperature of the day felt like May 19th. (Where it says "Brrr!" the temperature was below the normal temperature for any day of the year. In other words, it felt like mid-January on a bad day.) Also: nice going, February 16th! Totally normal day in February.

I should point out, these are the 1981-2010 normals. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to recalculate these values using earlier normal sets; 1951-1980 would be particularly interesting, I should think.

It's all part of the fun in a continental climate that has tons more energy, and thus volatility, than it had in centuries past. And thanks to continued anthropogenic climate change, we will continue to have winters that whipsaw between frigid and spring-like for a few decades, until Chicago's climate settles into a subtropical pattern where it rarely freezes. If you remember what Tennessee or North Carolina was like 50 years ago, that's where Chicago is headed 50 years from now.

More stuff to read

What a day. I thought I'd have more time to catch up on reading up to this point, but life intervened. So an hour from now, when I'm cut off from all telecommunications for 9 hours, I plan to sleep. And if I wake, I'll read these articles that I'm leaving open in Chrome:

And now, I head to my airplane.

Whipsaw weather

The temperature poked its head all the way up to 14°C this morning and has otherwise held steady around 13°C since yesterday evening. That means it's a full 37°C warmer—yes, the difference between freezing and typical human body temperature—than January 1st (-23°C).

Unfortunately, a cold front will bring Canadian cold through Chicago this evening, dropping the temperature 20°C overnight and another 5°C (to around -14°C) by Saturday night.

So picking the right coat this morning was more challenging than one might think.

And this, by the way, is a predicted result of anthropogenic climate change: weather extremes, from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold, in the winter—but only in some places. Because right now, the northern hemisphere is way, way warmer than normal:

Lunchtime links

Too much to read today, especially during an hours-long download from our trips over the past two weeks. So I'll come back to these:

But more seriously:

Lunch break is over.

Update on Éire and the Hebridies

On the southwest coast of Ireland, County Kerry's local newspaper warns that post-tropical storm Ophelia will hit within the hour with "violent and destructive gusts forecast with all areas at risk." 

Galway schools are closed an Irish defence forces are being deployed throughout the area:

The Department of Education has ordered schools across Galway to close tomorrow as a red weather warning remains in place for the county.

It follows a special meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning this afternoon to discuss preparations for Hurricane Ophelia.

GMIT is also to close all of its campuses across Galway – while NUI Galway says it is currently assessing the threat and will make a decision at 7 this evening.

Meanwhile, the City Council says Hurricane Ophelia does not currently pose a strong flood risk.

In a statement, the local authority says while there will be a storm sea surge in Galway Bay, the overall tidal level is predicted to be below the critical level for flooding.

It adds it will continue to monitor the situation and further defences and other measures will be put in place if required.

Meanwhile the storm track seems to have shifted west, so that Islay and Campbelltown are not directly in Ophelia's path; but not entirely safe either:

Three battalions of soldiers are on permanent standby to deal with major incidents in the UK, but the Ministry of Defence said no specific requests had yet been made of them by local authorities.

The Republic of Ireland's Met Office predicts coastal areas will be hit by winds in excess of 80mph (130km/h) from 09:00 BST on Monday until Tuesday and is warning against unnecessary travel.

Gerald Fleming, head of its general forecasting division, told Irish broadcaster RTE: "The track is very consistent [and] has been for days.

"The strongest winds [will be] along the south coast.

'Huge contrasts'

"That'll be tomorrow morning, and it'll track up the centre again, going up along the western part of the country."

BBC Weather said Monday would be a "day of huge contrasts" with the strong gusts of wind travelling over the Irish Sea and heading north to central and southern Scotland, sparing eastern parts of the UK.

Eastern England is instead expected to enjoy unseasonably warm weather, with temperatures of 22C or 23C on Monday - compared with an average for mid-October of 15C.

Highs of 24C were recorded in the region on Saturday as some parts of the country basked in a "mini heatwave" thanks to warm air brought by Hurricane Ophelia

I hope the people I met in Ireland and Scotland over the years get through this once-per-century storm with their wits about them—and their houses. Good luck.


I should visit places I *don't* like

Another Atlantic hurricane is heading towards another place I've visited recently. Hurricane Ophelia, now churning in the eastern Atlantic, should reach the south coast of—not kidding—Ireland tomorrow morning as a tropical storm, and a few hours later roll over Islay.

The latest:

This year’s busy and bizarre hurricane season isn’t done stunning scientists. The latest named storm, Ophelia, is now the sixth major hurricane to form in the Atlantic this year, and the 10th consecutive named storm to reach hurricane strength this year — only the third time in recorded history and the first time in a century that has happened — tying the all-time single-year record. On top of all that, no major hurricane has ever formed as far east as Ophelia has. The storm intensified so far east, in fact, that the continent it now threatens is Europe. Ophelia reached category 3 strength 220 miles south of the Azores on Saturday morning, and is now on track to strike Ireland beginning Monday.

While it won’t still be a hurricane by the time it reaches the British Isles — Ophelia is forecast to have become an extratropical storm before then — it will probably still arrive as “a destructive windstorm in Ireland on par with some of the most damaging in the nation’s history,” according to Henson, with winds as high as 70 mph along the island’s southwest coast. A “status red” alert, Ireland’s highest, has been issued for five counties in that region. Storm surge flooding along the coast is possible, but the biggest threat will be from the high winds.

I mean, this is just weird:

What is WRONG with this man?

I...I just...

President Trump on Tuesday told Puerto Rico officials they should feel “very proud” they haven’t lost thousands of lives like in “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” while adding that the devastated island territory has thrown the nation’s budget “a little out of whack.”  

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” Trump said, before turning to a local official to ask how many people had died in storm. “What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands.”

“I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that,” he said. “And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus. And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communications is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks.”

Video, just in case anyone is making up quotes that show the President as a sociopathic man-child:

It's one thing to make a joke. It's quite another to make a joke like that, in that place, when so many people are already unhappy with your cavalier attitude.