In Chicago this week, a persistent temperature inversion has kept us under a layer of stratus clouds that have obscured the sun for the past 5 days. Instead of the normal 42% of possible sunshine we get in January, this year we've only gotten 28%. It's a little depressing.
The only silver lining, so to speak, is that the cloud layer has kept temperatures a lot warmer than normal, especially overnight. So we've gotten temperatures a degree or two above freezing and a degree or two below freezing, which we like tons better than the insanity of this time last year.
In other news of persistent fogginess and concealment, Senate Republicans claim that John Bolton's book has "blindsided" them—even though Bolton's revelations are precisely what the Republicans wanted to avoid hearing in the Trump Impeachment Trial:
What’s morbidly amusing about this is that it’s actually self-incriminating. It’s deeply revealing about the true nature of the GOP coverup.
[T]his will not be a real trial unless we hear from those people, who include Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. It cannot by definition be anything other than an effort to carry through Trump’s own coverup to completion.
What actually blindsided Senate Republicans was that the details of Bolton’s account leaked before they could carry out their preordained vote to acquit. They were blindsided by this terribly inconvenient timing, which upended their coverup.
So: how much will voters actually care about this? I hope just enough to give the Democratic nominee more than 271 electoral votes this fall.
A bomb snowstorm buried much of Newfoundland this week, breaking all kinds of records in the process:
The historic blizzard that slammed Canada’s easternmost province is headed for Greenland — but it left snow-buried neighborhoods, a slew of power outages and shattered records in its wake.
St. John’s superseded its record for the most snow in 24 hours, recording 762 mm, as the storm hit Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday. A state of emergency continued in the provincial capital and elsewhere through Sunday as most businesses were ordered closed and few beyond emergency vehicles were allowed on the roads. Snow drifts rose 4–5 meters high on some highways, officials said. The Canadian armed forces were called in to help clear the deluge.
The storm was a meteorological “bomb,” having undergone a process of rapid intensification known as bombogenesis. With its central air pressure dropping quickly, the storm drew surrounding air into its center, causing sustained winds in some parts of Newfoundland and Labrador to reach 118 km/h or greater, with higher gusts. The winds combined with the heavy snowfall to create whiteout conditions.
NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center determined the central air pressure of the storm bottomed out at 954 millibars early Saturday morning, more than a 54-millibar drop in less than 48 hours.
And you thought your winter weather sucked...
I'm visiting one of my oldest friends in Durham, N.C. She is fostering Lexi, who had nine puppies on the 5th:
So, it turns out that puppies under two weeks old (a) smell horrendous, no matter how often you change their bedding, and (b) don't do a lot. But in the 18 hours I've been here most of them have opened their eyes for the first time. And they are really cute.
This morning we took a short hike at the Museum of Life and Science, which encourages John Cleese to visit:
It helps that while Chicago basks in its tropical -12°C January heat, here in Durham it's a chilly (to them) 12°C.
This looks very familiar to me:
As does this:
And it means that my 10:20 flight connecting through Charlotte is now a 12:06 flight connecting through Washington. Welcome to travel from O'Hare in January.
At least I'll have some time to nap. Or read. Or nap while reading...
Lake Michigan continues its record-high levels this month. As of yesterday, the Michigan-Huron system was at 177. 4 m above sea level, 51 cm above last year's level and more than a full meter above average January levels. This has caused massive erosion and the loss of entire beaches in Chicago:
Since 2013, the lake has risen nearly 2 meters, going from a record low to near-record high levels last summer. On Saturday, waves nearing 6 meters pummeled an already drowning shoreline.
A 1-meter wave can pack the power of a small car. A 6-meter wave? Maybe a freight train.
The Chicago Department of Transportation is evaluating the impacts of the storm at Morgan Shoal from 48th to 50th streets and working with the Army Corps to install boulders, according to spokesman Michael Claffey. The work is expected to begin in the coming months.
They'd better get to it. Typically, lake levels are lowest January through April, but so far this month the lake is only 6 cm lower than last July's all-time-record high average.
Data released today by NOAA and NASA confirm a frightening fact scientists had already guessed:
The past decade was the hottest ever recorded on the planet, driven by an acceleration of temperature increases in the past five years....
According to NOAA, the globe is warming at a faster rate than it had been just a few decades ago. The annual global average surface temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.13 Fahrenheit) per decade since 1880, NOAA found. However, since 1981, that rate has more than doubled since.
Alaska also had its hottest year on record in 2019. It included an alarming lack of ice cover during the winter in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and in the summer the temperature at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport hit 32°C for the first time.
