The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

End of the drought

Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel reports our 12-month drought has finally ended:

According to the US Drought Monitor, Illinois is now drought free for the first time since April 3, 2012. Most areas in Illinois have seen positive responses in soil moisture, stream flows, lake levels, and groundwater levels since the fall. A small area of northwest Illinois remains as abnormally dry due to some lingering concerns about subsoil moisture and groundwater levels in that area.

It was pretty grim for a while, with Lake Michigan levels falling to record lows and farmers losing crops downstate. So as squishy as this year has been, in a state whose principal economic products are still agricultural, the rain and snow has been very helpful.

Yes, our cold spring is because of global warming

The WGN Weather Blog explains it:

The unseasonably chilly pattern which has descended on Chicago and the Midwest is being driven by a new round of atmospheric blocking in the arctic. The so-called Greenland block has returned and is predicted by global forecast models to dominate the closing weeks of March and spill over into early April....

Blocking patterns in the arctic, like the one now in place, occur when vast pools of warmer than normal air take up residence aloft. As the planet's arctic regions have warmed, these blocking patterns have occurred with increasing frequency and with a variety of impacts felt to the south in the mid-latitudes.

Climate researchers point to the growing volatility of mid-latitude weather as examples of the sorts of changes which may be expected to become more frequent in years and decades to come as additional warming takes place.

The vast reservoir of warmer than normal air aloft, which currently covers much of the arctic, extends from northern Russia across the North Pole and into Northeast Canada. Such pools of warmer than normal air act to dislodge the frigid air indigenous to the arctic, sending the chill cascading southward into portions of the Lower 48.

Yesterday Chicago got all the way up to -4°C, fully 33°C colder than the first day of spring last year. The arctic, however, is a little warmer. Climate-change deniers are therefore reminded, one hopes, of the difference between weather and climate.

Lowest electricity bill ever

Regular blog readers know that since moving to my current apartment in February 2008, the Inner Drive Technology International Data Center has occupied a couple square meters of my home office. I've also mentioned lower energy use since I started to move everything out of the IDTIDC and into Microsoft Azure.

Something else has happened to my electricity bill. In November, we citizens of Chicago voted to pool our electricity buying to get the lowest electricity cost possible. Well, the new regime kicked in last month, and the 660 kw/h I used in February cost 25% less than the 610 kw/h I used in January—which was the lowest use ever for this place.

It helps, also, that since moving my email to the cloud in June, I've used an average of 224 kw/h less electricity each month year-over-year.

I can't wait to see my bill for March. They read my meter on the 7th or 8th to prepare the bill I just got; the IDTIDC shut down on the 10th.

Cooler-than-normal March; quite a contrast

As I look out my window and see snow falling, I can't help thinking back to last March, in which we'd already had the third record-warm day in a row (27.8°C) on our way to the warmest spring in Chicago history.

This March, not so much:

So far, March has been both colder than average across all of Illinois and wetter than average across western and northern Illinois. The statewide temperature for March 1-14 was 0.2°C degrees, 3.0°C below average. That stands in stark contrast to last March when the statewide temperature for March 1-14 was 7.3°C, 4.1°C above average. That is a 7.1°C difference between the two periods.

The latest NWS forecasts show that rains of 25-50 mm or more could fall in the southern third of Illinois over the next five days. Also their 6-10 day and 8-14 days forecast show that colder and wetter than average conditions will prevail for the rest of March. Because of recent rains and melting snow, the NWS has issued flood warnings today on portions of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Wabash Rivers.

The next 8-14 days don't look so hot either:

Did I mention it's snowing right now? Happy St. Patrick's day.

City replaces half a bridge in 9 days

Early this morning, the city re-opened the Wells St. bridge to El traffic after replacing a 250 ton section of it.

Here's how it looked Thursday morning:

The old south half of the bridge, being dismantled:

This morning, from neighboring LaSalle St.:

The city started replacing the bridge in November, and aims to finish this year. They will close the bridge to El traffic again from April 26th to May 6th in order to replace the north leaf.

Talk about getting bus-ted

Some amusing police work this week: Chicago cops arrested three men for stealing a dozen school buses for the simple reason that the buses had GPS devices:

The owner of a scrap company where the remains of several school buses were found after being stolen from the Far South Side has been charged with illegal possession of auto titles, police said.

Police searched the scrap dealer starting about 7 a.m. Thursday, and about 2:15 p.m., they found Quintero in the false ceiling of the parts yard's office, trying to hide from officers, Mirabelli said. Quintero, of the 4400 block of South Drake Avenue, was expected to appear in Cook County Central Bond Court today.

The 40-foot-long buses, capable of seating 75 people, were stolen sometime overnight Thursday from the bus company's yard in the 10000 block of South Torrence Avenue on the far South Side and were not discovered missing until the next morning, police said.

The buses were all equipped with GPS tracking devices, and police were able to track "their entire movement" to the scrap yard on the West Side, police said. Three of the buses were torn apart using heavy equipment, police said.

I'm always fascinated to learn about people who commit crimes because they're too stupid to do anything else.

Illinois GOP maintains its election-losing ideological purity

The Illinois Republican Party will vote tomorrow on whether to kick out chairman Pat Brady after he took public positions contrary to the party platform:

Brady, of St. Charles, could be ousted over his statements supporting same-sex marriage Saturday, with committeemen meeting in Tinley Park to decide his fate.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove, 14th District Republican committeeman and a leader in the effort to remove Brady, said Brady's situation is different from committeemen who stray from the party platform.

What position on marriage equality? Well, Brady's for it—as are most of the party's senior leaders—and Oberweis isn't. Funny thing, in the last election Republicans in Illinois took a huge beating, in part because of their policies on marriage equality and other social issues. The party chairman wants to win elections. Oberweis wants ideological purity.

You have to love the Republicans these days. I've never seen a party work so hard to lose. And I'm a Democrat.

The efficiency of working from home

Principally, it means not having to commute in 15 cm of snow. It also means several uninterrupted hours of working on stuff. And, unfortunately, not reading all this yet:

Now to walk Parker in the snow, and keep working...

Dawn Clark Netsch, 1926-2013

Netsch was Illinois' first female nominee for governor and the Illinois controller in the 1990s. She died this morning at age 86 from complications from ALS:

She was one of the first female law professors in the United States. A liberal Democrat, she defeated the Machine-backed incumbent state Sen. Danny O’Brien to win a seat in the Illinois Senate in 1972 that she held for 18 years. Elected comptroller in 1990, she was the first woman elected to statewide office in Illinois and, four years later, the first to run with the backing of a major political party for governor, losing to incumbent Gov. Jim Edgar.

Netsch said she “never ran as a woman” but always argued, “More women are needed to make a difference in public policy.”

“She paved the way for others,” President Barack Obama wrote in a letter read at the event by former senior presidential adviser David Axelrod. “The unwavering grace and integrity [Netsch] has shown throughout decades of public service are an inspiration to us all. Dawn’s legacy will live forever in our hearts and the history books.”

I volunteered for her 1994 gubernatorial campaign against Jim Edgar. I remember the campaign, especially how excited we were to work for her. We didn't even come close in the general election—Edgar got re-elected with 34% of the vote—but we thought we made a difference. We might have; Edgar and his successor, George Ryan, were moderate Republicans who resisted the creeping Christianism of their parties.

She will be missed. If Illinois native Hillary Clinton gets nominated for president in 2016, she can, in part, thank Netsch for the example.