The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Stuff to read later

Of note:

Fun times!

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.

What we can really expect from climate change

Washington Post political reporter Philip Bump lays it out:

[T]he effects of the increased heat are much broader than simply higher temperatures. In an effort to delineate what scientists expect to see as the world warms, I spoke with Alex Halliday, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Direct effects of higher temperatures

Increased health risks. One of the most immediate effects of higher temperatures is an increased threat of health risks such as heat stroke. As noted above, this is probably the most easily understood risk.

Drought. There will be more droughts. For one thing, higher temperatures will lead to faster evaporation of surface water. For another, they will mean less snowfall, as precipitation will be more likely to fall as rain. In some regions, like much of the Southwest, flows of water through the spring and summer are a function of snow melting in the mountains. Reduced snowpack means less water later in the year.

Wildfires. Higher temperatures and drier conditions in some places will also help wildfires spread and lengthen the wildfire season overall.

It gets better from there. So its nice to know that the world's second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases plans to reduce regulations to allow even more emissions.

Warming up to climate change

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming new report this weekend:

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.

With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found.

Most strikingly, the document says the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, which amount to more than 40 billion tons per year, would have to be on an extremely steep downward path by 2030 to either hold the world entirely below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or allow only a brief “overshoot” in temperatures. As of 2018, emissions appeared to be still rising, not yet showing the clear peak that would need to occur before any decline.

Overall reductions in emissions in the next decade would probably need to be more than 1 billion tons per year, larger than the current emissions of all but a few of the very largest emitting countries. By 2050, the report calls for a total or near-total phaseout of the burning of coal.

Meanwhile, the next person to regulate the coal industry in the U.S. will likely come from the coal industry.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and it rains more than ever

This year, Major League Baseball had more weather-related postponements than ever before recorded:

In the 2018 season, 53 games have been postponed because of weather, tied for the second most since Major League Baseball began keeping track in 1986. It wasn't just rain-outs that disrupted the schedule but a lingering April cold snap in the Midwest and Northeast that resulted in 28 games postponed that month — an all-time high.

Although the baseball season got off to its earliest start ever to give players more off days during the 162-game regular season, rest has been elusive for clubs that have had to make up multiple games, including the Cubs, who have had a league-leading nine games scratched for bad weather (tied with the Yankees), the most in more than a decade.

While MLB’s collective bargaining agreement states teams cannot play more than 20 dates without a scheduled day off, the Cubs endured a punishing 30-day stretch of scheduled games in August and September. The make-up games also forced a rigorous travel schedule that, at one point, flung them to three cities, in three time zones, in six days, including scrambling to the East Coast as Hurricane Florence approached.

Scientists have pointed to climate change as a contributing factor to the warming of the atmosphere, carrying the chance for more rain in some areas since warmer air can hold more moisture. According to state climatologist Jim Angel, northern and central Illinois are experiencing warmer, wetter springs. But some scientists believe the rapid warming of the Arctic is causing fluctuations in the polar jet stream that can bring unusual bouts of cold like the region saw in April, Angel said.

Just one more unintended consequence of anthropogenic climate change, and possibly the reason the Cubs are playing a second tie-breaker game today for the right to take their league-topping 94 wins to the playoffs.