The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cold open

Just 3% of New Year's Days have been this cold in Chicago since we started keeping records in 1871. The normal temperature range for January 1st is -9°C to -1°C; right now it's -17°C, noticeably warmer than the overnight low of -23°C. That overnight temperature actually tied for the second-coldest January 1st on record. Only 1969 was colder. If the daytime temperature stays where it is, we'll set a new record for the coldest January 1st in history.

The forecast calls for warming temperatures next weekend, but with a string of -17°C–degree nights until then. It discourages me from leaving the house. Even Parker hasn't liked going outside the past two days, despite his boots and two fur coats.

The silver lining to this frozen cloud is that there is a real possibility that today will be the coldest day of 2018. Despite what people believe about Chicago, days below -18°C are pretty rare: even during the Polar Vortex of 2014 when we set the record for most days at that temperature, we only had 26 of them. And it's even less likely that we'll stay below freezing for the entire month of January; the record for that is 43 days, set from 28 December 1976 to 8 February 1977. We'd have to go through February 5th without getting above freezing to set a new record.

In other words, the probability of having any more days this winter dropping down to -23°C is pretty small.

At least, that's what I told myself when I walked Parker this morning.

Holidays, weather, and Fitbit numbers

Yesterday I spent almost the whole day cooking and eating, while outside the temperature barely got above -10°C. So despite averaging better than 15,000 steps for the entire week preceding, I only managed 7,292 steps yesterday, my 3rd poorest showing of 2017.

The problem is, when I'm working from home, I get most of my steps by taking Parker on long walks. Below about -10°C, even his two thick fur coats aren't enough to keep him warm for more than 10-15 minutes, tops. And below -18°C, forget it; even with boots, his paws get dangerously cold in just a couple of minutes.

The forecast for the rest of the week, unfortunately, calls for brutally cold temperatures every day. Parker and I just got back from his (5-minute) morning walk with -19°C showing on the thermometer. My goal today is just to get above 5,000 steps, which may involve a lot of pacing in my apartment.

That said, thanks to the long weekend and no other responsibilities, I'm actually getting enough sleep. So I have lots more focus and energy. I just can't walk it off very easily.

Lunchtime links

Too much to read today, especially during an hours-long download from our trips over the past two weeks. So I'll come back to these:

But more seriously:

Lunch break is over.

Strangest winter I can remember

The snow continues to fall:

The Chicago area remained under a lake-effect snow warning as the Tuesday morning rush slowed to an icy crawl on expressways and some Metra train lines.

The warning covers Cook, Lake and DuPage counties until 4 p.m.  In Lake County, Ind., the warning has been extended to 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The dense snow was being carried by winds from the north to northeast over Lake Michigan.  The snow bands were expected to slowly shift into northwest Indiana later in the morning and continue overnight into Wednesday.

I'm in my home office today watching alternating whiteout and sunny conditions as bands of lake-effect snow wash over the area. Later, I have to dig my car out to take Parker for a routine vet visit.

But, of course, it's March. The forecast calls for temperatures to warm up above freezing around noon Thursday and stay there until Saturday night, when they'll dip only briefly before spring begins in earnest.

Chicago's weather is weird.

Winter is here!

Chicago had no measurable snowfall for almost three months—until last night:

Snow started Sunday. Snow in the Chicago area and elsewhere is leading to more than 500 cancellations at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports.

The last time Chicago received any significant snowfall was in mid-December, when there was a little more than 5 inches of snow on Dec. 11 and 3.5 inches of snow days later.

Since the first of the year, what rare flurries the city has seen have added up to less than an inch of snow.

My co-workers who came from other climates are terribly confused. We native Chicagoans are not. Of course we're getting an early-spring snowfall. We haven't built up enough character from the first two months of the year.

A chill in the air

That's not a metaphor. The polar vortex has descended upon Chicago, promising temperatures below -17°C tomorrow and Friday in the coldest December in years:

While the deep chill will be powered by the infamous polar vortex — the circulation of air around the Arctic Circle — meteorologists don't believe we're headed for anything like the winter of 2013-14 when Chicago suffered through its coldest four-month period ever. The polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo wouldn't even venture outdoors.

But Tom Skilling, WGN-TV's meteorologist, said people should not jump to conclusions from this week, when the high Thursday will be in the single digits.  Friday will be warmer, but there will be snow and maybe freezing rain over the weekend.

"This week is going to have the coldest air most of us have felt in 11 months," Skilling said. "It's going to be brutally cold for the Bears game on Sunday. But there's no reason to believe that, because we’re in a current cold spell, that this by any means sets the tone for the rest of the winter."

So the winter might be like Donald Trump? Objectively bad, but maybe not as bad as Hitler?