Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Monday 21 April 2014

CTA service on the Skokie Swift (now Yellow Line) began 20 April 1964:

The five-mile-long Niles Center branch of the ‘L’ had opened in 1925. Using the tracks of the North Shore electric interurban line, trains ran from Howard-Paulina station to Dempster Street in the suburb of Niles Center (today’s Skokie). There were seven stops between the terminals. North Shore continued to run trains after CTA service was discontinued in 1948.

In 1963 North Shore itself went out of business. During the fifteen years since CTA had eliminated the Niles Center branch, Skokie and other nearby towns had enjoyed a population boom. Perhaps the old ‘L’ line could now earn some money.

CTA’s new plan was to make the line a feeder to the mainline North Side ‘L’. Trains would run express between Dempster and Howard, with no intermediate stops. In a savvy bit of marketing, the re-born service was named the Skokie Swift.

Service officially began on April 20, 1964. Ridership surpassed all expectations, and CTA soon increased the number of trains. Today the route is known as the Yellow Line.

Before 1963, the North Shore Line actually ran trains all the way up to Mundelien.

Monday 21 April 2014 07:04:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Travel#
Sunday 20 April 2014

I just returned from Outer Suburbistan in record time, in under an hour, which was pure dumb luck. As soon as I change I'm going out into the 25°C afternoon. We still haven't hit the 28°C we last saw November 7th, but this is close enough for me.

More later, including possibly some interesting stuff about how I've started (slowly) refactoring the 10-year-old Inner Drive Extensible Architecture to use modern inversion-of-control tools including Castle Windsor and Moq. First, I need to walk the dog. A lot.

Sunday 20 April 2014 16:04:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Cool links | Weather#
Friday 18 April 2014

Crain's reported today (sub.req.) that Lagunitas Brewing will cap their first Chicago-brewed beer today:

Workers at the 300,000-square-foot Douglas Park facility are firing up the bottling line this morning and slapping on Lagunitas India Pale Ale labels. Once they flip the switch, the line will fill 500 bottles a minute.

"It's just the IPA right now," said owner Tony Magee. "It's the beer we know best."

The first 750-barrel batch of beer was mixed a few weeks ago before heading to the brewery's fermenting tanks and filtration system. Other batches of IPA are right behind as production begins to ramp up. The Chicago brewery is set to start making Little Sumpin' Sumpin' beer next month.

Crain's also reports that Lagunitas is now Illinois' largest brewer, with a capacity of 200,000 barrels—23.5 million litres—per year.

Friday 18 April 2014 12:05:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#

After years of doing whatever they were doing, the CTA has released details of its planned Red and Purple Line renovations north of Belmont:

We already know the first phase of the project, set to begin in 2017, will involve rehabbing the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr Red Line stations and replacing tracks for the Red and Purple Lines at those stations to reduce slow zones. CTA has started the process of securing federal funding to extend the Red Line from its current southern endpoint at 95th Street to 130th Street, using existing freight rail tracks. That project would cost $2.3 billion.

The aspect of the Red/Purple Line rehab we’re most impressed by is a “Belmont bypass” allowing the Brown Line to continue along its route by riding above the existing Red and Purple Line rails. Currently the Brown Line has to negotiate its route by crossing those rails, resulting in 40 percent of weekday trains being delayed by up to three minutes.

In order for the bypass to be built CTA will have to buy 16 buildings between Belmont Avenue and Addison Street in order to make room for the project. The total cost of the Belmont bypass is included in the $1.7 billion cost the first phase of Red and Purple Line rehab is expected to cost.

The CTA says the bypass project will save 500,000 passenger-hours per year.

Friday 18 April 2014 08:28:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Travel#
Tuesday 15 April 2014

This lovely spring morning in Chicago:

It's April 15th. And we have snow on the ground. Again.

At least we got a new record:

Snow has historically been no stranger in Chicago during the month of April. Official snow records indicate a trace or more of snow has fallen this late in 86 of the past 129 seasons dating back to 1884-85. That’s 67% of the time.

But the amount of snow which fell Monday and the fact it occurred within 3 days of 27°C warmth (on Saturday) and on a day which opened near 20°C is without precedent. Neither has occurred before over the 129 year term of official Chicago snow records.

Monday’s preliminary snow totals through 10 pm came in at 30 mm at O’Hare and 25 mm at Midway.

The 30 mm tally at O’Hare equals the amount of snow which typically falls over the full month of April and was the heaviest official snowfall to occur here so late in a season in 3 decades.

Winter, you're drunk. Go home.

