Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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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#
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)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Thursday 3 April 2014

And sometimes, it rains. That's the forecast for tomorrow's opening day at Wrigley Field.

So far the Cubs haven't won, though. They're 0-2 for the season, starting their third game at Pittsburgh in just a few minutes.

Stay tuned.

Thursday 3 April 2014 12:34:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs | Weather#
Wednesday 2 April 2014

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)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Sunday 30 March 2014

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)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 24 March 2014

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)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 5 March 2014

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)  |  | 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)  |  | 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)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Cloud | Weather | Windows Azure#
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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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