The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It's worse than that: he's dead cold, Jim

The forecast for Wednesday not only predicts the coldest day since 1996. Now meteorologists predict the coldest day ever recorded in Chicago:

Temperatures are forecast to inch up to a daytime high of about -26°C on Wednesday—the first subzero [Fahrenheit] high temperature in five years and the coldest winter high ever recorded in Chicago—before dipping, again, to about -29°C overnight. The coldest daytime high in Chicago was -24°C on Christmas Eve 1983.

For younger Chicagoans, the burst of Arctic air set to overtake the city this week could be one of the coldest days of their lives. For Generation Z, this week’s predicted low temperatures have only two rivals: -27°C on Jan. 6, 2014, and -28°C on Feb. 3, 1996.

Awesome. Note that I experienced all of those, and blogged about the 6 January 2014 weather right here. 

In no small irony, this cold snap seems directly related to global warming:

The wintry onslaught will be driven by the Northern Hemisphere’s polar vortex, the pocket of cold air sitting atop the North Pole. When temperatures rise in the Arctic, the polar jet stream — the torrent of westerly winds that hold the polar vortex in place — can weaken and dip into parts of North America.

“Occasionally this ring of winds deforms or even splits, which allows the cold air to spill southward over mid latitudes — this is exactly what’s happening now,” said Jennifer Francis, a senior research scientist with Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, in an email. “It just so happens that the lobe of cold air is located over central North America, with Chicago in the crosshairs.”

A growing body of evidence suggests another warming trend in the Pacific Ocean is believed to be causing the jet stream that confines the polar vortex to warp further, with warm air penetrating near the Pacific Northwest and a lobe of cold air sinking into the Midwest and Northeast.

“The stronger ridge does two things: It pumps cold air into central North America, which deepens the downstream trough, and it also becomes more persistent because larger jet stream waves move more slowly than small ones,” Francis said. “This is partly why this jet stream pattern tends to be long-lived once it sets up.”

Whoo boy. Can't wait. Doggie daycare is closed, and Parker's regular dog walker isn't certain he can make it, so I'll be working from home.

Here comes a real winter

We've had some snow, and we've had some cold, but this week we will have both. A lot of both:

Tonight
Snow, mainly after midnight. The snow could be heavy at times. Patchy blowing snow after 11pm. Temperature rising to around -3°C by 5am. Wind chill values as low as -19°C. Breezy, with a south southeast wind 15 to 25 km/h increasing to 30 to 40 km/h. Winds could gust as high as 50 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 80 to 120 mm possible.

Monday
Drizzle and snow, possibly mixed with freezing drizzle before 1pm, then a chance of snow and freezing drizzle between 1pm and 4pm, then a chance of snow after 4pm. Patchy blowing snow before 8am. Temperature rising to near 1°C by 9am, then falling to around -7°C during the remainder of the day. South southwest wind 25 to 30 km/h becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 50 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Little or no ice accumulation expected. New snow accumulation of 10 to 30 mm possible.

Tuesday
Partly sunny and cold, with a high near -16°C. West wind 20 to 30 km/h, with gusts as high as 50 km/h.

Wednesday
Partly sunny and cold, with a high near -23°C.

Yes. A high of -23°C. If it happens, it would be the lowest maximum temperature recorded in Chicago since 3 February 1996. (Sadly, I remember that one too.)

So tempted to work from home...so tempted...

At least the longer-range forecast calls for normal temperatures the week of February 4th.

Warmest oceans ever

The planet's oceans have absorbed most of the extra heat greenhouse gases have prevented leaving the atmosphere, with consequences:

“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”

But the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.

People in the tropics, who rely heavily on fish for protein, could be hard hit, said Kathryn Matthews, deputy chief scientist for the conservation group Oceana. “The actual ability of the warm oceans to produce food is much lower, so that means they’re going to be more quickly approaching food insecurity,” she said.

And still the leaders of the world's biggest economies deny this is happening.

