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.
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.
The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World HQ bottomed out this morning, hitting -4.8°C at 10:41 am, and it may even end the day above freezing. So this mercifully-short cold snap won't keep us out of the record books, just as predicted. It's still the warmest winter in Chicago history. (Let's hope we don't set the same record for spring or summer.)
Meanwhile, the record continues to clog up with all kinds of fun stories elsewhere:
- Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led his party in the Senate since the Cretaceous, announced he will step down from leadership in November, handing some other schmuck clean-up duties after the electoral disaster likely to befall the party on the 5th of that month.
- After the unhinged ruling on embryo "personhood" the Alabama Supreme Court handed down last week, Republicans across the country have fallen over themselves saying they want to protect IVF treatment while they vote against protecting IVF treatment. Jamelle Bouie runs down some of the dumbass things Republicans have said on the ruling, with a cameo from the dumb-as-rocks junior US Senator from Alabama, who sounded more like Nigel Tufnel than usual.
- Aaron Blake pointedly contradicts the usual "bad for Biden" story line by putting President Biden's Michigan-primary win last night in perspective.
- Bruce Schneier looks at the difficulties insuring against cyber crime, one of the problems we're also solving at my day job.
- New York prosecutors said the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited "willful blindness" in 1966 when it acquired art looted by the Nazis, an accusation the museum denies.
- Harry Windsor, the Duke of Sussex, lost his case against the UK Home Office, in which he sued to keep his publicly-funded security detail the same size as it was when he actually did his job as the Royal Spare. The high court (the rough equivalent of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in this case) ruled that the relevant agency had made a perfectly rational decision as the Duke now lives in California, doesn't do bugger-all for the UK, and is a whiny prat to boot.
Finally, Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter took a—gasp!—CTA train to a city council hearing, at which he promised the CTA could be the best transit system in the world if only the State of Illinois would give it more funding. The very last thing I did in Munich on Sunday was to take the S-Bahn to the airport at 7am, so I can assure you money isn't the CTA's only impediment to achieving that lofty goal.
(Also, I just realized that This Is Spinal Tap turns 40 on Saturday. Wow.)
The cold front we expected passed over my house around 8:15 last night. I wouldn't call it subtle, either:
Even that doesn't get to the truly unsubtle aspects of this frontal passage. The radar image might, though:
Not shown: the 60 km/h winds, lashing rain, brilliant lightning show, 5-10 mm hailstones, tornadoes to the northwest and southeast, and a mildly alarmed dog getting pats on the couch.
And it keeps getting better this morning. Right now I'm in a Loop high rise gently swaying in the 45 km/h winds, with the temperature continuing to drop outside:
June to January in 12 hours! Whee!
And what's the forecast for spring's first weekend? Sunny and 17°C. In fact, the weather for this week could best be summed up thus: June on Monday and Tuesday; January today; early March tomorrow followed by late March on the first day of spring; then late May/early June through the weekend with a chance of April by Tuesday.
Lunch today will be from the Chipotle across the street. Lunch yesterday involved a 30-minute break outside. Welcome to Chicago in the last days of an El Niño winter.
(Or maybe this is happening because today is Tom Skilling's last day at WGN?)
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.
My flight from Munich landed at Charlotte about 40 minutes early, and I got through customs and back through TSA in 34 minutes. Sweet!
And now I'm watching the plane that will take me to Chicago pull into my gate. Sweet!
Really, I just want to hug my dog and get 10 hours of sleep tonight. I have a feeling one of those things will happen and the other won't.
Before I even took off from Chicago on Wednesday morning, I snarked a bit on the widening gulf between US and European technology, particularly in public transport. I don't think Chicago's regional heavy-rail agency, Metra, heard me specifically, but it seems they have committed to introducing electric trains on one currently-Diesel route before the end of the decade:
Metra plans to buy battery-powered trains that could hit the rails as early as 2027 on the Rock Island line, potentially fast-tracking a move to greener and more frequent off-peak service.
The commuter rail agency’s board voted Wednesday to pay $154 million for eight two-car, zero-emission trains from Stadler U.S., of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The trains, unveiled by the Stadler U.S.’ Swiss parent company last year, are a significant departure from Metra’s well-known diesel locomotives and cars.
The Stadler trains have low-level boarding and ADA-compliant lifts. Each two-car powered train seats 112 people, with trailer cars seating about 46. The cars are connected by open gangways. Half of the trailer cars would include ADA-accessible bathrooms.
In its statement, Metra said the new trains could help achieve its vision of providing more frequent all-day service. The first sets are expected to be delivered in 2027 or 2028, Metra said.
So, the Rock Island line gets Saturday and Sunday electric trains only half a century after the all-electric S-Bahn opened here in Munich.
Which reminds me, on Tuesday coming home from work I discovered that the 13-year project to construct a single goddamn Metra station officially concluded with the opening of the inbound Leland Avenue ramp at Ravenswood, almost 7 months after the rest of the station opened:
But hey, the Metra Rock Island District will get eight two-car electric trainsets—made by a Swiss company—within the next four years.
My local park around 7am:
For work reasons, I have to get up progressively earlier every day this week. I'm comforting myself with the knowledge that my 6am meeting Wednesday would actually be a 1pm meeting if I were already on Munich time. Sadly, I won't be on Munich time until about 19 hours later. But I'm a lot more likely to sleep on the flight if I keep waking up before sunrise this week.
New York Justice Arthur Engoron just handed the XPOTUS a $350 million fine and barred him and his two failsons from running a business in New York for years:
The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.
Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty — which could climb to $400 million or more once interest is added — but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.
Of course he'll appeal, but New York doesn't give him many grounds to do so. And given the scale of the fraud he perpetrated on the State, even this eye-watering sum will probably survive scrutiny from the appellate court.
In other news this afternoon:
Finally, the Tribune has a long retrospective on WGN-TV weather reporter Tom Skilling, who will retire after the 10pm newscast on the 28th.
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.