The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wild weather continues

Yesterday we broke a heat record; today the temperature feels more or less normal for late December; this weekend it will get warm again. Welcome to Chicago:

The record-breaking warmth comes on the heels of another historic ranking. With a high of 57 Wednesday, this year now ranks No. 2 on the list of warmest Christmas Days in Chicago since the mid-1800s, when records started being kept. The warmest Dec. 25 ever in Chicago was 17°C degrees in 1982.

But after the daytime high pushes the record for warmest Dec. 26 further out of reach, the city should brace for a rollercoaster of cold and warm days, [meteorologist Mark] Ratzer warned.

“Very late afternoon, it looks like probably just after dark, so between 5 and 7, a front will go through, and we’ll cool down markedly,” Ratzer said. “We’ll drop pretty quickly into the single-digits Celsius, which isn’t that bad, but overnight we’ll be back around freezing.”

After a brisk Friday, the temperature again will rebound into the low-teens Celsius in time for a mild and comfortable weekend, although it will be rainy, he said.

“Then we’ll cool off again by Monday,” Ratzer said.

Parker did not like the change at all, moping around on his two walks today like the ancient dog he has become. Maybe this weekend he'll feel more spring in his step again?

Second-warmest Christmas; warmest Boxing Day

Yesterday's 14°C high temperature made it the second-warmest Christmas on record in Chicago, missing by a lot the 17°C record set in 1982. The warmth continued overnight: the temperature at O'Hare hit 14°C just after midnight, surpassing the 13°C record for December 26th set in 1971. Today's forecast calls for 20°C.

These temperatures would be normal in October and April—or Atlanta and Dallas.

Yesterday Parker got an hour and a quarter of walks; today he'll get about the same. And I may even open windows in my apartment.

Temperatures should get more seasonal promptly. A cold front should get us back to normal December temperatures tonight, and we have rain and snow coming in Sunday night. New Year's Eve should give us a close-to-normal 1°C high.

Moments in great timing

First event: Last night around 7pm, my main data drive seized up after storing my stuff for a bit less than 4 years. Let me tell you how much fun Micro Center is at 9pm two days before Christmas. After 12 hours it looks like it's about 75% restored from backup, and I didn't suffer any data loss.

Second event: Just look at this lovely, peaceful scene:

That's the cemetery in my neighborhood a few minutes ago. And that's what we call "dense fog," with about 200 m visibility and what they call "indeterminate" ceilings at 100 m.

Which is exactly what you want in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the second-biggest travel day of the year:

Amid dense fog reducing visibility in Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration early Tuesday grounded incoming flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports until at least 8 a.m.

For a short time Tuesday morning all flights were grounded, according to the FAA, but as of 7:30 a.m. the agency’s website noted the “ground stoppage,” or halting of flights, was indicated only for airplanes arriving at the city’s two airports. Flights were departing regularly at Midway, according to travelers at the airport.

Still, the ground stoppage for incoming flights means not all departing flights will leave on time and travelers could miss connecting flights, leading to a chain-reaction of air travel delays during a traditionally peak period for travel.

Have a safe and fun travel day, and if you're going to or through Chicago, enjoy your airport time.

More weird weather

If the forecasts remain accurate, Christmas in Chicago will round out only the fifth "holiday temperature reversal" in history:

This could be only the 5th time that Christmas will be warmer than BOTH Halloween and Thanksgiving since records began in Chicago back in 1871.
  Halloween Thanksgiving Christmas
1873 -1°C 1°C 3°C
1895 6°C 5°C 13°C
1954 4°C 6°C 7°C
1982 7°C 3°C 9°C
2019 1°C 3°C 7°C

I'd say "cool" but that's cheap.

Hot time down under

(Say it with me: "Under where?")

Australia just hit a record temperature—for the whole country:

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reports preliminary data showing that for Dec. 18, the nationally averaged maximum temperature was 41.9°C. This beat the old record of 40.9°C, which had been set the day before. Before this heat event, the country’s hottest day was Jan. 7, 2013, which had an average high temperature of 40.3°C.

Human-caused global climate change is making heat waves such as this one more likely to occur, more severe and longer-lasting. An early analysis of the ongoing heat event shows that climate change may have made the Australian national heat record at least 20 percent more likely to occur now than in a climate that had not been influenced by human emissions of greenhouse gases. It’s possible that forthcoming research will show that this event could not have occurred without human-caused global warming, as previous analyses of other events have found.