Lurching into 2019

The island-nation of Kiritimati just became the first place in the world to enter 2019. Good on 'em.

People may have noticed the Daily Parker tradition of welcoming Kiritimati into the new year. On 30 December 1994, Kiritimati changed time zones from UTC-10 (Hawai'i time) to UTC+14 (ludicrous time), in part so they could become the first place in the world to start the 21st Century. Technically, it worked.

However, since the highest point on the small island (population 6,500) rises only 13 m above the Pacific, the country is completely vulnerable to climate-change-induced sea-level rise. It probably will not be the first place in the world to greet the 22nd century.

So, happy new year, Kiritimati! I hope you outlive me.

My first prediction of 2018 came true

On January 1st, confronted with the coldest New Year's Day in Chicago history, I predicted that every other day in 2018 would be warmer.

I was right.* Even though the overnight low on January 2nd was just as cold (-23°C) as the night before, the day warmed up all the way to -13°C from January 1st's -17°C. Ten days later it hit 15°C, and kept bouncing around like that all winter.

Last I saw, the NCDC predicted the coming winter would be normally wet and slightly warmer than most. I'd link to the page, but thanks to President Trump's infantile temper, I got this instead:

Thanks, Obama Trump!

* Yes, through some supernatural intervention we could have weather 22°C below predictions tonight or tomorrow, but I'm pretty confident the current forecast of -1°C is likelier.

Boxing Day

Jennifer Finney Boyan explains the English tradition, along with its Irish counterpart:

In England, it’s Boxing Day; in Ireland and elsewhere, it’s St. Stephen’s Day. When I was a student in London, my professor, a Briton, explained that it was called Boxing Day because it’s the day disappointed children punch one another out.

For years I trusted this story, which only proves that there are some people who will believe anything, and I am one of them.

The real origins of Boxing Day go back to feudal times, when workers on a lord’s estate would ask, on this day, for a Christmas box, in exchange for good service throughout the year. Later, the tradition expanded to include the collection of alms for the poor.

In Ireland, St. Stephen’s Day brings the appearance of the Wren Boys— costumed revelers engaged in a ritualized hunting of a wren. The best-known Wren parade happens in Dingle, in County Kerry. There’s a lot of marching around and collecting of money, some of which goes to charity and some of which — according to at least one of my Irish friends — goes to pay for a round at the pub. The veneration of the wren predates Christianity, in fact: The Irish word for wren, “dreoilin” — comes from two words, “draoi ean,” the druid bird.

In London on this Boxing Day, few stores have opened, but at least the Tube has resumed a normal schedule. And, of course, the sun hasn't come out from behind the low overcast all day. Perfect British winter weather.

This is always how it would happen

Given the American tradition of publicly saying one thing and privately doing the opposite, even staunchly-Republican businesses learn to behave as if climate change is real. After the company experienced higher-than-expected losses following California wildfires this year, Allstate's CEO put out a press release urging action on climate change:

In a release, CEO Tom Wilson minced no words on his views of the cause of the devastation, which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds missing, as well as staggering property loss.

"It's time to address the impact that more severe weather is having on Americans instead of fighting about climate change," Wilson said. "This year there have been approximately 7,500 wildfires in California, Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and a swath of severe weather across the United States, putting our customers in danger and at risk of losing their homes and hard-earned money.”

The financial blow would have been significantly worse had Allstate not shrunk substantially in California. The company said it has cut its California homeowners policies by about half over the past decade.

The catastrophe losses, combined with $60 million in unanticipated pension costs that Allstate also reported last night, will have a dramatic effect on 2018 earnings. Sandler O’Neill & Partners today reduced its 2018 earnings estimate by 15 percent to $7.67 per share from $9.03 per share.

I've predicted this for two decades now, that insurance companies would always be the first to promote climate-change remediation and greenhouse-gas reductions, because they get hurt the most by climate change. Good on Tom Wilson; now maybe he can lobby some sense into the Republican Party.

You can stop laughing now. But eventually, we're going to get there. Just not with the current government.

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.