Tuesday 15 April 2014 13:11:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 14 April 2014

I just took Parker for his evening constitutional, and discovered it's really warm out. My kitchen thermometer says it's 17°C, but the official temperature at O'Hare is 9°C. That's...unusual. In fact, here's what the weather near me looks like:

So, O'Hare and Midway, which are about 25 km apart, have a temperature delta of fully 10°C. If you look at a slightly more distant pair, say Waukegan and Gary, which are both on Lake Michigan but separated north-to-south by less than 100 km, the temperature delta is almost 16°C. That is one hell of a cold front.

And it's coming...this...way...

Sunday 13 April 2014 22:45:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 13 April 2014

Just this morning I wrote about how warm the weather had gotten (finally!) but how it would get cooler throughout today.

Well, between 10:45 and 11, while I was in the grocery, the wind shifted, plunging the temperature 7°C and making me suddenly under-dressed. Plus, it's foggy.

Spring, we hope, will return in two weeks.

Sunday 13 April 2014 11:23:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

Yesterday Chicago got up to 27°C, one more "warmest day since November 7th." We've had a few of those recently. (November 7th got up to 28°C.)

It stayed relatively warm overnight, though, so for the first time in half a year I got to have dinner outside. This morning it's still warm enough to go outside without a jacket.

But this is Chicago. The forecast calls for falling temperatures and rain starting this afternoon, falling to 3°C tonight and slipping below freezing Monday night. With snow.

Sitll, for the next few hours, we have some sun and some warmth, so Parker and I are going outside for a bit.

Sunday 13 April 2014 09:09:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 11 April 2014

Forget the Kennedy Expressway during rush hour; Chicago's railroads are worse:

Come to the west side of Chicago to find out why a power plant in Michigan is short of coal and a biodiesel maker in Brewster, Minnesota, can’t get enough grain.

The answer is found near Western Avenue, where rail cars from Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM), the largest U.S. publicly traded ethanol producer, rest idle on the track above the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway. A short drive away a burnt orange, yellow and black locomotive from Warren Buffett’s BNSF railway sits on an overpass as motor traffic is snarled below.

They can’t move because increasing oil production from North Dakota’s Bakken field, a record grain crop and unprecedented cold weather overwhelmed the U.S. railroad system. In part because of transport delays, coal inventories were down 26 percent in January from a year ago. A quarter of all U.S. freight rail traffic passes through Chicago, or 37,500 rail cars each day. The trip through the city can take more than 30 hours.

This has pushed up coal prices and cut coal consumption, which Bloomberg sees as a problem but I'm not so sure actually is. Also, BNSF is spending $5 billion on service upgrades near the oil fields, including adding 500 locomotives, 5,000 rail cars, and 300 crew members.

Friday 11 April 2014 11:52:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Travel#
Tuesday 8 April 2014

Via Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel, Australia's weather service has observed a growing ENSO event that has implications for the U.S.:

It is now likely (estimated at a greater than 70% chance) that an El Niño will develop during the southern hemisphere winter. Although the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures have warmed considerably in recent weeks, consistent with a state of rapid transition. International climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate continued warming of the central Pacific Ocean in coming months. Most models predict sea surface temperatures will reach El Niño thresholds during the coming winter season.

Accuweather says not to worry:

While El Niño will not have an impact on this spring and summer's severe weather, it may come on early enough and strong enough to have impact on the upcoming hurricane season in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific.

Disruptive winds, known as wind shear, often develop off the Atlantic coast of the United States and sweep over a large part of the basin during El Niño.

The greatest effects on the weather pattern in the Lower 48 states, including California, occur during the cold season.

El Niño winters are noted for wet and stormy conditions in the South and less-frequent, less-severe cold episodes in the Northern states.

There is a tendency toward dry conditions in the Northwest and North Central states during an El Niño winter.

A nice, warm, dry winter next year would be super. Here's hoping.

Tuesday 8 April 2014 15:42:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 5 April 2014

The Cubs lost 7-2 yesterday, and we didn't even stay to the end. It was depressing. Here's the happy scene before play commenced:

You can't quite see the 40 km/h winds blowing in from left field, nor can you see how I was in long johns, four layers, a winter coat, hat, hoodie, scarf, and gloves, because it was 3 frickin' degrees C.

Today and tomorrow should have better weather, and we should actually have spring weather by Thursday. And the Cubs, having now won only 25% of the games they've played this season, might win a game.

Then, while walking home from the game, I discovered what we in software might call a "human-factors" failure. Note to the City: you may not want to pour fresh concrete walking distance from Wrigley on opening day during high winds that might knock down the barriers. Otherwise you'll get a permanent record of (a) a barrier having fallen into fresh concrete and (b) that drunk people were nearby at the time:

Don't get me wrong; I'm not blaming the victim, who in this case would be the City of Chicago. But, come on, that concrete was practically asking for it. Maybe it shouldn't have gone out alone in Wrigleyville on opening day.

