The December solstice happened about 8 hours ago, which means we'll have slightly more daylight today than we had yesterday. Today is also the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's meeting with Richard Nixon in the White House.
More odd things of note:
Finally, it's very likely you've made out with a drowning victim from the 19th century.
Iceberg A-68a broke off from Antarctica's Larsen Ice Shelf in September 2017. It has drifted more or less intact since then, and later this month will very likely hit South Georgia Island in the south Atlantic:
[UK] Government officials have been tracking the 4,200-square-km iceberg closely with the help of the British Royal Air Force, who conducted a reconnaissance mission over the iceberg capturing photos and videos of the large mass.
“The sheer size of the A68a iceberg means it is impossible to capture its entirety in one single shot,” British officials said in a statement.
As of now, the iceberg is just 150 kilometers from the territory, according to BBC News. If it does collide with South Georgia Island scientists warn that it could threaten the wildlife ecosystem and animals' access to food. A large number of whales, seals, and penguins feed off the coast of South Georgia.
This NASA photo from November 5th shows the berg about 200 km from where it is today:
South Georgia Island is a British overseas territory.
We've got a day and a half of autumn left in Chicago. Here's what I'm reading on a lazy Sunday:
And finally, new research shows that the pyroclastic flows from Vesuvius in 79 CE turned people's brains to glass. Yummy.
To thoroughly depress you, SMBC starts the week by showing you appropriate wine pairings for your anxiety. In similar news:
Time to take a walk.
While I wait for my frozen pizza to cook, I've got these stories to keep me company:
Going to check my pizza now.
Remember the hurricane season of 2005, where we got the 27th named storm at the end of December and it finally dissipated on January 6th?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tropical Storm Iota, the 30th named storm of 2020:
At 400 AM EST (0900 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Iota was located near latitude 13.5 North, longitude 74.8 West. Iota is moving toward the west-southwest near 5 mph (7 km/h). A westward motion with some increase in forward speed is expected to begin later today and continue through Monday. On the forecast track, Iota will move across the central Caribbean Sea during the next day or so, and approach the coasts of Nicaragua and northeastern Honduras on Monday.
But, of course, climate change is a hoax. And the Greek alphabet has 15 more letters.
The forecast for Chicago today predicts a 23°C high will give us not only a new record in itself, but our 7th day above 21°C in a row, a record for November. Yesterday's 24°C also set a record.
And then we have a tiny cold front on its way:
This afternoon should bring us back to the end of autumn with alacrity:
Today. A slight chance of showers between 2pm and 4pm, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 22. Breezy, with a south wind 30 to 35 km/h increasing to 35 to 40 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 70 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Tonight. Showers and thunderstorms before 10pm, then a slight chance of showers between 10pm and 11pm. Low around 2. Breezy, with a south wind 35 to 40 km/h becoming west 25 to 30 km/h after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 70 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between 7.5 mm and 1 cm possible.
So Parker and I will take our afternoon constitutional a bit earlier than usual.
Fifty years ago today, the Grateful Dead released American Beauty:
There are countless versions of the Grateful Dead to tap into, hundreds of bootlegs and remastered live recordings to queue up. Many bona fide Deadheads would say it's not even worth bothering with the studio recordings. But American Beauty, released Nov. 1, 1970, and lined with back-to-back classics that earned them the title of the great American jam band, stands out from all the rest.
Meanwhile, yesterday set a couple more milestones that historians will talk about 50 years from now:
- Tropical Storm Eta became the 28th named storm of the North Atlantic hurricane season, setting a new record. Hurricane season officially ends a month from today.
- More than 91 million people have already voted in this election, about 2/3 of the total ballots cast (136.5 m) in 2016.
- The monthly average water level in the Lake Michigan-Huron system finally dipped below last year's levels, following 9 straight months of record or near-record levels.
Only 60 shopping days left until we finally exit this bizarre and horrible year.
The first polls close in the US next Tuesday in Indiana at 6 pm EST (5 pm Chicago time, 22:00 UTC) and the last ones in Hawaii and Alaska at 7pm HST and 8pm AKST respectively (11 pm in Chicago, 05:00 UTC). You can count on all your pocket change that I'll be live-blogging for most of that time. I do plan actually to sleep next Tuesday, so I can't guarantee we'll know anything for certain before I pass out, but I'll give it the college try.
- The US Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court last night by a vote of 52-48, with only Susan Collins (R-ME) joining the Democrats. It's the first time since Reconstruction that the Senate confirmed an Associate Justice with no votes from the opposition party. And in the history of our country, only two people have been confirmed by a smaller margin: Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. I'm sure the three of them will continue to fight for bipartisanship and good jurisprudence as strongly as they ever have.
- Emma Green points out "the inevitability of Amy Coney Barrett," because the Republicans don't care. And Olivia Nuzzi brings us the story of "the tortured self-justification of one very powerful Trump-loathing anonymous Republican."
- Bill McKibben reminds us "there's nothing sacred about nine justices; a livable planet, on the other hand..."
- Speaking of the planet, Tropical Storm Zeta became Hurricane Zeta last night. The 2020 season has now tied the all-time record for the number of named Atlantic storms set in January 2006, and it's only October.
- Bars and restaurants in suburban Cook County have to close again tomorrow as statewide Covid-19 cases exceed 4,500 on a rolling 14-day average. Some parts of the state have seen positivity rates over 7.5% in the last couple of weeks. My favorite take-out Chinese place down by my office is also closing for the winter, which I understand but which still saddens me.
- The Washington Post asked TV screenwriters how 2020 should end.
- In one small bit of good news, the Food and Drug Administration has finally agreed that whisky is gluten-free, as gluten does not evaporate in the distilling process and so stays in the mash.
Finally, from a reader in Quebec comes a tip about violent clashes between a Canadian First Nation, the Mi'kmaw tribe of Nova Scotia, and local commercial fishermen over First Nations lobster rights. If you think Canada is a land without racism, well...they're just more polite about it.
The National Aeronautical and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported today that September set a new record:
Unprecedented heat around the world vaulted September 2020 to the hottest September since 1880, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
The month's warmth also contributed to 2020’s trend as a remarkably hot year, with the year-to-date global temperatures running second highest in the 141-year climate record.
The average global temperature in September was 0.97°C above the 20th-century average of 15.0°C.
This surpasses the average global temperatures for both September 2015 and 2016 by 0.02°C, which previously tied for the hottest Septembers on record.
The 10-warmest Septembers have all occurred since 2005, with the seven-warmest Septembers occurring in the last seven years.
It looks like 2020 will set a record for hottest year ever, too.