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Monday 24 November 2014

This morning I commuted to work in drizzle, wind, and 9°C temperatures. In the five hours since then, the rain has turned to snow, the wind has turned to gale, and the temperature has dropped 10°C.

Welcome to Chicago in November.

The biggest casualty of this in my life may be my FitBit. I've hit my goal of 10,000 steps every day for the last nine, and gotten close (>= 9,000 steps) every day this month except one. Today, I may hit 10,000 steps, but only if I really push myself. In the cold. And snow. And win.

Could happen, though. I'm already past 5,000, and my car is parked more than 2 km from my office. So if the wind isn't blasting ice pellets into my face this evening, I'll walk to rehearsal and possibly hit 10,000 steps on the way.

Monday 24 November 2014 13:30:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather | Work#
Friday 21 November 2014

Chicago's temperature dropped below freezing last Wednesday morning and has stayed there since. It's -13°C now, the coldest it's been during this period.

Fortunately some warmer, wetter air is pushing in from the south, and should arrive after midnight. The forecast calls for sustained 9°C temperatures (and non-stop rain) from Saturday morning through Monday afternoon, when another cool air mass will slide into the region and freeze us out again.

Welcome to winter in Chicago. Warm rain and frigid dryness, for three months.

Friday 21 November 2014 07:09:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Via the Illinois State Climatologist, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center has released the latest outlook for December through February:

First, there are two important notes about the winter forecast. One is that El Niño has not arrived yet, and if it does, it is expected to be mild.

The other point is that the current conditions are not always a reliable predictor of future conditions. In other words, just because we are having a cold November (9 degrees below average), that does not doom us to another cold winter. To give a recent example, November of 2012 was 1.3 degrees below average, while the following winter of 2012-13 was 3.0 degrees above average.

The first panel shows the temperature odds for December-February, our core winter months. Southern Illinois has a slightly elevated chance of colder-than-average temperatures as does most of the southern states. There is a stronger chance that temperatures will be above-average on the West Coast and Alaska.

The El Niño was earlier forecast to be slightly stronger than the current forecast has it, which is disappointing. We're still experiencing frigid temperatures here, and it's not even December yet. El Niño can mitigate the cold in Chicago if it's strong enough. Now it looks like we're going to have the usual amount of chill. Fie.

Thursday 20 November 2014 18:55:58 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 18 November 2014

We're joking in Chicago right now that we've skipped November and December and gone straight through to mid-January. Only, it's not really a joke, as temperatures early this morning got down to -12°C, almost 11°C below normal for November 18th—and, in fact, 3°C below normal for January 18th.

Moreover, the Northern Hemisphere today has greater snow cover this early than at any time since 1966. Fully 50% of the Continental U.S. is covered by snow, which is more than 3 times average.

Does this mean we'll have a colder-than-average winter? No. Chicago's forecast calls for above-normal temperatures this weekend followed by seasonal (read: above-freezing) temperatures through the first week of December. That will make Apollo's next performance, the wreath-laying ceremony at the Art Institute the day after Thanksgiving, more bearable.

This week has been barely bearable, though. But we press on; we persevere; we get our FitBit numbers in, even though bits of our bodies have frozen off.

Tuesday 18 November 2014 13:55:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 14 November 2014

While not the Polar Vortex of yore, it's definitely colder in Chicago now, even a little below normal. In any event, Wednesday and yesterday were the first two days that failed to get above freezing since March 4th and 5th, 253 days ago.

And it snowed yesterday. Again, not horribly unreasonable for mid-November, but not entirely common, either. But nothing so far suggests that our mild summer will be followed by a really cold winter; and in fact, the long-range forecasts are pretty normal.

Friday 14 November 2014 09:49:15 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 11 November 2014

The first wintry cold front of the season has pushed through the Chicago area. Yesterday around this time we had a windy 16°C afternoon. Even as late as 6am the temperature still lingered around 12°C, not warm per se but pretty mild for November.

The cold front's leading edge hit around 7am and has now moved over the lake, leaving us with a chilly and gloomy 3°C evening and a forecast overnight wind chill below -10°C. Record cold temperatures are predicted next Monday and Tuesday.

Does this mean we're going to have another super-cold winter in Chicago? Probably not. Cold snaps happen; the Polar Vortex last year, that made the eastern U.S. the coldest spot in the world (relative to normal temperatures), was an extremely rare event.

