The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

First flight in...gosh, more than a year

My incredibly brave wife got into a Piper Warrior with me today, and we flew from Nashua to Portsmouth, N.H. I last flew in January 2005, also with Anne, so I was excited to get back into the cockpit.

Landing in variable 8-to-12 knot winds—variable, in this context, meaning direct crosswind to tailwind—was not the most fun I've ever had flying. But it was still tons o' fun, and we still got Anne home on time.

Warm front passes

Frontal systems can be a lot of fun. A warm front passed through Southern New Hampshire today; see if you can spot when that happened:

Time Temperature
09:51 ET (14:51 UTC) 3°C (38°F)
10:51 4°C (39°F)
11:28 6°C (43°F)
11:51 9°C (48°F)
11:58 10°C (50°F)
12:51 (18:51 UTC) 17°C (63°F)

The cold front following behind won't be quite as dramatic, but it will bring some wind. Gusts are predicted to 81 km/h (45 kts, 54 mph) this afternoon.

Antarctic ice sheet melting; Miami doesn't care

I just started reading The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery, which contains a fairly good overview of climate change and how we're making it happen. It's important to understand that climate change has happened rapidly throughout history, meaning changes of 2-4°C (4-7°F) have occurred over decades rather than millennia.

So, having started that book yesterday, I'm warmed (so to speak) by this morning's Washington Postarticle on the shrinking Antarctic ice sheet:

The Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper that provides the first evidence that the sheet's total mass is shrinking significantly.
The new findings, which are being published today in the journal Science, suggest that global sea level could rise substantially over the next several centuries.
... [T]he amount of water pouring annually from the ice sheet into the ocean—equivalent to the amount of water the United States uses in three months—is causing global sea level to rise by 0.4 millimeters a year.

That may not sound like a lot, but (a) it's not the only ice sheet melting in the world and (b) it equates to a 30 cm (1 ft) rise in sea levels over the next century.

One more time: Global warming is great for Chicago, bad for Miami, disastrous for Bangladesh. And my own children will probably have to decide whether to build seawalls and polders around our coastal cities. The children of my Filipino friends probably won't have that option.

Bush, Chertoff knew about levee failure possibility August 29th

The AP reported today that the President, Secretary Chertoff, and other officials were clearly warned about the likelihood of levee failures three days before Bush went on television claiming otherwise:

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final government-wide briefing the day before Katrina struck on Aug. 29 but assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."
Six days of footage and transcripts obtained by The Associated Press show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

This is information the Administration didn't want published, for the simple reason that it makes them look stupid, just like all the other information they've wanted to keep secret for five years. It kind of makes you wonder what they're holding back on global warming, doesn't it?

In a not-entirely-unrelated vein, I had a conversation with a colleague today who claims to be more worried about the unlikely (but dramatic) possibility of an asteroid strike than the demonstrated (but, barring the occasional flood, humdrum) occurrence of global climate change. People are funny that way.

Good morning!

The city of Eureka, Nunavut, in way-Northern Canada, has its first sunrise of the year today around 11:30 CT (17:30 UTC). Technically the sun never actually gets above the horizon, but a tiny bit of it will scrape along the southern horizon for about an hour before disappearing until tomorrow.

Eureka is typically the northernmost weather station that sends hourly reports to NOAA, and this time of year it's almost always on the world's coldest places list. For example, at this writing, Eureka is -41°C (-42°F)—but it's a dry cold, so you don't feel it as much.

Now <i>this</i> is Chicago

The 7:00 am (13:00 UTC) temperature at Chicago O'Hare was -22°C (-7°F), the coldest temperature recorded there since 1 February 2004.

Yes, this is Chicago, where you can see wacky temperatures like these:

Feb. 2006 Max temp Min temp
Sat 11th 1.7°C -3.3°C
Sun 12th -1.1°C -5.0°C
Mon 13th 3.9°C -8.9°C
Tue 14th 13.3°C -4.4°C
Wed 15th 5.6°C 0.0°C
Thu 16th 2.8°C -5.6°C
Fri 17th -4.4°C -15.6°C

At least we're not in Douglas, Wyo., where they're waking up to -36°C (-32°F) this morning.

If you don't like the weather...

Two days ago it was 13°C (56°F) in Chicago. Yesterday a storm dumped 28 mm (1.1 in) of rain on us before the cold front behind it dropped us below freezing. This was the largest temperature drop in 42 years here.

Here's our street after the storm:

Today we're looking forward to overnight lows around -18°C (-1°F). Fortunately, the local El stop has heat lamps to stand under when it gets cold. Sometimes, though, you have to share them with these guys:

In related news, scientists report that Greenland's glaciers are flowing faster, dumping more fresh water into the North Atlantic, which in turn may accelerate global warming. So maybe the pigeons won't need to hang out with commuters under heat lamps much longer.

Washington snowed in

Washington today is getting its biggest snowstorm in three years:

A major snow storm pounded the Washington region overnight and this morning, dumping 20 inches of heavy wet snow in some locations and 8 or 9 inches elsewhere, causing power outages for nearly 200,000 consumers and disrupting travel by road, air and Metrorail.

And in a later story:

The snow swept in lazily yesterday afternoon and was expected to depart by midday today, giving residents ample time to dig out before the start of the workweek. Airlines canceled scores of flights. But schools and most workplaces were already closed, and it was too soon for most to make decisions for tomorrow.
As of 10 p.m. yesterday, reports to the National Weather Service ranged from four inches in Fairfax City to two inches at Camp Springs and less than an inch at Reagan National Airport. Most main roads glistened with moisture, but some were slush-streaked; medians were white.

I was actually in Washington for the 2003 storm. Not intentionally; I was on my way back to a client in Richmond, Va., from a party in New York and got stranded in DC for two days. This is partially because, at the time, the Commonwealth of Virginia (area: 110,771 km², 42,769 mi²) had almost exactly the same number of snowplows as the city of Chicago (area: 1,214 km², 469 mi²). And in 2003, Virginia got hit with 13 snowstorms to Chicago's two. This may prompt a longer entry on tax policy and the division of private and public responsibilities for snow removal, but not right now.

Anyway, here's what the city looked like on 17 February 2003, and what it will probably look like tomorrow: