The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Here comes a real winter

We've had some snow, and we've had some cold, but this week we will have both. A lot of both:

Tonight
Snow, mainly after midnight. The snow could be heavy at times. Patchy blowing snow after 11pm. Temperature rising to around -3°C by 5am. Wind chill values as low as -19°C. Breezy, with a south southeast wind 15 to 25 km/h increasing to 30 to 40 km/h. Winds could gust as high as 50 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 80 to 120 mm possible.

Monday
Drizzle and snow, possibly mixed with freezing drizzle before 1pm, then a chance of snow and freezing drizzle between 1pm and 4pm, then a chance of snow after 4pm. Patchy blowing snow before 8am. Temperature rising to near 1°C by 9am, then falling to around -7°C during the remainder of the day. South southwest wind 25 to 30 km/h becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 50 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Little or no ice accumulation expected. New snow accumulation of 10 to 30 mm possible.

Tuesday
Partly sunny and cold, with a high near -16°C. West wind 20 to 30 km/h, with gusts as high as 50 km/h.

Wednesday
Partly sunny and cold, with a high near -23°C.

Yes. A high of -23°C. If it happens, it would be the lowest maximum temperature recorded in Chicago since 3 February 1996. (Sadly, I remember that one too.)

So tempted to work from home...so tempted...

At least the longer-range forecast calls for normal temperatures the week of February 4th.

New digs

I missed posting two days in a row because I've just been swamped. I'll have more details later. For now, here's my new office view:

One of my smartass friends, who lives in Los Angeles, asked what that white stuff was. It's character, kid. It's character.

Boxing Day

Jennifer Finney Boyan explains the English tradition, along with its Irish counterpart:

In England, it’s Boxing Day; in Ireland and elsewhere, it’s St. Stephen’s Day. When I was a student in London, my professor, a Briton, explained that it was called Boxing Day because it’s the day disappointed children punch one another out.

For years I trusted this story, which only proves that there are some people who will believe anything, and I am one of them.

The real origins of Boxing Day go back to feudal times, when workers on a lord’s estate would ask, on this day, for a Christmas box, in exchange for good service throughout the year. Later, the tradition expanded to include the collection of alms for the poor.

In Ireland, St. Stephen’s Day brings the appearance of the Wren Boys— costumed revelers engaged in a ritualized hunting of a wren. The best-known Wren parade happens in Dingle, in County Kerry. There’s a lot of marching around and collecting of money, some of which goes to charity and some of which — according to at least one of my Irish friends — goes to pay for a round at the pub. The veneration of the wren predates Christianity, in fact: The Irish word for wren, “dreoilin” — comes from two words, “draoi ean,” the druid bird.

In London on this Boxing Day, few stores have opened, but at least the Tube has resumed a normal schedule. And, of course, the sun hasn't come out from behind the low overcast all day. Perfect British winter weather.

Why Chicagoans might feel down lately

I complained this morning that we haven't had much sunlight so far in December. Just now, the Illinois State Climatologist reported that November's weather sucked too:

It was a cold and snowy November in Illinois.

  • The statewide average temperature for November was 1.8°C, which is an impressive 4°C below normal, ranking November 2018 as the 8th coldest on record.

Looking at meteorological Fall (Sept, Oct, Nov), temperatures for the season ended up near normal in southeastern Illinois, and between 1-2°C below normal as you head northwest toward Rockford and the Quad Cities.

And it was gloomy.

We might see sun later today. Updates as events warrant.

Aviation-induced snowfall

Yesterday, a combination of moisture and cold caused snow to fall in a singularly odd pattern near Chicago:

Although no widespread weather systems were in the area to crank out snow, flurries were still falling across parts of the area.

These unusual phenomena were thanks to a supercooled atmosphere interacting with exhaust from a power plant and also the air flow around commercial aircraft.

