The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Spring day

Finally! It's a clear, sunny, above-freezing day in Chicago with no snow left on the ground. So far I've gotten over 20,000 steps, and if I keep walking around various neighborhoods, I'll clear 25,000. (I've done that only 13 times since October 2014. I've hit 20,000 on 66 days, or about 5% of the time.)

Of course, that means not a lot of blog posting this weekend. Sorry.

Volatility

Late winter and early spring in Chicago have always had some ups and downs in temperature. This year, with a week left to go in meteorological winter, has been nuts.

It got down to -2.8°C just before 8am today. That's not too far from normal—for March 8th. But here are the temperatures over the past 10 days:

Date High Low Avg
Tue Feb 20 18.9°C 1.1°C 10.0°C
Mon Feb 19 15.6°C 2.8°C 9.2°C
Sun Feb 18 5°C -11.1°C -3.1°C
Sat Feb 17 1.7°C -8.3°C -3.3°C
Fri Feb 16 2.8°C -6.7°C -1.9°C
Thu Feb 15 8.9°C 3.3°C 6.1°C
Wed Feb 14 6.7°C -4.4°C 1.2°C
Tue Feb 13 1.7°C -13.9°C -6.1°C
Mon Feb 12 -2.8°C -15.6°C -9.2°C
Sun Feb 11 -5.6°C -11.7°C -8.7°C


But looked at another way, using the normal temperatures for each day in Chicago, we've been all over the calendar:

Date Felt like
Tue Feb 20 May 2 Mar 30 Apr 17
Mon Feb 19 Apr 17 Apr 9 Apr 13
Sun Feb 18 Mar 2 Brrr! Feb 11
Sat Feb 17 Feb 13 Feb 4 Feb 11
Fri Feb 16 Feb 19 Feb 16 Feb 16
Thu Feb 15 Mar 19 Apr 12 Apr 6
Wed Feb 14 Mar 9 Feb 26 Mar 6
Tue Feb 13 Feb 13 Brrr! Brrr!
Mon Feb 12 Brrr! Brrr! Brrr!
Sun Feb 11 Brrr! Brrr! Brrr!


In other words, yesterday's high temperature felt like April 30th; the low felt like March 30th; but the overall temperature of the day felt like May 19th. (Where it says "Brrr!" the temperature was below the normal temperature for any day of the year. In other words, it felt like mid-January on a bad day.) Also: nice going, February 16th! Totally normal day in February.

I should point out, these are the 1981-2010 normals. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to recalculate these values using earlier normal sets; 1951-1980 would be particularly interesting, I should think.

It's all part of the fun in a continental climate that has tons more energy, and thus volatility, than it had in centuries past. And thanks to continued anthropogenic climate change, we will continue to have winters that whipsaw between frigid and spring-like for a few decades, until Chicago's climate settles into a subtropical pattern where it rarely freezes. If you remember what Tennessee or North Carolina was like 50 years ago, that's where Chicago is headed 50 years from now.

Mid-week link roundup

Lots of things popped up in my browser today:

And now, back to work.

So much snow

Over the last two weeks, Chicago tied a record for the most consecutive days with measurable snowfall:

Chicago logged a record-tying ninth consecutive day with measurable snowfall on Sunday, equaling similar nine-day runs from Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 1902 and Jan. 6-14, 2009. Measurable snow has now been logged daily from February 3-11.

No snow is expected Monday, so the record should not be broken.

The past nine days have also completely obliterated the 2017-18 seasonal snow deficit. Through midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, 625 mm had fallen at O'Hare compared to the normal of 607 mm up to February 11.

As of noon Sunday, there's 330 mm of snow on the ground at O'Hare, 356 mm at Midway, and 381 mm in Arlington Heights.

I should remind readers that the 2017-18 winter was just fine, thank you.

Bracing for it

While we hope it will not repeat early February 2011, we expect to get up to 300 mm of snow overnight and into tomorrow here in Chicago:

The Chicago area is under a winter storm warning from Thursday evening through Friday night, with the National Weather Service warning that "travel will be very difficult to impossible at times, including during the morning commute."