That's insane. Not to mention the extensive brush fires—including the largest ever recorded in Australia—that have rendered Sydney almost uninhabitable.

Another long-predicted climate change force is confirmed

The US government's 2019 Arctic Report Card finds that melting permafrost has made the arctic a net producer of greenhouse gasses:

Especially noteworthy is the report’s conclusion that the Arctic already may have become a net emitter of planet-warming carbon emissions due to thawing permafrost, which would only accelerate global warming. Permafrost is the carbon-rich frozen soil that covers 24 percent of the Northern Hemisphere’s land mass, encompassing vast stretches of territory across Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland.

Warming temperatures allow microbes within the soil to convert permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide and methane — which can be released into the air and accelerate warming. Ted Schuur, a researcher at Northern Arizona University and author of the permafrost chapter, said the report “takes on a new stand on the issue” based on other published work including a study in Nature Climate Change in November.

Taking advantage of the new studies — one on regional carbon emissions from permafrost in Alaska during the warm season, and another on winter season emissions in the Arctic compared to how much carbon is absorbed by vegetation during the growing season — the report concludes permafrost ecosystems could be releasing as much as 1.1 billion to 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. This is almost as much as the annual emissions of Japan and Russia in 2018, respectively.

Only, if you can believe, it's worse than that. Because the microbes also produce methane, which gram-for-gram causes about 4 times more warming. And as the region gets warmer, more microbes produce more gas, in a negative spiral.

Happy Wednesday.

Sick day reading

I hate taking sick days, I really do. Fortunately, the Internet never takes one:

I'm now going to try to do a couple of hours of work, but really, I just want to go back to sleep.

...and winter isn't screwing around

At least, not in the Northeast:

In the Northeast, heavy snow, mixed precipitation and strong winds are expected to develop in many areas beginning as early as Sunday. Freezing rain was already falling in parts of Pennsylvania on Sunday, making roads hazardous, and the stage is set for a burdensome Monday morning commute for many from New York to Portland, Maine.

As of Sunday morning, the storm that will evolve into the first big storm of the 2019-2020 winter season in the Northeast was centered 700 miles west of New England, just east of Chicago.

But its expansive precipitation shield was branching well off to the east, with heavy rains and downpours reaching as far south as Augusta, Ga. That slug of moisture — which has slowed traffic on Interstate 95 along much of the Eastern Seaboard — wrapped all the way up through Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Buffalo and even into Detroit, before curling north as snow in northern Wisconsin and Michigan.

Snowfall totals of over 300 mm are possible in eastern New York state east of Interstate 81 by the time the long-duration storm ends. Pockets of up to 450 mm may punctuate some spots in the Catskills and Hudson Valley.

For once, Chicago will miss the worst of it.

Maybe we should listen to the message

A new United Nations report projects that the world's average temperature will hit 3.9°C above pre-industrial levels in 80 years without massive, immediate cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. The additional energy the atmosphere has absorbed in the 80 years has given us the perfect Thanksgiving weekend travel environment:

Not one, not two, but three powerful storm systems will make travel difficult to near impossible at times both before and after Thursday’s holiday.

A record-breaking “bomb cyclone” crashed ashore in the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday night, bringing winds gusting over 160 km/h and feet of snow in some areas. That storm system will continue to dump snow in the Sierra Nevada while bringing heavy rain, coastal flooding and even isolated thunderstorms to Southern California. It will also spread rain and snow into Utah, Nevada and Colorado.

Meanwhile, a “kitchen sink” storm barreling through the Plains and Upper Midwest has already manifested itself in offering the worst of every season. Tornadoes touched down in Louisiana, while thundersnow and thundersleet rattled Nebraska. This is coming on the heels of Denver’s snowiest day in three years.

The snow is targeting the Great Lakes this hour, as strong winds spread over much of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. The winds, gusting up to 97 km/h at times, threaten to snarl air travel into and out of Chicago’s major hubs at O’Hare and Midway airports.

And that’s not all. The same upper-level disturbance that helped spin up the West Coast bomb cyclone will generate a third potent storm to the east. It will probably impact the eastern half of the Lower 48 this weekend.

Right now at O'Hare winds are 38 km/h gusting to 70 km/h with a peak gust of 98 km/h recorded at 10:11 this morning. As my first flight instructor used to say, "Mights gonna to be a bit vindy."