Still, it might be time to break out the wool long johns...

Tuesday 11 November 2014 15:19:18 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 13 October 2014

Via the Illinois State Climatologist, NOAA has put out a two-page brochure outlining the El Niño forecast for this coming winter, and its benefits to the Chicago area:

While no two El Niño events are alike, the typical winter weather pattern brings the polar jet stream farther north than usual, across Canada, while the Pacific jet stream remains in the southern U.S. As a result, the upper Midwest to Great Lakes area can be warmer than normal, with drier-than-normal conditions across the Great Lakes toward the Ohio River Valley, and with less snow than usual in the upper Midwest Confidence in these patterns is higher with stronger El Niño events.

Odds still favor an El Niño forming by mid to late fall, with a 60-70% chance of development. There is a 30-40% chance for neutral conditions to continue through this winter, with a near-zero chance for La Niña to develop.

After last year's brutal winter, the worst we've had in 35 years, the phrase "warmer and drier than normal" sounds great. I vote Yes.

Monday 13 October 2014 13:11:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 11 October 2014

It's sunny and cool, and I have no remaining responsibilities that I know of for the afternoon. So Parker and I are going for a long walk.

Oh, and: Go Giants.

Saturday 11 October 2014 13:55:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | San Francisco | Weather#
Wednesday 8 October 2014

Last night's lunar eclipse had reached totality when I dragged Parker and myself out of the house around 5:30 this morning. Eclipses are always worth seeing, especially on a perfectly clear morning like today.

Now if I could just do something about the streetlights next time...

Wednesday 8 October 2014 09:29:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather | Astronomy#
Tuesday 7 October 2014

While I'm up to my eyeballs at work, I've got a backlog of articles to catch up on:

Once I've got some free time (maybe this afternoon) I'll talk about yesterday's Supreme Court non-decision that changes civil rights in the U.S. forever.

Tuesday 7 October 2014 13:16:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | Software | Weather#
Sunday 5 October 2014

Yesterday, Chicago had its third earliest snowfall in recorded history. The previous record was 22 September 1995. Yesterday morning's low of 2°C just barely missed the record0°C in 1989—and felt pretty damn cold for October when Parker and I went out first thing in the morning.

The forecast calls for seasonal temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday, but crappy rainy cold November-like weather tomorrow and Thursday. Wonderful. Because what Chicago needs in October is November weather.

On the other hand, we had only two days where the temperature hit 32°C all summer, so as they say in the UK, mustn't grumble. We'll have all winter to moan.

Sunday 5 October 2014 09:55:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 3 October 2014

Yesterday morning I griped about how dark October mornings seem. Today it's raining. This causes a minor additional problem as Parker has a vet appointment in a little more than an hour, and I'm pretty much committed to walking him up there. So I guess we'll both get wet. What can you do? The weather these days.

Actually, all of this is just getting into the spirit of London ahead of my visit in two weeks. The English call this "having a moan." I still need some practice, clearly; a good English moaner would have been able to extend that last paragraph out for half an hour....

Friday 3 October 2014 07:31:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | London | Weather#
Monday 15 September 2014

We had spectacular weather across the region Saturday and yesterday. For our hike Saturday we had partly-cloudy skies, low humidity, and 14°C—nearly perfect. Here's Parker at the top of the trail, refusing to look at the camera:

Then, yesterday, I had my final Apollo audition up at Millar Chapel in Evanston. Again, perfect weather:

It's a little cloudy today, but otherwise cool and October-like. As far as I'm concerned, it can stay October-like for the next six months. Walking is good for you.

Also, can I just point out that the 16-megapixel camera that's just an add-on to my phone takes better photos than any even serious Pro-Am cameras from five years ago? Yikes.

Monday 15 September 2014 12:09:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Travel | Weather#
Friday 12 September 2014

Chicago—a lot of the country, in fact—is experiencing the coldest early-fall weather in a century:

Never before over the 143-year term of official Chicago records dating back to 1871 had a September 11th failed to produce a high temp which reached 14°C. Never, that is, until Thursday! The day’s 13°C midnight high set a record for the coolest Sept 11 on the books, effortlessly eclipsing the previous record of 15°C. Yesterday’s 13°C was 12°C below normal and 13°C cooler than the day before and, perhaps most significantly, the chilliest early season daytime high temperature which has occurred in the city over the past 97-years!

