The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lengthening reading list

I have three books in the works and two on deck (imminently, not just in my to-be-read stack) right now. Reading:

On deck:

  • Kevin Hearne, "Iron Druid Chronicles" book 8: Staked.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, "Mars" trilogy book 2: Green Mars.

Meanwhile, I have these articles and blog posts to read, some for work, some because they're interesting:

Time to read.

Meanwhile, I seem to have a cold. Yuck.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast...

Everything from New York to Richmond, Va., is shut down today as a major winter storm drops meters of snow on 50 million people:

Weather emergencies were declared in at least 10 states, including in New York and New Jersey, and the storm has disrupted travel throughout the region, with thousands of flights canceled and public transit shut down in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Jersey. In New York, bus lines were scheduled to be suspended at noon Saturday.

Forecasters were predicting 300 to 600 mm of snow to fall in the city by the time the storm ended and warned of flooding in coastal areas, especially along the Jersey Shore. On Saturday morning, water had swept onto the streets of some oceanfront towns in New Jersey, including Ocean City.

“If there was a trend overnight, it was that the heavier axis of snow has now shifted into New York City and onto Long Island,” said Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Around Washington, where some of the city’s police officers were issued shovels at their morning roll call, the storm had already dropped 280 to 380 mm of snow by Saturday morning. Even as the storm moved north, Mr. Burke said the Washington region should still receive lighter snowfall throughout the day, raising totals in some places to over 20 inches.

Meanwhile, in Chicago...nothing. We had a flurry, maybe two, and we're expecting above-normal temperatures—up to 9°C above normal, in fact—through the end of January. The little snow we have on the ground could be gone by tomorrow.

NCPC predicts warm, dry 2016 for Chicago

The latest Climate Prediction Center forecasts came out this week. Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel says it's pretty unusual:

[T]here is a chance that La Niña conditions (the opposite of El Niño) could develop in the summer or fall time frame. Unfortunately, the appearance of La Niña in summer or fall in Illinois typically means hot, dry weather.

This is the first time I can remember CPC forecasting an increased risk of warmer and drier conditions so far out for Illinois. If the forecast comes to pass, this could be a challenging summer.

Despite the chilly weather earlier this week, the latest Chicago forecast calls for slightly-warmer-than-normal temperatures all the way out till next Wednesday. I'm fine with warmer, drier winters here. But like Angel, I'm worried about a hot, dry summer.

It's Friday, I think

This means I have some time to digest this over the weekend:

I might have a chance to read this weekend. Perhaps.

El Niño is still growing

Last week, NASA announced data that show this year's El Niño event keeps growing, possibly even surpassing the 1997 event. But they can't yet predict the consequences:

While scientists still do not know precisely how the current El Niño will affect the United States, the last large El Niño in 1997-98 was a wild ride for most of the nation. The “Great Ice Storm” of January 1998 crippled northern New England and southeastern Canada, but overall, the northern tier of the United States experienced long periods of mild weather and meager snowfall. Meanwhile, across the southern United States, a steady convoy of storms slammed most of California, moved east into the Southwest, drenched Texas and -- pumped up by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico -- wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Florida.

"The water story for much of the American West over most of the past decade has been dominated by punishing drought," said JPL climatologist Bill Patzert. "Reservoir levels have fallen to record or near-record lows, while groundwater tables have dropped dangerously in many areas. Now we’re preparing to see the flip side of nature’s water cycle -- the arrival of steady, heavy rains and snowfall."

In 1982-83 and 1997-98, large El Niños delivered about twice the average amount of rainfall to Southern California, along with mudslides, floods, high winds, lightning strikes and high surf. But Patzert cautioned that El Niño events are not drought busters. "Over the long haul, big El Niños are infrequent and supply only seven percent of California’s water," he said.

Then, once El Niño finishes, La Niña could cause its own problems...

Warm and wet 2015

Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel lists all the records Illinois set last year:

  • The warmest December on record: 4.8°C, 5.9°C above average.
  • The second warmest September – December on record: 11.8°C, 2.7°C above average.
  • The 8th coldest February on record: -7.0°C, 6.4°C below average.
  • Annual: 11.6°C, 0.2°C above average (not ranked, but of interest)


  • The second wettest December on record 170.1 mm, 101.8 mm above average.
  • The wettest November-December on record: 312.4 mm, 156.2 mm above average.
  • The wettest June on record: 239.8 mm, 132.8 mm above average.
  • The 6th wettest year on record: 1232 mm, 217 mm above average.

So far, January is a little warmer than average. We'll see what El Niño brings later on.

Travel and Fitbit

It turns out, my Fitbit doesn't make me sad, but the numbers I get when traveling sometimes do. Despite a 3.5 km walk around Springfield yesterday, it was the second day in a row and the 4th in 10 days for which I missed my 10,000-step, 10 km goal.

On the other hand, last night I got almost 9 hours of sleep (according to my Fitbit), through several trains and a thunderstorm.

Yes, there was a thunderstorm in December in central Illinois. That's just weird. And in future, probably a lot more common.

Nice April weather

Yesterday, Chicago got up to 15°C, not a record but also not what one would expect in December. Our forecast for the next week has the temperature drifting just below freezing Sunday night but otherwise staying above 0°C, which feels a lot more like late March than New Year's Eve.

It's a little unnerving. Don't forget, warm winter means warm lake means warm summer—even without the driving force of El Niño, which may not dissipate before June.

Not that I'm complaining. I'm just...nervous.

Nice April weather we're having...

Officially at O'Hare right now it's 15.6°C, down slightly from the 16.1°C recorded earlier. My car says it's 17.5°C. These temperatures would be normal for late April or mid-October.

The forecast calls for temperatures to drop to a more-normal -1°C by next weekend, but after that the CPC forecast calls for a 75-90% probability of above-normal temperatures through March.

Keep in mind, warm winters in Chicago often lead to warm summers, because the lake can't dissipate as much heat as it does in a cold winter. And as we're seeing this year, summer temperatures have little influence on winter temperatures here. So while we're all excited about a warm winter, we need to keep in mind that next summer could be brutal.

Forecasters predicted that this year's El Niño would lead to a warm winter, but they weren't really sure. It looks like it will.

Strongest El Niño in history

The L.A. Times reports today that temperatures in the Eastern Pacific are far higher than previous El Niño events:

Temperatures in this key area of the Pacific Ocean rose to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the week of Nov. 11. That exceeds the highest comparable reading for the most powerful El Niño on record, when temperatures rose 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the average the week of Thanksgiving in 1997.

The 5.4 degree Fahrenheit recording above the average temperature is the highest such number since 1990 in this area of the Pacific Ocean, according to the National Weather Service.

But the center’s deputy director, Mike Halpert, cautioned against reading too much into the record-breaking weekly temperature data.

El Niño has so far been underperforming in other respects involving changes in the atmosphere important to the winter climate forecast for California, he said.

One example: tropical rainfall has not extended from the International Date Line and eastward, approaching South America, as it did by this time in 1997.

In Illinois, our temperatures in the first two weeks of November are also much higher as well. But:

In the last two big events, the above-average temperatures did not appear until December, January, and February. So what does it mean if this November is unlike 1982 and 1997? It just means that no two El Niño events behave in exactly the same way.

We don't know how winter will go; but so far, it feels a lot more like early October than mid-November.