Saturday 5 April 2014 08:30:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Baseball | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Friday 4 April 2014

A little. Not a lot:

Today: A 20 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 7°C*. Windy, with a south wind 24 to 32 km/h becoming west southwest 40 to 48 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 72 km/h.

So, high winds blowing straight out? Probably won't exactly be a pitchers' duel then.

Photos and details coming after the game.

* Did you know you can hover over these dashed lines to see the Imperial conversions? I've been doing this for years, but not everyone seems to know about the feature. Enjoy.

Friday 4 April 2014 07:43:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Wednesday 2 April 2014

Crains reports this morning that a local Chicago technology start-up (not mine) has just gotten a ton of money:

Bswift LLC, a healthcare-benefits software firm, has received $51 million from a private-equity fund to keep up with torrid growth.

The Chicago-based company has been growing at more than 40 percent annually for the past four years and is enjoying a surge in demand, in part because of the Affordable Care Act. Bswift's technology is used by companies to provide comparison shopping, enrollment and administration of health insurance benefits. It also operates insurance exchanges for private and public markets.

Bswift's business is exploding. Headcount at the firm, which is based in the West Loop, has soared to more than 300 from 165 a year ago. A year ago, the company had expected to hire 100 people over three years.

“We've added 45 people since the beginning of the year,” [Bswift CEO Rich] Gallun said. “We'll be over 400 by the end of the year.”

Wow. And whoa. And woe.

That's really good news for Bswift's owners and stakeholders. I'm concerned what it's like to work there, though. Managing any growth taxes the abilities of any manager or business owner. Growing staff by 5% every month—they've added 45 employees this year alone—has to be a strain.

I'm curious what it's like over there right now, and how they're managing the growth. With this infusion of cash, they're going to have a lot of pressure to grow even faster. How will they maintain their culture? How will they manage quality and delivery? What do their clients think?

Wednesday 2 April 2014 08:31:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Business#

It's official: the meteorological winter (December 1 to March 31) that just ended was Chicago's coldest winter in history:

The impressive cold this past winter continued during March...with a monthly average temperature of only -0.2°C for the month. this ranks as the 19th coldest march on record in Chicago. however...of even more interest is the fact that with the abnormally cold March across the area...this made the average temperature for the December through March period in Chicago -5.6°C ...which is the coldest such period on record for Chicago dating back to 1872!

On the other hand, the same period was one of the warmest winters ever globally. Both things are likely related, but we won't know for a while until more data comes in.

Meanwhile, here's the forecast for opening day at Wrigley the day after tomorrow:

A chance of rain and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 8°C. Breezy, with a south wind 25 to 30 km/h becoming southwest 35 to 40 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 60 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

At least our seats are under the awning.

Wednesday 2 April 2014 08:17:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Monday 31 March 2014

The Cubs will start the season in Philadelphia this afternoon, so at the moment they have a perfect record. That will likely change within the next 36 hours, so we're not to jazzed about it in Chicago.

When they open at Wrigley Field on Friday, it may be cold and drizzly according to the National Weather Service forecast this morning, but at least they'll finally have good beer:

After 25 years, Goose Island finally has a home field advantage at Wrigley Field.

Chicago’s longest-tenured beer maker will be abundant at Clark and Addison this season for the first time, with both 312 Urban Wheat Ale and the newly released 312 Urban Pale Ale to be sold by vendors throughout the stadium, according to the Cubs.

Goose’s Green Line (a pale ale available only in Chicago and on draft), Matilda (a Belgian-style pale ale) and Sofie (a saison) will also be available at Wrigley in 2014.

The reintroduction of Goose Island and departure of Old Style will come about because InBev now owns Goose Island. InBev also owns Budweiser. So Goose Island isn't by any stretch a craft brewer anymore, but they still make better beers than MillerCoors.

Still, it pains me to quote the end of the Tribune article: "U.S. Cellular Field will again be dominated by MillerCoors products (Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon and Redd’s Apple Ale), but will again feature a solid and varied lineup of craft beers that includes Bell’s Oberon, Revolution Anti-Hero, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Lagunitas Daytime and Sierra Nevada Pale."

And there's Wrigley Field for you: Loser team, loser beers, sells out every home game. There is no god.

Monday 31 March 2014 09:21:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Cubs | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 30 March 2014

The O'Hare CTA station closed after Monday's train crash, and just re-opened.

Sunday 30 March 2014 14:24:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Travel#

Because of some new tasks related to my job, I haven't been able to post the last couple of days. Today it's 10°C and sunny, and getting warmer, so I have to go outside and play.

There is a chance that today will be the warmest since November 17th. If that happens, I will post again today. If not, I'll just enjoy the weather quietly, to myself.