Oh, and it snowed in South Dakota yesterday. In September.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Coast continues their worst drought in forever...

Friday 12 September 2014 11:18:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 8 September 2014

Meteorological autumn began last Monday, but as usual in early September we slouched through some sticky heat most of the week. Then Friday the weather broke, and this past weekend's weather was spectacular.

Partially because the lake was so cool from last winter, this summer we had only three 32°C days—fewer than in any year in history except 1979.

It gets better (i.e., cooler). The forecast calls for slightly-above-normal but comfortable days today and tomorrow, followed by a cooling trend taking temperatures down nearly 9°C by Friday. Because this is Chicago, where we go from shorts to jackets in less than a week.

Unfortunately, I'm going to spend tomorrow in Phoenix and Wednesday in Louisville, where it will be ghastly warm. Oh well.

Monday 8 September 2014 08:37:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 7 September 2014

I haven't posted a lot this weekend because the weather has been too nice. Yesterday and today Chicago has had temperatures around 23°C, sunny skies, and gentle breezes. It's hard to stay inside, even with the windows open.

And in the evening, our annual cicadas are finally out. Talk about getting a nice buzz on a late-summer evening...

Yesterday Parker got more than two hours of walks; today he'll get at least an hour, though I'm likely to get a lot more as well. (My phone's pedometer says I got 13.3 km yesterday and only 3.9 km so far today.)

Posting might be slow this week because of an odd travel schedule, too. More on that later.

Sunday 7 September 2014 13:04:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather | Work#
Monday 1 September 2014

Good morning. It's the 1st day of September, 2014, and meteorological summer is over. School is back, Labor Day is upon us (but only in the U.S., where it doesn't remind anyone of actual labor struggles), and I've had Parker for 8 full years. (The annual Parker Day photo will have to wait until he and I are both back home. I know, this is the second year running that I've missed the day itself. I hope he forgives me.)

On the whole, summer wasn't bad. Autumn should be fine as well: I'm attending a dear friend's wedding this month, going to London next month, and in between, aiming to walk Parker as much as our legs can carry us. Cleveland will be involved as well, though to what extent, I don't yet know.

Still, I'm not sure where summer actually went. May doesn't seem that long ago.

Monday 1 September 2014 07:20:28 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Parker | Travel | Weather | Astronomy#
Friday 29 August 2014

Jim Angel, the Illinois State Climatologist, wrote yesterday that Chicago-area precipitation seems to have shifted around 1965:

First of all, northeast Illinois (Cook and several surrounding counties – see map below) has experienced a shift in precipitation over the last 120 years. This plot shows the amounts for each year as green dots, and an 11-year running average showing longer periods of dry conditions (brown) and wet conditions (green). There is a pretty remarkable shift from a drier climate between 1895 and 1965 with lots of brown, towards a wetter climate from 1966 to present where green dominates.

If you compare the average annual precipitation between the two periods, you get 836 mm for the earlier period and 935 mm for the later period. That is a 99 mm increase, or about 12 percent.

Of course, we have still experienced drought conditions in this later wet period, as noted in 2005 and 2012. However, the wetter years far outnumber the dry years since 1965. BTW, this pattern is not unique. I have seen this across the state.

So, with slightly warmer weather, milder winters, and more precipitation, it looks like Illinois might suffer less from climate change than other parts of the country. However, those conditions have led to increasing insect populations and more-frequent large precipitation events, with non-trivial costs.

At least we're not in South Florida, which not only faces complete inundation from rising sea levels, but also a climate-denying Congressional delegation.

Friday 29 August 2014 07:22:20 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US | Weather#
Sunday 17 August 2014

The Chicago Air and Water Show may not happen today because of rare weather conditions:

[T]he Chicago National Weather Service said "rare low clouds" are impacting the Air and Water show. Low clouds have a ceiling height of 1,000 feet, the weather service said. Only 2 to 3 percent of August days have had low clouds since 1973, the weather service said.

Now, skipping the foggy understanding of weather terms and government agencies the ABC reporter showed in that paragraph, it doesn't look good for the show. Right now conditions the lakefront has low instrument meteorological conditions due to a 125 m ceiling (somewhere around the 60th floor of most downtown buildings) and 6 km visibility. The latest forecast calls for more clouds.