Much of the area should see 6 to 10 inches of snow between 6 p.m. Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday, though some areas to the north of the city could get hit with a foot of snow while areas to the south could get almost nothing.

Between 6 p.m. and midnight, forecasts predict a little over an inch in Chicago and more in outlying areas. From midnight to 6 a.m. Friday, another 3.3 inches could fall, making for a messy morning commute. During the 12-hour stretch between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., about 5 more inches could fall, according to the weather service.

"The morning commute is going to be rough," said Amy Seeley, a meteorologist with the weather service. "It will be more impacted than the evening commute."

The storm is approaching out of Montana and South Dakota and is expected to follow Interstate 80 corridor through Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

Well, tomorrow should be loads of fun...

The plan

Today I plan to take Parker on a decent walk before it gets cold and starts snowing. I'm also working on a couple of minor updates to Weather Now, including looking into creating an API against which I can write a React/Relay front-end.

Also I have a lot of reading to catch up on, some of which I may write about.

In other words: a quiet Saturday at home.

Extreme weather still a danger in warmer climate

Even though Chicago's winters have gotten milder overall in the last 50 years, extreme temperatures like we had between Christmas and January 7th still kill people:

Unlike other more dramatic types of weather, such as hurricanes, floods or tornadoes, the threat of extreme cold or heat tends to be overlooked, said Laurence Kalkstein, a University of Miami public health sciences professor who studies the effects of climate on human health.

“People don’t think of it as much of a threat mainly because there are no physical signs that a calamity has taken place,” Kalkstein said. “Clearly, it is underestimated as a danger.”

Cold weather has claimed the lives of hundreds of Illinois residents during the past decade. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports 593 people died from exposure to excessive natural cold or hypothermia between 2008 and 2016. The highest yearly total was 110 in 2014, when the polar vortex hit in January.

[T]he overall mortality rate in the winter is about 10 to 12 percent higher than in the summer because of all the indirect ways cold, snow and ice contribute to deaths, including car crashes, falls and heart attacks. There are also a higher number of infectious-disease deaths because influenza thrives when people remain inside because of cold weather....

We had March-like temperatures this weekend, but this morning, it's January again. At least we've got noticeably more daylight, and only 31 more days of meteorological winter.

Feeling warm and secure

As part of my current project's non-technical requirements, I've just completed 5 hours of anti-terrorism and security training. Biggest takeaway: bullets ricochet down, grenade shrapnel goes up. Also, don't put random CDs in your computer. Oh, and I have to repeat about 3 hours of it a year from now.

Today is actually a company holiday but I've got a lot of work to do, including this training. Also we've gotten about 60 mm of snow today with more coming down. So steps go down, heating bill goes up.

Whipsaw weather

The temperature poked its head all the way up to 14°C this morning and has otherwise held steady around 13°C since yesterday evening. That means it's a full 37°C warmer—yes, the difference between freezing and typical human body temperature—than January 1st (-23°C).

Unfortunately, a cold front will bring Canadian cold through Chicago this evening, dropping the temperature 20°C overnight and another 5°C (to around -14°C) by Saturday night.

So picking the right coat this morning was more challenging than one might think.

And this, by the way, is a predicted result of anthropogenic climate change: weather extremes, from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold, in the winter—but only in some places. Because right now, the northern hemisphere is way, way warmer than normal:

Tropical heat in Chicago

I exaggerate.

But officially, at 8:51am this morning O'Hare reported a temperature above -7°C, finally ending our 12 days of frigid temperatures.

Parker got a real walk this morning, and he's about to get another one. And no boots! Most of the salt has been brushed away from the sidewalks.

Of course, it's supposed to snow later today. But it's also forecast to hit -1°C today and (gasp!) 8°C on Wednesday.

Anyway, I'm happy, and Parker appears to be, that walking outside does not immediately result in bits of our faces freezing off.