Sunday 30 March 2014 11:54:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 25 March 2014

I got home with no difficulty and bypassed the dead El train at O'Hare through the simple expedient of taking a taxi.

I'm catching up on work right now, so further comments will issue later. It also turns out, apparently, that a virus had made a beachhead in my nose, so I will have to fight that off before my wit and verve returns.

In totally unrelated news, today is the 30th anniversary of the fictional Breakfast Club.

Tuesday 25 March 2014 15:54:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
Monday 24 March 2014

I'm now at Heathrow where I've got a really great perch overlooking the approach end of runway 9L. A JAL 777 has just floated down to the runway and a BA 747 is taxiing past the window. It's a little piece of aviation heaven in Terminal 5 as I wait for the 787 to Toronto.

As I mentioned earlier, however, my trip home tomorrow morning may end a little differently than usual because of this:

(Photo credit.)

Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, the El still missed its flight. Never try to carry too much baggage up the stairs; use the elevator instead.

Boarding starts in a few minutes. Time to boogie. But I'll wait for this BA 777 to land. They're really amazingly graceful when they touch down.

Monday 24 March 2014 15:27:53 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#

Just checking the local news in Chicago a moment ago I see a weather forecast of -2°C and blowing snow for Tuesday, rain for the rest of the week, and a crash at the O'Hare subway station:

Thirty people were injured after a CTA Blue Line train derailed and hit a platform at O'Hare International Airport about 2:55 a.m. Monday.

The injuries are not life threatening, according to early reports from the scene to Chicago Police Department headquarters, Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Ron Gaines said.

It's not clear how fast the train was moving but it jumped a bumper at the end of the line and moved up an escalator, according to Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Larry Langford.

The CTA posted to its Twitter page that trains were stopped at O'Hare but running between the Logan Square and Rosemont stops.

Yeah, I'm in a hurry to get back.

Monday 24 March 2014 11:06:17 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Saturday 22 March 2014

Thursday morning:

Thursday evening:

More photos tonight.

Saturday 22 March 2014 14:05:10 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#
Monday 17 March 2014

Here are about 30 reasons, just from the last 48 hours:

CWB estimates that 21 people were taken into police custody during Wrigleyville's Saturday-into-Sunday St. Patrick's binge.

But there was only one tazing. (Rats!)

28 batteries were witnessed or otherwise confirmed by police. Few were formalized with police reports.

Ambulances took at least 17 people to area hospitals and officers were tied up with at least 19 calls from cab drivers who had disputes with their passengers over payment.

Here, now, are the notable moments in this year's green-laden blow out in the area (with a splash of Lincoln Park tossed in):

[Saturday,] 12:36PM - Huge party in an apartment, 600 block of Cornelia. It's big, it's loud, and people are urinating out the windows.

It goes on from there, and it doesn't even include yesterday's mishigos on Lake Shore Drive.

Monday 17 March 2014 09:27:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago#
Sunday 16 March 2014

Some asshole with a gun and an arrest warrant has blocked the entire length of North Lake Shore Drive as every cop in Illinois tries to prise him from his car:

A car chase through the South Side and downtown involving a man wanted in connection with a murder in Georgia ended with a standoff between the man and police after the vehicle crashed on Lake Shore Drive on the Near North Side, officials and witnesses said.

According to Harvey Police Department spokeswoman Sandra Alvarado, the man in the vehicle police were pursuing is wanted in connection with a murder in Hampton, Ga. Alvarado said that at 12:24 p.m. today, Harvey police had been contacted by the Henry Country Sheriff's Office asking for help in locating a homicide suspect. Harvey police were given a description of the vehicle, its registration, GPS location and arrest warrant information on the suspect, who was wanted in connection with a March homicide. Alvarado did not name the suspect.

Harvey police located the vehicle, which fled from officers about 12:27 p.m., beginning a chase on highways and interstates in the south suburbs and on the South Side of Chicago. Eventually the vehicle ended up on South Lake Shore Drive, and then North Lake Shore, where it crashed about 1:10 p.m. near Fullerton Parkway. The dark-colored vehicle came to rest in the grass just to the east of the northbound lanes there and police were seen surrounding it with guns drawn, pointing at the vehicle.

This seems like an overreaction, but I'm not a cop. I will say that it took me nearly 90 minutes to get from Wilmette to home this afternoon, which happens when the 40,000 cars that would ordinarily go down Lake Shore Drive during that period instead go down Broadway, Clark, Halsted, and Ashland.

The incident is still going on about 800 meters from my apartment. I'll know it's over when the news helicopters bugger off.