We've had a cool, wet summer, following a record-cold winter, so Lake Michigan is just a huge fog maker lately. Yesterday was warm and sunny, but in the past 12 hours a low pressure system has passed directly overhead bringing northeast winds and draping a cold front across the region. It's 6°C warmer in Aurora and Kankakee than it is in Waukegan or Racine, for example.

So, thousands of people are disappointed today. Still, it's quiet and cool in Lincoln Park right now. That's not a horrible outcome.

Sunday 17 August 2014 13:38:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 14 August 2014

I mentioned over a month ago that, given some free time, I would fix the search feature on Weather Now. Well, I just deployed the fix, and it's kind of cool.

I used Lucene.NET as the search engine, incorporating it into the Inner Drive Gazetteer that underlies the geographic information for Weather Now. I won't go into too many details about it right now, except that I was surprised at how much the index writer was able to crunch and store (in Azure blobs). The entire index takes up 815 MB of blob space. That's so small a fraction of a cent per month I can't even calculate it right now.

The indexing process took about 6 minutes per 500,000 rows. (The entire database has 7.25 million rows.) It helped that I ran the indexing process on an Azure virtual machine, because at one point during index optimization I clocked the data throughput at 200 Mbps. Yes, two hundred megabits per second. The entire index ran in a little less than two hours on a VM while I was doing other things. And once the index initializes in the Weather Now app, searches only take a second or so.

Go ahead. Try a search. Put in your ZIP code or the name of a prominent building near you.

I still have a lot I want to do with the application, including updating it to a responsive theme and MVC, but this is a pretty big leap.

Thursday 14 August 2014 16:23:11 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Cloud | Cool links | Weather | Windows Azure#
Wednesday 13 August 2014

Yep. As I feared, the Indians game last night got postponed, but not before the Tribe got ahead by one. And then:

In the moments shortly before the Tribe's game against the D-backs was postponed, [Cleveland players] Aviles, Kipnis and Chisenhall sprinted from the dugout, ran across the tarp and slid headfirst through the puddles and raindrops to the delight of the fans who remained. It was an entertaining ending to a game that was wiped out following a delay that lasted three hours and 40 minutes.

Cleveland's lone run came courtesy of an RBI double in the third inning by Kipnis, who no longer has that hit on his statistical record.

That may or may not have made him easily swayed by Aviles.

"I lost my double, so I was emotional. And an RBI," Kipnis said with a smirk. "I didn't know which way was up. I was easily influenced."

So, everything that we saw there yesterday...didn't count. Because in baseball, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes...it rains.

Regardless, thanks to the Cleveland Client for taking us to Progressive Field. And in no small irony, the tickets we used were from a previous rain-out, so if they want, the people who took us can go to the game today at 4:05 pm. Which—wait for it—might be rained out.

Wednesday 13 August 2014 08:51:56 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball | Travel | Weather | Work#
Friday 1 August 2014

Last month tied the record for the coolest July in state history:

The statewide average temperature for July was 21.3°C in Illinois, which ties the record cool July of 21.3°C set back in 2009.

As this plot indicates, the observed range in July monthly temperatures in Illinois is 7°C. On another note, the July 2014 average temperature is based on preliminary data so it is very likely that we will break the tie with 2009 as more data arrives.

The state climatologist has a map:

So Illinois was the country's cool spot back in January and again in July. I have to say, it's a lot better to do that in July.

Friday 1 August 2014 15:11:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 29 July 2014

Climate outlooks for the U.S. are coalescing around a pleasantly cool summer in Chicago:

Illinois climatologist Jim Angel explains:

As we approach the end of July the statewide average temperature in Illinois is 21.4°C degrees, which currently puts it in second place for the coldest July on record.

Here is how the previous top 10 coldest July temperatures for Illinois looked and what happened in the following August.... In 8 out of the 10 cases, the following August was colder than average. However, two of those “colder” August’s were marginally so (1924 and 1996). The one spectacular reversal was in 1947, where August was 4.0°C degrees above average after the 3rd coldest July. Therefore there is a historical tendency for cooler weather to prevail into August.

After the brutal winter we had six months ago (three months ago?), most people in Chicago welcome July and August afternoons like this. I'm even wearing a jacket to the game tonight, while I'm saving a bundle on air conditioning.

