The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Longing for the halcyon days of James Watt

Trump has outdone himself with this doozy of a cabinet nomination:

Donald Trump intends to select Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior transition official confirmed to NBC News Wednesday — the clearest sign yet the president-elect will pursue an agenda that could undo President Obama's climate change legacy.

An ally to the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt has aggressively fought against environmental regulations, becoming one of a number of attorneys general to craft a 28-state lawsuit against the Obama administration's rules to curb carbon emissions. The case is currently awaiting a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which heard oral arguments in September.

Pruitt, who questions the impact of climate change, along with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, penned an op-ed in the Tulsa World earlier this year that called criticism they've received "un-American."

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall raises the alarm that having four (or five) recently-retired generals in top national security positions is not normal, for very good reasons. He concludes, "as a pattern, a government dominated by recently retired generals is a very negative development. Even if the nominees in question are not part of his thinking, there's little doubt that Trump's decision to nominate so many generals is rooted in a mix of his own lack of military service and his instinctive inability to think of relations between people or nations as anything but ones of domination."

It just keeps looking more and more like 1933.

The constant drumbeat of stupidity and cupidity

Tales in the war against reality waged by Trump and his party:

And yet, James Fallows sees cause for optimism (assuming Trump doesn't blow up the world):

In [the election's] calamitous effects—for climate change, in what might happen in a nuclear standoff, for race relations—this could indeed be as consequential a “change” election as the United States has had since 1860. But nothing about the voting patterns suggests that much of the population intended upheaval on this scale. “Change” elections drive waves of incumbents from office. This time only two senators, both Republicans, lost their seats.

[C]ity by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.

Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.

Only 698 days until the 2018 election...

Second-warmest autumn in Illinois history

The Illinois State Climatologist reports on the autumn season, which for meteorologists ended Wednesday:

This was the 5th warmest November on record for Illinois, based on preliminary data. The statewide average temperature was 8.6°C, and 2.7°C above normal.

It was also the 2nd warmest fall on record for Illinois. The statewide average temperature for fall was 15.2°C, 2.8°C above normal. Only the fall of 1931 was warmer at 15.4°C The climatological fall months are September, October, and November.

It was an absolutely beautiful season here. That's one of the benefits to Chicago of anthropomorphic climate change.

Sunny days

Despite everything awful happening around the country, here in Chicago we've had unusually gorgeous weather. We've had 81% of possible sunshine this month, well above the normal 43%. And we've also had near-record heat, with today predicted to be 22°C, a whopping 14°C above normal.

Of course, tomorrow a cold front will come through to give us our first freeze since April, but hey, it's November.

What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay there

Recaps of the debate comprise just a few of the things I haven't had time to read today:

Back to my meetings.

You weren't imagining the heat

The results are in for meteorologcial summer 2016, and it was, in fact, really warm and soggy in Illinois. Chicago's average temperature of 23.5°C was 1.4°C above the 1980-2010 normal. That period was the warmest in history, however, so the summer that just ended Wednesday was Chicago's 18th warmest in recorded history, putting it at the 88th percentile.

Did I mention wet? For June through August, we got 338.8 mm of precipitation, a damp 32.8 mm above normal—not a record, but still very squishy.

Oh, wait—we did hit a record after all. Illinois' statewide average 175.0 mm of precipitation in August, and 349.0 mm for July and August combined, were both the wettest such periods in recorded Illinois history.

Combine the humidity that produced all that precipitation with the above-normal heat and this past summer was uncomfortable.

September, however, has been delightful. The Tribune reports that yesterday Chicago had 100% of its possible sunshine for the first time since June 21st, and we may have an entire weekend—3 days in a row—for the first time since November 10th.

Lynx

Day two of Certified Scrum Master training starts in just a few minutes (more on that later), so I've queued up a bunch of articles to read this weekend:

Training begins again...

Climate change is World War III

So says New Republic writer Bill McKibben:

We’re used to war as metaphor: the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cancer. Usually this is just a rhetorical device, a way of saying, “We need to focus our attention and marshal our forces to fix something we don’t like.” But this is no metaphor. By most of the ways we measure wars, climate change is the real deal: Carbon and methane are seizing physical territory, sowing havoc and panic, racking up casualties, and even destabilizing governments. (Over the past few years, record-setting droughts have helped undermine the brutal strongman of Syria and fuel the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria.) It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. Its first victims, ironically, are those who have done the least to cause the crisis. But it’s a world war aimed at us all. And if we lose, we will be as decimated and helpless as the losers in every conflict--except that this time, there will be no winners, and no end to the planetwide occupation that follows.

The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?

Meanwhile, scientists are saying that only about 30 major cities will remain cool enough to host the 2088 Olympics:

[Kirk Smith, a professor of global environmental health at University of California, Berkeley] and his colleagues looked the climate conditions of 645 cities in the Northern Hemisphere that are eligible to host the Olympics. Cities that had fewer than 600,000 in population were excluded, as were those that exceeded 1,600 meters (or roughly 5,250 feet) in elevation. They used data from two standard climate models to calculate the temperatures and humidity of those cities over the next century, assuming the levels of greenhouse gas emissions would remain high. With those numbers, they then estimated each city’s wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT), a measure of heat stress that takes into account temperature, humidity, heat radiation, and wind.

Cities are considered to be of high to medium risk if their WBGTs exceed 26 degree Celsius (or 78.8 degree Fahrenheit), which the researchers say is the maximum temperature to safely hold marathons, considered by some to be the most demanding events in the Olympics. (That’s actually a conservative measure; a 2010 study put the temperature threshold of risky marathons at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Another analysis, based on data from more than 2 million marathoners, found the ideal temperature to be as low as 40 to 50 degrees.)

London and San Francisco meet the grade. Chicago is "medium risk." No cities in South America or Africa will be "low risk" by then.

Drifting evidence

Attention flat-earthers: you can't simultaneously believe in GPS and that the earth is a disk covered by the dome of Heaven. Maps of Australia are the latest casualty in the war between evidence and...well, flat-earthers:

The Australian Plate is moving about 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) northwards every single year. This motion has accumulated over the decades to produce a significant discrepancy between local coordinates on maps and global coordinates in digital navigation systems used by satellites.

At present, this difference amounts to an error of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). This is enough to cause a problem to anything in Australia that uses GPS-like systems, including smartphones and vehicles.

"If you want to start using driverless cars, accurate map information is fundamental," Dan Jaksa, a member of Geoscience Australia, told BBC News. “We have tractors in Australia starting to go around farms without a driver, and if the information about the farm doesn't line up with the coordinates coming out of the navigation system there will be problems.”

This is yet another instance where, for whatever reason, people whose religious beliefs encounter their direct economic interests seem to make allowances for science.

Next thing you know, insurance companies will start charging more to cover property close to sea level. Oh wait...