Sunday 16 March 2014 17:09:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago#
Thursday 13 March 2014

Even though we have snow on the ground once again, the sun came out this morning, so my bus stop didn't look as grim as it did yesterday:

Thursday 13 March 2014 09:21:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 12 March 2014

First, we get the worst cold and the most snow of any winter in the last 32 years. It even alienates many of its allies with its stubbornness in the face of popular (and meteorological) opposition, refusing to give up a fight it can't win. Finally, warm weather finally prevails, ending the snow's doomed effort to hold ground it will never be able to keep. This is Monday morning:

Then, just when we were loosening our scarves, Arizona hit this morning:

Winter, you're just making people despise you more. It's the middle of March already. Not only will you be gone and forgotten in two months, but an ENSO event is forming in the Pacific right now, so you won't even be back next season.

Go away, winter. You're obsolete, losing even your friends, and damaging the country.

Wednesday 12 March 2014 08:47:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | US | Weather#
Monday 10 March 2014

Officially, at 1pm today, O'Hare reported no measurable snow on the ground.

And at 2pm, the official Chicago temperature was 11°C, the warmest we've seen since December 4th.

If only they weren't predicting more snow tomorrow...

Monday 10 March 2014 14:05:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

In the hopeless war between spring-like warmth and the ice still covering Chicago, the heat has almost prevailed. Officially at 7am O'Hare had only 25 mm of snow left after an overnight temperature rise to 6°C.

The end is near. Those last few millimeters have no chance of surviving the day, between nearly 12 hours of sunlight and a predicted high of 14°C.

Still, today is the 71st consecutive snow-covered day here. No one under 30 has ever seen this in Chicago before. And it's unlikely anyone ever will again.

You had a good run, winter, but it's over now. Go home.

Monday 10 March 2014 07:26:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

It looks like we're going to go 71 days with snow on the ground before it all melts. But a couple of subtle yet telling things have happened since I last griped.

First, the temperature has gone up since sunset, as forecast. It hasn't gone up a lot, but the influx of warm air from the Gulf of Mexico will continue through tomorrow, to the detriment of all the snowdrifts in Chicago.

It's hard to get your mind around how much heat the atmosphere moves around. A human being can generate about 6-8 megajoules as heat every day. (A food calorie is about 4,200 joules.) Your car or office can generate tens of megajoules to keep you warm. But when an air mass comes up along the Mississippi to Chicago, it's dragging so much energy that we need to review exponents. We're talking about petajoules.

Which brings up the second point. We're not talking about an inch of fluffy ice crystals on a flower. We're actually talking about megatons of ice covering...everything. Not snow; ice.

Take a 10m square of ice just 50 mm thick—meaning just about any square of lawn in the Chicago area right now. So, that's 100 square meters times 50 mm (0.05m), which yields just 5 cubic meters of ice. It turns out, to change just that small amount of ice—oh, wait, that's five tons of ice (do the math)—into water takes 16.5 gigajoules of energy.

Also, when the energy goes into melting ice, it doesn't go anywhere else. I'll hold off on the physics for the moment, except to say that energy can't be created or destroyed, so when it goes into changing the state of a large mass of water without changing its temperature, it's pretty much unavailable for anything else. (Physicists reading this, please be kind; it's close enough.)

This is just a long way of saying: those last millimeters won't go quietly. The last bits of "snow" that the official weather observers measure aren't really snow, they're ice; and ice takes a lot of heat to melt. (Snow is easier to melt because it has so little mass for the same volume.)

Still, if the temperature gets up to its predicted 14°C tomorrow, that's a lot of heat fighting a lot of ice. It might get rid of the official snow cover at the airport, even. And that would leave us with nothing more than the two-meter snowbanks pushed up by all the plows for the last ten weeks. Joy.

Sunday 9 March 2014 22:33:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 9 March 2014

When we got a few centimeters of snow on December 29th, no one expected it would still be on the ground after we changed the clocks in March. Yet there it is, officially 50 mm for the last 24 hours.

The 11am temperature at O'Hare was -0.6°C, and the forecast calls for the temperature to pop up to 7°C this afternoon and then stay above freezing until Tuesday night—possibly even getting up to 14°C tomorrow afternoon. If the little snow we've still got can survive that onslaught, then I will be impressed.

And the best part about this forecast? I won't write anything more about how many consecutive days of snow we've had. You're welcome.

Snow-cover reports come out every six hours. (The next report is due at 1pm.) I'll post as soon as the ground is officially snow-free.

Just one more moan: It's 18°C and sunny in London. But I won't be there for almost two more weeks.

Update: At 1pm the official snow depth was still 50 mm, but the temperature was up to 2°C. I'll check back in six hours.

Sunday 9 March 2014 11:30:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | London | Weather#
Saturday 8 March 2014

Yesterday Chicago got warm enough to melt almost all the snow. We had just 50 mm on the ground at O'Hare (not including the waist-high drifts along all our major streets) when the cold front hit overnight. We woke up this morning to another "dusting" covering every surface of the city, just enough below freezing to make us ask "why?"