Tuesday 29 July 2014 12:22:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Client deliverables and tonight's Cubs game have compressed my day a little. Here's what I haven't had time to read:

Now back to the deliverable...

Tuesday 29 July 2014 12:00:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | Weather#
Monday 28 July 2014

Keep your pants on. I'm referring to the London Underground, which last week got "journalists" to copy and paste a story they ran five years ago. It turns out, the Tube is too hot:

It’s not fair to compare London’s cramped commuters to cattle; right now, livestock actually get the better deal. As temperatures in the U.K.’s capital push towards 32°C for the second week running, heat levels in London’s Tube and bus system have now risen above the EU limit at which it is legal to transport cows, sheep, and pigs. The highest recorded temperature on the network so far this year is 35°C, 5°C above the permissible 30°C for livestock.

I thought that sounded familiar. For comparison, here's the story from August 2009:

A map which reveals the hottest spots on London's underground system has been revealed to commuters.

The map of zones 1 and 2 shows temperatures over above 35°C have been recorded in some areas - making the trains officially unfit for transporting cattle.

The Central line had some of the worst spots, while the Bakerloo line also felt the heat when the map was compiled.

It turns out, I was in London in August 2009, and I remember really hating the temperature as the Circle Line got round to Tower Hill. Glad to see the city have kept some traditions going.

Monday 28 July 2014 17:48:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | London | Travel | Weather#
Tuesday 1 July 2014

Wow, last night's rain was officially epic:

The rate at which rain fell across the Midwest Monday was extraordinary in a number of locations.

Highland, Park’s 98 mm fell between 6 and 11:59 p.m. In just a fraction of that period, Midway Airport logged 20 mm. It fell in just 7 minutes! Lake In the Hills , IL received 66 mm in just 2 hours.

But rainfall rates west in Iowa were even more dramatic. Williamstown received 133 mm in the day’s 3 waves of rainfall while 114 mm of Muscatine, Iowa’s 207 mm of rain fell between 7 and 8 p.m.

Yes, 207 mm fell on a town in Iowa. That's 207 liters of water per square meter of ground, which works out to 8,280 tons—almost 8.3 million liters—of water per Chicago city block. (A Chicago city block is 200 meters to a side.)

Ah. My air boat has arrived. Off to work now...

Tuesday 1 July 2014 07:33:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

I've written about weather for a while. And despite my raising the alarm about anthropogenic climate change, I'm not given to hyperbole. But, wow. This is going on in Chicago right now, and it's epic:

Seriously, I think one of my neighbors just ushered a pair of squirrels into the boat he built today...

Play us out, EFO:

Monday 30 June 2014 22:38:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 22 June 2014

Not quite, but in today's New York Times he tries to get Republican acceptance that climate change is real:

We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.

This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course.

We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing.

Krugman thinks Paulson is shouting at the wind:

[W]hat’s sad is that he imagines that anyone in the party he still claims as his own is listening. Earth to Paulson: the GOP you imagine, which respects science and is willing to consider even market-friendly government interventions like carbon taxes, no longer exists. The reins of power now rest firmly, irreversibly, in the hands of men who believe that climate change is a hoax concocted by liberal scientists to justify Big Government, who refuse to acknowledge that government intervention to correct market failures can ever be justified.

Given the state of U.S. politics today, climate action is entirely dependent on Democrats, With a Democrat in the White House, we got some movement through executive action; if Democrats eventually regain the House, there could be more. If Paulson believes that he can support Republicans while still pushing for climate action, he’s just delusional.

It's really depressing that the main opposition party in the most powerful country the earth has ever seen has an institutional rejection of evidence and data. It's part of the right-wing mindset: they're right-wing because they can't accept being wrong.

Sunday 22 June 2014 12:40:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Weather#
Saturday 31 May 2014

It's the end of May, and the weather matches. I pushed some software into production this morning, which is already more productivity than necessary on a day like this.

Forget it. I'm going outside. See you in June.

Saturday 31 May 2014 14:44:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 16 May 2014

Yesterday my trip to work was cold and wet, while on the West Coast it was so warm people in San Francisco were trying to remember if their apartments had air conditioning. (They don't.)

Well, it's no longer quite as hot in San Francisco, but here in Chicago it's still cold and wet: 4°C and—wait, you'll love this—snow.

That's right, past the mid-point of May and only two weeks from the start of meteorological summer, it snowed in Chicago.