Farther to the north, a bizarre radar signature in the shape of a loop showed up just northeast of the Windy City, out over Lake Michigan. It turns out this dash of winter was caused by aircraft landing at O'Hare International Airport.

Observations from the airport at the time reveal a temperature of 22 degrees and a dew point of 17 degrees, both well below freezing. Additionally, the closeness of the temperature to the dew point meant the air was near saturation. There was 82 percent relative humidity at the time.

It's likely that supercooled water droplets were present in this air mass. That means the water vapor was below freezing but couldn't entirely transition into ice crystals because of a lack of particulates upon which to freeze.

In this case, though, an aircraft - or many aircraft - passed through this layer.

Meanwhile, police and firefighters closed streets around tall buildings in downtown Chicago yesterday as chunks of ice came crashing down on them. (On the streets, not the firefighters.) You can imagine the commute.

The inevitability of winter

Overnight, a major blizzard hit Northern Illinois:

As of 7 a.m., 188 mm of snow was recorded at O'Hare International Airport, the city's official measuring station. Crystal Lake got 193 mm and some areas of McHenry County got 333 mm, according to the National Weather Service.

The north suburbs and southern Wisconsin bore the brunt of the storm. A winter storm warning remains in effect after blizzard warnings issued Sunday night expired early Monday morning.

It was the fifth-worst November blizzard in Chicago history, by snowfall amount. In my neighborhood, Parker's morning walk looked like this: 

As expected, Parker enjoys this more than I do.

Can't wait for the mess tomorrow morning

I've been working on a personal project all day, except for walking Parker a couple of times, so I have largely avoided the drizzle and rain. Tonight, however, things will change:

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the Chicago metro area Sunday afternoon. The warning is in effect from 6 p.m. Sunday until 9 a.m. Monday.

Issuing a blizzard warning is not common, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ricky Castro.

“The last time we had one out for Cook County was in February 2015, and then the one before that was February 2011,” Castro said. “So it’s really not a common thing to have a blizzard warning around here, especially this time of year.”

At the height of the storm, more than 50 mm of snow an hour is possible, according to the weather service, combined with winds gusting 60 to 80 km/h. The far northwest suburbs could see about 300 mm of snow, according to the weather service, with 250 mm possible at O’Hare, 150 mm possible at Midway and then several inches likely for the immediate shoreline and downtown Chicago.

Oh, goody. Tomorrow's commute should be spectacular. Good thing we have public transit here.

Go home, April. You're drunk.

So far, this April ranks as the 2nd coldest in Chicago history. We had snow this past weekend, and we expect to have snow tonight—on April 18th.

So it may come as a surprise to people who confuse "weather" and "climate" that, worldwide, things are pretty hot:

The warm air to our north and east has blocked the cold air now parked over the midwestern U.S. Europe, meanwhile, feels like August. And Antarctica feels like...well, Antarctica, but unusually warm.

Note that the temperature anomalies at the bottom of the image above are based on the 1980-2010 climate normal period, which was warmer than any previous 30-year period. In other words, the poles may be 3-5°C warmer than normal now and also 4-7°C warmer than any point in recorded history.

At least, historically, a cold spring means a cool summer here. Lake Michigan is a very cold 5°C today, a few degrees below normal for this time of year, and a huge sink for summer heat later on. Here's hoping, anyway.

Happy February 68th!

It's the 99th day of 2018, and I'm looking out my office window at 25 mm of snow on the ground. It was -7°C on Saturday and -6°C last night. This isn't April; it's February. Come on, Chicago.

The Cubs' home opener originally scheduled for today will be played tomorrow. This is the second time in my memory that the home opener got snowed out. I didn't have tickets to today's game, but I did have tickets to the game on 15 April 1994, which also got snowed out.

(Cubs official photo.)

Because it's Chicago. (Actually, there's a blocking mass of warm air to the east of us causing a bulge in the polar jet stream and pushing cool Canadian air down into the U.S. That sort of thing feels really nice in July; not so much in April.)