The Weather Service promises 12°C on Monday, which should end our 10-week ordeal of boots and salty paws temporarily. But I won't believe we're through winter until we have a solid week of warm weather. And I have no illusions this will happen before the end of May.

Saturday 8 March 2014 14:12:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 6 March 2014

We still have snow on the ground, and now we've got a "hostage situation" counter up in our office about it. Sixty eight days ago, Chicago was snow-free. Since December 29th, we've worn boots every day, wiped our dogs' feet every day, squished across streets every day, and squelched down sidewalks every day.

There's a glimmer of hope. The temperature is up to -0.6°C, very nearly freezing. It might even get up to 7°C tomorrow and even stay above freezing for two days early next week.

And yet, we'll still have snow on the ground, possibly until April. Or May.

Enough already.

Thursday 6 March 2014 14:45:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 5 March 2014

First-term Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza introduced an ordinance last month that would require pet stores to get dogs and cats from city pounds and shelters. The council will vote on it today:

“This ordinance cuts off the pipeline of animals coming into our city from the horrendous puppy mill industry and opens up a new opportunity for animals already in shelters who need a loving home to be adopted into,” Mendoza said.

It would, however, affect 16 businesses across the city, including Pocket Puppies in Lincoln Park, which sells small dogs at $850 to $4,000 a pup. Store owner Lane Boron said the ordinance would put him out of business or force him into the suburbs, but not curtail the operation of inhumane puppy mills.

“I opened my business, because I knew there were abuses in my business, eight years ago,” said Boron, who said he has sold puppies to celebrities and aldermen. “I wanted to make sure that my dogs were humanely sourced.”

In one of life's coincidences, I went to high school and college with Lane, and we served on the Student Judiciary Board together. I don't wish him ill, and I sympathize that the ordinance would affect his business negatively, to say the least.

That said, I fully support the ordinance. I generally oppose dog breeding, especially for designer dogs like Lane sells, when so many mutts need homes. The ordinance may not be the way to fix the problem of unwanted dogs and cats, either. But it might help.

Update: The ordinance passed 49-1.

Wednesday 5 March 2014 11:26:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Parker | Politics#

Just because we've had snow on the ground for 66 days (since December 29th) doesn't mean we didn't all want to see this on our morning commutes today:

We got another 50 mm overnight, on top of the piles already on the ground, and it's not forecast to get above freezing until late tomorrow.

We'd better have a cool frickin' summer or I'm going to write a very strongly-worded letter to the climate.

Update: Today is our 45th measurable snowfall this season—a new record. Yay.

Wednesday 5 March 2014 08:25:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

It's killing invasive insects:

"This winter has been a godsend for the hemlock. Overnight temperatures dipped to minus 15 [Fahrenheit, or -26°C] here in Amherst [Massachusetts], and that’s cold enough to guarantee almost complete adelgid die-off," Joseph Elkington, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told the Worcester Telegram.

Elkington says that in some parts of North Carolina, subzero temperatures have killed 100 percent of the adelgids. In Massachusetts, around 80 percent of the population should die, according to a state official. Gypsy moths and emerald ash borers are similarly vulnerable to extreme cold; the U.S. Forest Service estimates that 80 percent of Minnesota’s emerald ash borers died in January. Other invasive insects, such as the southern pine beetle, which has been ravaging New Jersey, and the Asian stinkbug, may be dying off as well.

In fact, this nearly tops the reasons I like living in a temperate climate. Malaria? Not in Chicago, ever. Kudzu? Nope. Emerald ash borers? Die, you green vermin, die.

There's a problem, though:

The cold may also kill off predator insects that forest officials have been releasing to take out invasive insects. For instance, parasitoid wasps that are supposed to control the emerald ash borer population in Michigan and other states are even more vulnerable to the cold than their prey, whose populations might recover more quickly as a result.

Plus, we've had snow on the ground for 65 days now.

So it's not all perfect. But at least the cold has done something useful for us.

Tuesday 4 March 2014 20:25:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 4 March 2014

If I have time, I'll read these articles today:

Now, to work.

Tuesday 4 March 2014 08:31:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Cloud | Weather | Windows Azure#
Monday 3 March 2014

The third-worst winter in history ended (meteorologically) on Friday. And yet we woke up this morning to more snow and an overnight low of -19°C.

Even better, today I have to drive out to Suburbistan for a meeting. In the snow. Both ways. Uphill.

The meeting is in about two hours, so I guess I should get going now...