Friday 16 May 2014 08:18:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 15 May 2014

Last night the temperature here got down to 5°C, which feels more like early March than mid-May. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, yesterday got up to 33°C, which to them feels like the pit of hell. In fact, even in the hottest part of the year (early October), San Francisco rarely gets that warm. The Tribune explains:

The North American jet stream pattern, a key driver of the country’s weather, has taken on the same incredibly “wavy”—or, as meteorologists say —“meridional”—configuration which has so often dominated the winter and spring. This sort of pattern leads to temperature extremes across the content.

Pools of unseasonably warm air are in place on each coast while unseasonably cool air is sandwiched between and dominates Chicago and Midwestern weather.

It’s within this slow-moving pool of chilly, unstable (i.e. cloud and precip-generating) air that Chicago resides—a situation likely to continue into Saturday. This is to keep extensive cloudiness and the potential for sporadic showers going over that period of time.

In other words, the forecast for this weekend is continued March with a possibility of April by Monday.

Thursday 15 May 2014 09:50:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | San Francisco | Weather#
Tuesday 13 May 2014

Ten days until I get a couple days off...

Tuesday 13 May 2014 15:17:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Cool links | Weather#
Sunday 11 May 2014

The Chicago Tribune has an infographic this weekend with the final statistics of the past winter. After defining the "cold season" as the "period from the first freeze of the fall to the last freeze of spring," and asserting we've had our last freeze (I'll let that float for now), then the 2013-14 winter looked like this:

Measurement Value
First freeze Oct 22nd (-2°C)
Last freeze Apr 16th (-4°C)
Days below freezing 76 (Nov through Mar)
Days below -18°C 26 (Dec through Mar)
Total snowfall 2,082 mm

It would have been helpful, I think, had they included some comparison data. It still encapsulates a really crappy winter, which now, finally, seems over.

Sunday 11 May 2014 08:35:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 8 May 2014

At 1pm, the official temperature at O'Hare was 28°C. It has not been this warm in Chicago since November 7th, six months ago. The last time we had weather warmer than that was September 28th (29°C).

Good thing I'm inside...working...

Update: The official 2pm temperature of 30°C has not occurred in Chicago since September 11th, 239 days ago.

Thursday 8 May 2014 13:48:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 7 May 2014

I almost forgot, even though Illinois Climatologist Jim Angel blogged it earlier today. The new NCA is here. Highlights—with a distinctly Illinois-centered view—via Angel:

  • In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be progressively offset by extreme weather events. Though adaptation options can reduce some of the detrimental effects, in the long term, the combined stresses associated with climate change are expected to decrease agricultural productivity.
  • Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase public health risks.
  • Climate change will exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes, including changes in the range and distribution of certain fish species, increased invasive species and harmful blooms of algae, and declining beach health. Ice cover declines will lengthen the commercial navigation season [this winter was the exception to the rule - Jim].

If you don't mind using 170 megabytes of bandwidth, you can download the whole thing (or just the parts you want).

Wednesday 7 May 2014 14:41:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | World | Weather#
Saturday 3 May 2014

Via WGN's weather blog, here is the coolest climate visualizer I've seen:

The site also has forecast maps and animation, climate information, and (of course) a blog.

Saturday 3 May 2014 08:25:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Weather#

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD reported this week that atmospheric carbon dioxide averaged more than 400 ppm in April, a new milestone:

Every single daily carbon dioxide measurement in April 2014 was above 400 parts per million. That hasn’t happened in nearly a million years, and perhaps much longer. Climate scientists have proven that the rise in human-produced greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of global climate change. The likelihood of dangerous impacts—like sea level rise, hotter heat waves, and certain types of extreme weather—increases with each incremental annual rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide levels have increased by more than 40 percent since humans first started burning fossil fuels in large quantities about 250 years ago. Once released, the carbon dioxide from coal, oil, and natural gas burning can remain in the atmosphere for centuries. Thus, the crux of the problem: There just hasn’t been enough time yet since those first coal-powered factories in Europe for the atmosphere to return to equilibrium. What’s more, the pace of fossil fuel burning has since dramatically quickened—there’ve been more greenhouse gas emissions in the last 40 years than over the previous 200—so carbon dioxide buildup keeps accelerating.

So what about the hockey stick? If you look at the last 800,000 years, the chart of CO2 concentration looks more like a brick wall:

Scary.

