Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:
Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.
We've only had six days where the temperature stayed below freezing since November 1st, and the third year in a row where we've not had a temperature below -18°C by this point. This shouldn't surprise anyone who knows that 2020 either tied or set the record for warmest year in history:
[An] analysis of global temperatures, by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and released Thursday, found that 2020 was slightly warmer than 2016. But the difference was insignificant, the institute’s director, Gavin Schmidt, said in an interview.
“Effectively it’s a statistical tie,” he said.
Other analyses issued Thursday, one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and another by Berkeley Earth, an independent research group in California, found that 2020 was slightly cooler than 2016, as did one published last week by the Copernicus Climate Change Service in Europe. But the difference was small enough to not be statistically significant.
With the 2020 results, the last seven years have been the warmest since the beginning of modern record-keeping nearly a century and a half ago, Dr. Schmidt said.
But the numbers are only a small part of the story. As climate scientists have predicted, the world is seeing an increase in heat waves, storms and other extreme weather as the planet warms, and in disasters like droughts, floods and wildfires that result. Last year offered no respite, with record fires in Australia and California, and severe drought in central South America and the American Southwest.
Some climate forecasters had thought that the arrival of cooler sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean — part of the recurring global climate phenomenon called La Niña — would tamp down temperatures this year. It is difficult to quantify the influence of La Niña, but it is clear that any effect was eclipsed by the emissions-related rise in temperatures.
As I've said for a very long time, global warming will make Chicago a much more comfortable place to live for a century or two at least, though changing precipitation patterns could seriously alter the Great Lakes' shorelines in ways that make us much less comfortable later on.
Happy new year! Or, as many of my friends have posted on social media, happy January, only 20 days until the new year!
Of course what they mean has to do with this:
President Donald Trump spent his first days in office pushing false claims about the size of his inauguration crowd.
He has spent the final weeks of his term blitzing the American people with falsehoods and far-fetched conspiracies as part of a failed attempt to overturn the election he lost — cementing his legacy as what fact checkers and presidential historians say is the most mendacious White House occupant ever.
“I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in an interview. “Dwight Eisenhower used to say one of the most important tools a president of the United States has is that people believe what he says.”
“After two centuries, it is impressive that Americans still are inclined to believe what a president tells them, especially at a moment of crisis,” Beschloss said. “When a president breaks that bond of trust with the American people, it makes it harder for future presidents to have the kind of moral authority that enables them to protect us.”
NBC News has fact-checked Trump for more than four years. Based on thousands of hours of reporting and hundreds of reported fact checks, four issues stand above the rest as the falsehoods that define the Trump presidency.
Republican speech writer Michael Gerson also has some choice things to say about the latest mendacity, but more in criticism of US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who intends to challenge the Electoral College certification on Wednesday. Sauce for the gander, I say.
Meanwhile, here in Chicago, the New Year has begun with what we call "wintry mix" and everyone else calls "why would you want to live someplace where this happens." But like Punxatawney Phil, if a Chicagoan doesn't see his shadow on January 1st, that means we'll have a mild winter.
We're so close to ending 2020 that I can almost taste it. (I hope to be tasting tacos in a few minutes, however.) True to form, 2020 has apparently decided not to leave quietly:
Finally, the Washington Post's Michael Rosenwald reports that Bloom asked 28 historians to determine whether 2020 was the worst year ever. It wasn't even close.
Sure, the temperature got down to -13°C this morning, but we haven't had any real cold yet this winter, despite the 25°C temperature drop yesterday. Yesterday's high of -3°C was the first below-freezing high temperature of the winter. We've only had that occur this late in the year on five other occasions—two of them this century. Chicago gets its first below-freezing high temperature by November 24th on average. Yesterday's event ties 2001 and is only a few days before the latest occurrence of January 1st (2013 and 1924).
The Climate Prediction Center forecasts above-average temperatures all winter:
Also in early 2021 we should get the revised climate normals as the 1991-2020 data supersedes the 1981-2010 data we've used for 10 years. We expect normal temperatures to rise in most parts of the United States, with dramatic jumps expected in Alaska. Even with the revised numbers, we expect above-normal temperatures to outnumber below-normal temperatures for the next decade.
Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.
Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.
In other news:
Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago:
It's 11°C outside and I have a fuzzy houseguest for the day, so there will be walks! At least until the 20°C temperature drop starts around 6pm... So while I'm enjoying the last above-freezing day of the year with a very sweet and very strong office companion, I've got a few things to occupy my time.
At the top of my list today, we find that the STBXPOTUS has pardoned 15 truly awful murderers and grifters, including the four assholes who slaughtered unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007. It's possible these are the worst pardons ever granted by a US president. (I wonder if Bill Moyers would agree.)
Next we have Bruce Schneier explaining just how bad the SolarWinds penetration really is.
And finally, US Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams said Chicago's coronavirus vaccine rollout was the best in the nation. Go us!
I will now finish my lunch, guarded vigilantly by my neighbor's dog who hopes against all evidence that some of my ham sandwich will find its way to her snout.
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.
I'm looking out my office window at the light dusting of snow on my neighbors' cars, wondering how (or whether) I'll get my 10,000 steps today. My commute to work got me 3,000 each way, making the job tons easier before lockdown. Easier psychologically, anyway; nothing prevents me from going for a 45-minute walk except that I really don't want to.
Instead of a lunchtime hike, I'll probably just read these articles:
And just as a side note for posterity, we should remember that the President of Russia congratulated Joe Biden on his win before the Majority Leader of the US Senate did. The Republican Party must really not like democracy.
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.