Monday 3 March 2014 07:45:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 26 February 2014

Mother Jones' Climate Desk takes a look at the (actually scientific) argument between climatologists Jennifer Francis and Kevin Trenberth over whether the mid-latitude jet stream is changing permanently, making winters more intense:

Jennifer Francis, of Rutgers University, has advanced an influential theory suggesting that winters like this one may be growing more likely to occur. The hypothesis is that by rapidly melting the Arctic, global warming is slowing down the fast-moving river of air far above us known as the jet stream—in turn causing weather patterns to get stuck in place for longer, and leading to more extremes of the sort that we've all been experiencing. "There is a lot of pretty tantalizing evidence that our hypothesis seems to be bearing some fruit," Francis explained on the latest installment of the Inquiring Minds podcast. The current winter is a "perfect example" of the kind of jet stream pattern that her research predicts, Francis added (although she emphasized that no one atmospheric event can be directly blamed on climate change).

Francis's idea has gained rapid celebrity, no doubt because it seems to make sense of our mind-boggling weather. After all, it isn't often that an idea first published less than two years is strongly embraced by the president's science adviser in a widely watched YouTube video. And yet in a letter to the journal Science last week, five leading climate scientists—mainstream researchers who accept a number of other ideas about how global warming is changing the weather, from worsening heat waves to driving heavier rainfall—strongly contested Francis's jet stream claim, calling it "interesting" but contending that "alternative observational analyses and simulations have not confirmed the hypothesis." One of the authors was the highly influential climate researcher Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who also appeared on Inquiring Minds this week alongside Francis to debate the matter.

What's going on here? In climate science, too many of the "debates" that we hear about are fake, trumped up affairs generated by climate skeptics who aim to sow doubt. But that's not the case here: The argument over Francis's work is real, legitimate, and damn interesting to boot. There is, quite simply, a massive amount at stake. The weather touches all of us personally and immediately. Indeed, social scientists have shown that our recent weather experience is a powerful determinant of whether we believe in global warming in the first place. If Francis is right, the very way that we experience global warming will be vastly different than scientists had, until now, foreseen—and perhaps will stay that way for our entire lives.

Skepticism underpins scientific inquiry, so this should be a great and healthy debate. We'll also get more data in the next few years that may support or dispute Francis' position.

Meanwhile, here in Chicago, the temperature plunged overnight to -17°C (also know as "minus fuckall"), and will stay down there at least through next week. This means that for the entire meterological winter season, from December 1 to February 28, Chicago will have had only six low temperatures above freezing, and since January 1st only 5 days above freezing.

Go home, Arctic. You're an asshole.

Wednesday 26 February 2014 11:53:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | US | Weather#
Monday 24 February 2014

A person was removed from a commuter train this morning and taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Why? It could have to do with where he was standing:

Passengers on the Metra Union Pacific North line train heading out of the city witnessed a person jumping from the top of the outbound train to the inbound train that was headed to downtown Chicago.

"We can see his shadow," passenger Mike Pastore told RedEye. "There's a building next to the train and we can see the shadow of the man on top of the train. We can't see him directly, but we can hear him running back and forth on top of the train."

In another story about a man being removed from somewhere he should never have been, CNN has fired Piers Morgan. Don't let the door hit your ass, Piers.

Monday 24 February 2014 11:25:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | US | World | Travel#
Friday 21 February 2014

I was wrong. According to the National Weather Service, Chicago did in fact have an official day entirely above freezing yesterday. The temperature only only got down to 1°C, which turns out to be the warmest night we've had in Chicago since December 4th (4°C).

Spring is right around the corner, and could get here by mid-June even.

Friday 21 February 2014 08:46:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 20 February 2014

The last 24-hour period of above-freezing temperatures in Chicago was back on December 28th. Usually we have multiple stretches above freezing every so often throughout winter. This year, not so much. In fact, since the start of meteorological winter on December 1st, we've only had three, for a total of five days.

Over the last two days we came this close. Sadly, though, the temperature briefly hit 0°C at 9pm yesterday evening, and the forecast calls for not just sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures tonight, but a sustained, week-long period where the temperature stays below freezing.

Really tired of this now.

Thursday 20 February 2014 13:03:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 18 February 2014

After getting another 100 mm of snow last night, today it's warmer than it's been since January 13. The 2pm O'Hare temperature was 6.7°C. If it hits 7.8°C, it will be warmer than any day since December 28th—which was also the last day the temperature did not fall below freezing.

Already the 340 mm of snow on the ground has started to melt. And the storm drains are covered in snow and ice. So we'll all be trading in our snow boots for flippers this time tomorrow.

Update: The 4pm temperature was, in fact, 7.8°C.