Saturday 3 May 2014 08:11:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Weather#
Thursday 1 May 2014

Today is May Day, but it feels like mid-March. Instead of the normal 18°C for May 1st, we're going to get, if we're lukcy, 9°C, with some gray skies and drizzle to drive the point home.

The WGN Weather Center has more:

A sprinkly, damp chill hung over Chicago as April 2014 closed overnight. The month finished 0.2°C below normal—a fraction of the deficit that’s been recorded in a number of recent months.

The shortfall, small as it is, means April goes down in the record books here as the 6th consecutive month with an average temperature cooler than normal.

The 12°C high with which the month closed Wednesday was coolest final day of April in 18 years. That reading was, in marked contrast, a full 18°C cooler than the 29°C high recorded on April 30th a year ago.

Chicago’s cloud cover has been extensive over all four days that the area’s weather pattern has been under the influence of the most recent mammoth spring storm. Sunshine during that period has amounted to a paltry 16%–less than a third normal. Historically, Aprils have produced 52% of their possible sun.

One of the coldest winters in history has given way to one of the dreariest springs in recent memory. No wonder so many people want to leave Illinois.

At least it should be warmer next week.

Thursday 1 May 2014 08:08:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 26 April 2014

I didn't post a lot yesterday because (a) I had tons to do for work and (b) once I'd finished, I had to go out into this:

It got all the way up to 21°C, briefly, and there were actual leaves on the trees for the first time since November.

Today it's sunny and 7°C. It might get up to 14°C sometime this coming week, once it stops raining.

Hey, at least it's spring.

Saturday 26 April 2014 09:12:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 24 April 2014

I mean that literally. With the wind whipping off the lake, our shaded seats never got above 10°C, and felt a whole lot colder. We fled after the 5th inning.

One of the (metaphorically) cool things was how the Cubs used the names of the two teams that played at Weeghman Park when it opened on 23 April 1914: the Chicago Federals and the Kansas City Packers. Here's the scoreboard:

And here's first baseman Mark Rizzo in his historical uniform:

The Cubs lost, of course, 7-5. Some things really never change.

Thursday 24 April 2014 10:14:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Wednesday 23 April 2014

The park is 100 years old today:

The ballpark, which opened April 23, 1914, and celebrates its centennial Wednesday, is a quintessential Chicago building: practical, quietly graceful, a creature of function, not fashion. Despite those rationalist roots, it's a vessel for human emotion: hope, dreams, escapism, nostalgia, wonder — and, as Cubs fans know all too well, disappointment, disgust and bitterness.

Only a smattering of those fans, I suspect, could name the original architects of Wrigley (Zachary Taylor Davis — who also designed Comiskey Park — and his brother Charles). Fewer still would be able to tell you that the ballpark actually reflects the hand of many architects, including the designers of the eclectic Wrigley Building and the art deco Chicago Board of Trade Building.

What those architects wrought, working in a sequence that now covers 10 decades, is remarkable: a building shaped by many different hands that still hangs together beautifully. It helps us hang together, too, creating a shared, almost familylike experience that's all too rare in a world where people devise their own reality on smartphone screens.

Yes, Wrigley needs help; some fans call it a dump. The ballpark is rich in lore but poor in amenities, and its bones have shown inevitable signs of age. Netting prevents chunks of concrete from falling on fans.

A planned revamp, part of a $500 million redevelopment of Wrigley and its environs, promises to finally bring the ballpark into the 21st century. But it's stalled by a bitter dispute between the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, and the owners of rooftop seating perches that peek into the ballpark. Work isn't expected to start until next offseason. So with Wrigley in limbo, here are five reasons why the ballpark captivated us in its first century...

Naturally, as an involuntary season-ticket holder, I'm going to the game, and possibly some of the pre-game festivities. And because it's a beautiful, sunny morning in April, I'm wearing long johns, heavy wool socks, a long-sleeve shirt, an undershirt, a warm hoodie, a winter coat, and fleece gloves. How else would someone dress for a game at Wrigley before Memorial Day?

Game-time forecast: sunny, breezy, 6°C. Brrr.

Wednesday 23 April 2014 08:05:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
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)  |  | Chicago | Cool links | Weather#
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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
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)  |  | 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)  |  | Baseball | Chicago | Cubs | 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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