The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Missed the record by that much

It turns out we actually missed the record for warmest winter in recorded history. Chicago averaged 1.67°C from December 1st to February 29th, making it the 5th-warmest winter after 1881-82 (1.72°C), 1879-80 (1.78°C), 1931-32 (2.0°C) and 1877-78 (2.89°C). So it was only the warmest winter in 92 years, not the whole 153 years of data.

We did, however, have the warmest February on record, with an average temperature of 4.17°C. And it was unusually sunny: we had 75% of possible sunshine, while normal is 47%. Plus, the forecast for this weekend calls for a May-like 21°C at IDTWHQ.

Meanwhile, Lake Tahoe, Nev., could get almost 3 meters of snow this weekend as a major blizzard bumps up against the Sierra Nevada, with a 233 km/h wind gust reported at Palisades Tahoe Ski Base yesterday. That does not sound fun.

The Ecuadorean baby really screws with North American weather sometimes.

Leapin' lizards

Stories for the last day of winter, this year on the quadrennial day when your Facebook Memories have the fewest entries and, apparently, you can't pay for gas in New Zealand:

Finally, Economist editor Steve Coll got access to hundreds of hours of Saddam Hussein's taped strategy meetings. He concluded that both the CIA and Hussein had no understanding at all about what the other was thinking.

Also, the temperature at IDTWHQ bottomed out at -5.3°C just after 7am and has kept climbing since then. The first day of spring should get it up into the high teens, with 20°C possible on Sunday. Weird, but quite enjoyable.

Three seasons in one day

It's official: with two days left, this is the warmest winter in Chicago history, with the average temperature since December 1st fully 3.5°C (6.3°F) above normal. We've had only 10 days this winter when the temperature stayed below freezing, 8 of them in one week in February. This should remain the case when spring officially begins on Friday, even though today's near-record 23°C (so far) is forecast to fall to -6°C by 6am. And that's not even to discuss the raging thunderstorms and possible tornadoes we might get as an energetic cold front slices through tonight. By "energetic," I mean that the NWS predicts a drop by as much as 16°C (30°F) in one hour around 10pm.

Not to worry: it'll be 17°C by Sunday. (The normal high temperatures are 4.7°C for February 27th and 5.4°C for March 3rd; the records are 23.9°C and 26.7°C, respectively.)

Meanwhile, I don't have time to read all of these before I pack up my laptop tonight:

And now, back to getting ready for the Sprint 103 release. That's a lot of sprints.

Happy late-winter milestone

My team works in the downtown office 3 days a week. Given Cassie's daycare pickup deadline and the Metra schedule, I leave at almost exactly the same time every day: 5:20pm. That makes the rapidly-lengthening days in late winter very noticeable.

Yesterday, for example, was the first day since November 2nd that my normal departure time was before sunset. And in just a couple of weeks—March 7th, most likely—I'll pick Cassie up from daycare before sunset.

It really makes a difference.

Staré Město, Karlův most, a Senát Parlamentu České republiky

I took a short (5.5 km) walk and ended with a Czech open-faced egg sandwich:

For the record, I didn't stop in the Sex Machines Museum, tempting as that sounded. Stopping ever few meters to take photos didn't help my time. Neither did the perfect weather.

I did stroll around the Czech Senate grounds, which felt a lot different than our Capitol Hill:

It almost felt as if our Senate sits in a building designed to dominate the city around it, while Czechia's sits in a walled garden. There's some profound political theory in there, I'm sure.

Not helping my productivity, guys

The roofing project continues apace, taking advantage of an exceptionally lovely bit of weather this week. So, yay us, new roof and all. But I'm trying to work at home today—my last WFH day until June 8th, in fact—and the roofers have devised new ways to make it suck.

First came the generator. I don't know whatever reason they needed to put a large generator outside my office window, but there it sat for about 90 minutes. Closing my window helped the noise but not the temperature (remember, they relocated my air conditioners to put roof under them), and a generator makes a lot of noise that can go right through a wall.

The generator finally stopped around 10:30. Finally! I opened the window again and got back to it, until just a few minutes ago when I detected they had started spreading tar right outside my window. Fortunately, this appears to be the final stage of the actual roof replacement, so I expect my home office will be perfectly serviceable again in time for me to work downtown tomorrow and Thursday.

I'm also getting a headache from the VOCs in the tar.

This may be a good time to take Cassie for her lunchtime walk.

Cicadas this weekend?

The 17- and 13-year cicadas will both emerge next year, together for the first time since 1803. But this year, possibly as early as this weekend, a relatively small number of Magicicada septendecim may come out ahead of schedule:

Love them or hate them, Chicagoans might not have to wait another year to see the blood-red eyes of these polarizing creatures with orange wings. It often happens that a few hundred stragglers get confused and emerge a few years before or after they are supposed to.

Scientists are expecting an early emergence of brood XIII cicadas, which come out every 17 years, and of brood XIX cicadas, which come out every 13 years. The former can be found in northern Illinois, including the Chicago area, as well as in some parts of Iowa and northeastern Indiana. The latter can be found in various southern states, including south portions of Illinois.

“The (stragglers) are numerous enough to be noticeable but they also don’t really survive very long because the periodical cicadas sing during the daytime when birds and other predators are quite active, and they’re relatively obvious insects,” said Phil Nixon, retired entomologist from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

[C]icadas usually come out after a day or two of high temperatures in the low 80s and low temperatures around the 70s, followed by rain that softens the soil. They emerge after soil temperatures exceed 64 degrees.

The Brood XIII emergence due a year from now in the Chicago area is expected to be the largest emergence of cicadas anywhere, with numbers approaching a million insects per hectare.

Perfectly useless Sunday

Cassie got about 4 hours of walks yesterday, plus about 9 additional hours of outdoor time. I got sunburned. So I didn't have any time to post, but I did have time to get side-eye from this girl:

That's Butters, a beagle whose every look is side-eye. It's quite a talent.

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."—Lin Yutang

Wild weather phenomena yesterday

We seem to get a lot of pneumonia fronts lately. Here's yesterday's:

The temperature at IDTWHQ was 23.5°C at 17:35, 22.6°C at 17:45, 20.9°C at 18:00, and down it went, to 15.9°C by 19:00. (For the Philistines, that's a 14°F drop in 90 minutes.) At about that time, smoke from fires in Alberta combined with rapid condensation aloft (i.e., clouds from the cold front) to give us one hell of a filter for the sun:

I used a daylight color temperature (5700K) for that shot so you can see the color I saw.

Here's the NOAA Global Systems Laboratory map from that moment:

Strangely, the air-quality index at WHQ—right now, a super-healthy 15—suggests not a lot of the smoke is getting to the surface. It still seems a bit hazy though. And we're likely to have another beautiful sunset tonight.