Still, even as millions of protesters have taken to the streets to demand action, world leaders have so far shown little ability to move as fast as scientists say is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
In a bleak report last fall, the United Nations warned that the world had squandered so much time mustering the willpower to combat climate change that drastic, unprecedented cuts in emissions are now the only way to avoid an ever-intensifying cascade of consequences. The U.N. report said global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.2°C by the end of the century, and that emissions must begin falling by 7.6 percent each year beginning 2020 to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris climate accord.
But hey, the President wants to make sure your shower and dishwasher waste more water, so that'll help.
A few articles to read at lunchtime today:
- Will Peischel, writing for Mother Jones, warns that the wildfires in Australia aren't the new normal. They're something worse. (Hint: fires create their own weather, causing feedback loops no one predicted.)
- A new analysis finds that ocean temperatures not only hit record highs in 2019, but also that the rate of increase is accelerating.
- First Nations communities living on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron—the largest freshwater island in the world—warn that human activity is disrupting millennia-old ecosystems in the Great Lakes.
Fortunately, those aren't the only depressing stories in the news today:
Now that I'm thoroughly depressed, I'll continue working on this API over here...
...as long as you aren't in Chicago:
Lake Shore Drive was being hammered with waves Saturday morning causing officials to shut down the bike path in some parts on the North and South sides.
Officer Michelle Tannehill, a spokeswoman for police, said the northbound path remains closed between Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue as of 11:30 a.m. There also were reports of trouble on South Shore Drive in the northbound lanes from 7100 to 6700 South Shore Drive.
Still under a winter weather advisory until 3 a.m. Sunday, parts of Cook County along the shoreline were expecting winds to reach up to 50 mph as rain showers threaten to create slick conditions.
It gets better:
Those in and around Chicago can expect snow by Saturday night, but before then, a complex and messy storm will possibly bring freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.
A winter storm warning was in effect for McHenry and other outlying counties northwest and west of the city from 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday, with snow as deep as 7 inches predicted in some areas. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Lake and Kane counties starting at 3 a.m. Saturday and for Cook, DuPage, Kendall and LaSalle counties, lasting until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Officials said the storm will start with rain and sleet. There may also be ice pellets, but it might not freeze all surfaces, which may cause patchy slick spots in the area. It is expected to snow after 5 p.m. Saturday and continue snowing till 1 a.m. Sunday, Friedlein said.
Tonight I'm hosting some fellow singers for madrigals and wine. (You read this blog and didn't realize I'm a nerd?) Fortunately I'm close to public transit. I hope I'm not stuck with too much extra cheese and wine; that would be tragic.
The National Weather Service predicts tonight will be fun:
A hard-to-forecast, complex and messy storm will hit the Chicago area starting Friday night, bringing possibly freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet, snow and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.
Ice accumulation of a quarter inch could hit the far northwest parts of the area, with another inch of sleet, but Thursday and Friday’s warm weather could help keep the ground warm enough to keep totals down.
With strong winds of 60–80 km/h predicted with the storm, a lakeshore flood warning was in effect from midnight Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday, with “Significant lakeshore flooding” expected, according to the weather service.
“Waves of 4.2–5.4 m are forecast along the northeast Illinois shore and 3.6–4.9 m along northwest Indiana lakeshore will result in inundation of flood prone areas, possibly including some roads and likely bike paths,” with waves sometimes as high as 7 m, according to the weather service.
Waves of how big? Don't plan on driving down Lake Shore Drive, people.
Updates as events warrant.
Climate change has caused water levels in the Lake Michigan-Huron system to swell in only six years, creating havoc in communities that depend on them:
In 2013, Lake Huron bottomed out, hitting its lowest mark in more than a century, as did Lake Michigan, which shares the same water levels, according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Around that time, the lake withdrew so far from the shore around Engle’s resort — then a collection of 12 rustic cabins and three docks — that mud was all that remained beneath his boathouse.
In just 3½ years, levels rose more than 1.3 m and last summer peaked at nearly 1.9 m above the record low.
Climate change is amplifying variability in lakes that are naturally predisposed to fluctuation. Unlike lakes Ontario and Superior, which are regulated by dams and binational regulatory boards, lakes Michigan and Huron, measured as one body of water because they are connected at the Straits of Mackinac, have no such controls and consequently have experienced the greatest variation from record low to high in the Great Lakes.
As the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases has spiked over the past century, the Earth’s warmer atmosphere is capable of holding additional moisture, which scientists say is resulting in more frequent and severe storms. Across the Great Lakes region, precipitation has increased 14%, and the frequency of heavy storms has risen 35% since 1951, contributing to widespread flooding. In the past two years, the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio each have endured a string of 12 consecutive months that have been the wettest in 124 years.
Here is the latest water-level chart from NOAA. Notice that last year's levels hit record highs during the summer and ended the year just below the record for December--meaning they started January considerably higher than the record for the month:
At least we have a lot of fresh water nearby. That might come in handy someday...