If you squint, you can see shadows on the houses down the street from me:
Officially those are "broken clouds," covering 7/8ths of the sky. But the sun is peeking out of that other 1/8th. I'll take it.
Of course, it'll be overcast the rest of the week. I'm really tired of this.
The graphical forecast for Chicago encourages me: it shows that the 100% overcast we've had for the last week will get a bit thinner tomorrow afternoon, then a bit thinner Tuesday morning, then...go back to another week of 95% cloud cover. Sigh. At least the sun finally sets after 5pm on Thursday.
Of course, the clouds actually keep Chicago warm in the winter, and the warm air keeps the clouds from thinning out until a strong enough front blows them away. So despite the lack of sun, the temperature still won't go below -8°C, which isn't bad at all for January.
Anyway, if I see the sun tomorrow, I'll post a photo, if for no other reason than to give me something to look at when it goes away for the next week.
I've barely finished my coffee so I'm still processing this amazing news:
Sunny, with a high near 2. West southwest wind 10 to 15 km/h increasing to 20 to 25 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 35 km/h.
"Sunny." I hope...I hope...I hope...
Of course, temperatures will fall below normal for the first time all year by Thursday, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts believes Chicago has a 31% chance of getting 100 mm of snow by Thursday with most of it falling tomorrow evening...but at least we'll have sun.
Just a pre-weekend rundown of stuff you might want to read:
- The US Supreme Court's investigation into the leak of Justice Samuel Alito's (R) Dobbs opinion failed to identify Ginny Thomas as the source. Since the Marshal of the Court only investigated employees, and not the Justices themselves, one somehow does not feel that the matter is settled.
- Paul Krugman advises sane people not to give in to threats about the debt ceiling. I would like to see the President just ignore it on the grounds that Article 1, Section 8, Article VI, and the 14th Amendment make the debt ceiling unconstitutional in the first place.
- In other idiotic Republican economics (redundant, I know), Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) has proposed a 30% national sales tax to replace all income and capital-gains taxes that I really hope the House passes just so the Senate can laugh at it while campaigning against it.
- Amazon has decided to terminate its Smile program, the performative-charity program that (as just one example) helped the Apollo Chorus raise almost $100 of its $250,000 budget last year. Whatever will we do to make up the shortfall?
- How do you know when you're on a stroad? Hint: when you really don't want to be.
- Emma Collins does not like SSRIs.
- New York Times science writer Matt Richtel would like people to stop calling every little snowfall a "bomb cyclone." So would I.
- Slack's former Chief Purple People Eater Officer Nadia Rawlinson ponders the massive tech layoffs this week. (Fun fact: the companies with the most layoffs made hundreds of billions in profits last year even as market capitalization declined! I wonder what all these layoffs mean to the shareholders? Hmm.)
- Amtrak plans to buy a bunch of new rail cars to replace the 40-year-old rolling stock on their long-distance routes. Lots of "ifs" in there, though. I still hope that, before I die of old age, the US will have a rail travel that rivals anything Europe had in 1999.
- The guy who went to jail over his fraudulent and incompetent planning of the Fyre Festival a couple of years ago wants to try again, now that he's out.
Finally, Monica Lewinsky ruminates on the 25 years since her name popped up on a news alert outing her relationship with President Clinton. One thing she realized:
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno died in 2014. For me, not a day too soon. At the end of Leno’s run, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University analyzed the 44,000 jokes he told over the course of his time at the helm. While President Clinton was his top target, I was the only one in the top 10 who had not specifically chosen to be a public person.
If you don't follow her on social media, you're missing out. She's smart, literate, and consistently funny.
With 10 days to go to solidify the record, Chicago has tied for cloudiest January in history, with 20% of possible sunshine (normal is 40%), with 11 of the first 19 days of 2023 giving us exactly zero sun. The record, set in 1998, is 20 of 31 days without sun, and three recent Januaries (2017, 2020, and 2021) saw no sun on 16 of 31 days.
The cause, though, is reflected in us seeing the second-warmest January since records began in 1871, with every single day having an above-normal temperature.
The culprit? A persistent La Niña system in the south Pacific combined with global warming, as WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling explains:
You know, this is a La Niña winter and we’ve done some in-house work on these. Since 1950, La Nina winters have been very volatile in this area. You move from arctic air masses one week to unseasonably mild air the next. We had that cold blast that hit around Christmas week. Now, we’re in the 22nd consecutive day of above normal temperatures. This already is the second-warmest January on the books here — at least so far it is. You have to go back to 1850 to find a January 1-17 period that’s warmer than what we’ve seen this year.
January is typically our coldest and one of our snowiest months and home to some of our blockbuster historic snowstorms, not the least of which is the benchmark blizzard of 1967 that shut the city down.
In Chicago, the winters of the 1970s were collectively our coldest and snowiest on record — and we have records that go back to 1871 and the Great Chicago Fire.