Tuesday 18 February 2014 14:17:05 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 17 February 2014

In the last hour, we've gotten another 25 mm of snow, with more on the way:

The initial stages of snowfall will come in bands this morning (check weather radar pic above) – moving from southwest to northeast. A few locations are observing a mix of snow and sleet and this will continue on and off for the next couple hours, but the precipitation will change over to all snow and increase in intensity late morning and afternoon. Homewood in Cook County reported an inch of snow in an hour with a mix of sleet. Below is the 9AM CST visibility map depicting the variability of snowfall across the Chicago area.

A band of light to moderate snow is moving though the area this morning and could drop a quick inch of snow in many locations. This band will end and there will be a break before the main area of heavy snow arrives later this morning. Winter storm warnings are in effect and snowfall totals of 100-200 mm are expected before the system moves out this evening.

The original prediction called for just 25-50 mm; apparently the snow got excited.

Meteorological winter ends in just 11 days. Actual winter may last longer.

Monday 17 February 2014 11:39:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 15 February 2014

The Great Lakes have more ice cover than at any point in the last 20 years. Here's the view on the flight in last Monday morning:

If you don't mind a 150 MB download, NASA took a photo of the Great Lakes (and, incidentially, me) at almost that exact moment. The ice today (also 150 MB) looks about the same.

Saturday 15 February 2014 17:45:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Geography | Weather#

I got gas today, which isn't that interesting in itself, except that it's only the third time I've gotten gas in the past four months. Like the last time, I decided to fill up in case it got cold (a full tank is better for your car in winter), so really I've only gotten about 2½ tanks of gas since the beginning of November.

It's perfectly valid to wonder why I even own a car. I didn't for most of the time I lived in New York. Still, today I had about a half-dozen errands to run, and having a car made a huge difference, especially to Parker. If I only used Zipcar, for example, I wouldn't be able to bring him around either.

Still, this is why I like living in a big city.

Saturday 15 February 2014 16:39:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Geography#
Friday 14 February 2014

Yesterday, Chicago Midway Airport recorded a high temperature of 1.1°C, the first time it has seen a temperature above freezing in 15 days.

Unfortunately for our weather records, O'Hare is our official station, and it only got to 0°C yesterday. So officially we still have not had a day above freezing since January 30th, with a forecast for continued below-freezing weather through Monday at least.

Plus, we've had measurable snow on the ground for 47 days now, and we're all frankly sick of it. That's why we're looking forward to next Thursday, when the predicted high of 10°C will quickly change our thick blanket of snow into a cold lake of slush. At least it will be warmer.

Friday 14 February 2014 09:36:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 10 February 2014

Wow. Getting off the plane in New York last night, then taking the bus into Manhattan during a gentle snowfall (during rush hour, on the Van Wyck and Grand Central Parkway), reminded me why I went to St. Maarten for the weekend. Getting home to this made me ask why I didn't stay longer:

Today was the 20th day this winter that temperatures have dipped below -18°C at O’Hare. Tomorrow should be the 21st. That is triple the average of 7 days per winter. The record number of sub-zero days for a winter was 25 set back in 1884-1885. The way this winter has been going that record is certainly within reach.  50 out of 72 days or 69% of days this winter have been below average.

The medium-range forecast calls for a change, however. By Thursday it might approach freezing; next week it may even get warmer than that.

Meanwhile, the current temperature at Princess Juliana Airport is 28°C.

Monday 10 February 2014 14:06:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 7 February 2014

I'm about to close my laptop for the remainder of the day, so I'm just noting these two for later reading:

And now, allons-y! The beach awaits.

Friday 7 February 2014 10:47:06 AST (UTC-04:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 5 February 2014

I'm all set to go to a warm little island this afternoon, except for this:

Light snow continues to fall across the Chicago area with more moderate bands of snow close to and along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Moderate snowfall in the past hour has brought the Midway Airport total up to 148 mm.

Winter Storm Warnings and Advisories across the Chicago area continue in effect until noon today. Snowfall is slowly diminishing here as the center of low pressure has already tracked up the Ohio River valley into southwestern Pennsylvania.

Snowfall reports are rolling in early this morning – it looks like totals will range from 50-75 mm along the Illinois-Wisconsin border to 125-175 mm south of Interstate-80. Chicago’s official observation site at O’Hare had recorded 125 mm so far at 6AM with Midway closing in on 114 mm. Across central Illinois snowfall totals are running 150-225 mm.

When I took Parker out a few minutes ago, we practically sledded down the back stairs, then I just let him porpoise through the snow drifts in our back alley. Three minutes later, my cuffs and gloves were damp, and my hat had proved inadequate against the whistling, windy snow.

I do not want to spend the night in Miami. I really don't. All I want is for my flight out of Chicago to leave close to on-time. I'll deal with walking into my Caribbean hotel room in winter boots.

Wednesday 5 February 2014 07:46:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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