The coldest temperatures occurred in the 1980s. We had back-to-back 26 below zero temperatures in January 1982. And then we had the all-time coldest three years later in 1985 (that was minus 27 degrees).
If you don’t believe climate change is at work, just look at what’s happened to the character of our winters around here. While the decade of the 1970s was the coldest and snowiest on record, we have warmed precipitously since then.
Last time I looked, our winters are running more than 3 degrees on average warmer than the winters of the ’70s, which is a big change. I don’t know if you remember the 1970s, but those winters were barbaric. We’d have these incredible snowstorms and then they’d be followed by these sieges of subzero weather. We don’t get that anymore.
We still have 38 days of winter left, however, and Sunday could see more normal temperatures plus 25 mm or more of snow. And someday, we might even see the sun again.
First, on the flight from Dallas to San Francisco, this handsome boi slept peacefully on the floor four rows ahead of me:
Bane is a malamute mix, 11 years old, and here in the SFO baggage claim area, very tired.
Monday morning, I walked over to the Ferry Terminal on my way to the Caltrain terminal at 4th and King. This guy posed long enough for me to compose and take a shot:
I don't know his name, or even whether he's male. Sorry.
Later, in Palo Alto, I stumbled upon this historic site:
That's the garage at Dave Packard's house where he and Bill Hewlett created their company in 1939.
I didn't bring my real camera to San Francisco this time because I thought it would rain throughout the trip. Next time, though.
Unfortunately, though, I'm already at the airport, staring out at blue skies and sunny...airplanes. I'm looking forward to getting home, though, and to picking up Cassie tomorrow morning after her bath. (She was already overdue, but after 4 days with her pack, she'll need it even more.)
I've got a couple of Brews & Choos from yesterday as well as a few photos from the weekend coming later this week. Stay tuned.
I just got an alert that the outside temperature at my house went above 10°C:
It's mid-January, and my house in Chicago is only 2°C cooler than San Francisco. (O'Hare is only 1°C cooler.)
Maybe I have the wrong attitude. Chicago will likely have its 2nd or 3rd warmest January in history, followed by a warm and lovely spring, with flowers and sunshine for all. So I should just enjoy it. Cassie sure is.
I keep saying that the decently-governed city whose winters have gotten remarkably better in my lifetime next to the largest source of fresh water in the country will, as I've predicted for years, become a pretty good place to live in a 2°C-warmer environment. After all, a 10°C HVAC delta between inside and outside in July is less costly than a 40°C delta in February. (Seriously, if you like the idea of having unlimited fresh water to drink and only a few days a year with weather that can kill you, move to Chicago.)
And yet, I'm solidly Generation X. We learned from a young age that when things seem way better than we expected, they'll average out with a vengeance soon enough.
Sure, Chicago has a better chance of success than any other city its size over the next 100 years. But tens of millions will die worldwide and hundreds of millions will have to move after the first pulse. Then we'll have another pulse. Then a third. When my nephews' grandchildren explore the world, they'll volunteer on farms in Greenland and surf beaches outside Raleigh, and they might be the last people who taste real maple syrup.
If I found a djinn, my first wish might be that people worldwide understand that, if we continue to deny how much we're affecting the world, we'll only have a few places (like Chicago) that people will want to live in. If only that were enough.
Apparently the rain has stopped! So I'm going to take a walk and get some tea. Lunch in Palo Alto; dinner possibly at The Stinking Rose, depending on how much I want to offend the people sitting next to me on the flight home tomorrow.
What am I doing hanging round? I should be on that train and gone.
One Daily Parker reader sent me this clarification that the big hole in CA-92 preventing people in Half Moon Bay, Calif., from reaching Silicon Valley is not, technically, a sink hole:
The first thing to know about that sinkhole that opened on Highway 92 on Thursday: It’s not a sinkhole:
Geologists make a distinction between sinkholes, which require a particular blend of soils — limestone, salts, gypsum and other components — and caverns that appear with water due to engineering failures, aging infrastructure or simply not building enough capacity to handle the kind of runoff experienced in San Mateo County this month. They also note it’s a distinction without a difference for anyone stuck in traffic.
“Even scientists can’t always agree whether we want to call them sinkholes,” said Randy Orndorf, a research geologist for the USGS in Reston, Va., who is known as the sinkhole expert within the service. “I think about 20 years ago when I started doing research, we tried to say these are infrastructure failures and people still wanted to call them sinkholes.”
For the most part, sinkholes are limited to regions of karst terrain, which underpin about 25 percent of the United States land mass. Sinkholes are most common in these areas, where the underlying soil simply dissolves in water. Sinkholes are most common in Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, according to the USGS. No one knows how many sinkholes develop in a given year because most likely occur in remote areas.
(The photo caption really summarizes things well: "Geologists say this isn't a sinkhole, but they acknowledge it doesn't really matter what you call it.")
Thanks for filling us in, USGS. (Actually, I love this kind of journalism. What can you say about rain in California? Let's dig into the issue! [Sorry.])
And every time I think about sinking, I sink of this: