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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
The good news: our cold snap is almost over. Temperatures will rise all day tomorrow and actually get above freezing tomorrow evening.
The bad news: We're about to tie a record for the longest period where the temperature stayed under -7°C in Chicago history:
Charles Mott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chicago, said it’s unlikely the temperature Saturday would get above -7°C, which would tie a record of 12 days of temperatures that haven’t gotten out of the teens. Many days the thermometer has registered only single digits and even below zero.The high Saturday at O’Hare was expected to be no more than -7°C degrees.
Christmas Day was the last time the mercury rose above 20 degrees, according to the weather service.
By staying so cold, Chicago will have tied the record of 12 days in a row of temperatures below -10°C degrees, which has happened only twice before since records have been kept, in 1936 and 1895.
Today it was at least warm enough to walk Parker for 15 minutes. But it's still not warm by any reasonable definition.
It turns out I'm still right about two things I said yesterday: First, yesterday did set the record in Chicago for the coldest January 1st on record when the temperature only managed to get up to -17°C. (The previous low-maximum record was -15°C set in 1969.)
Second, last night's overnight minimum temperature was a full half-degree C warmer than the overnight low on January 1st. So far, then, January 1st is still the coldest day of 2018.
That said, I did not enjoy my commute this morning.
Just 3% of New Year's Days have been this cold in Chicago since we started keeping records in 1871. The normal temperature range for January 1st is -9°C to -1°C; right now it's -17°C, noticeably warmer than the overnight low of -23°C. That overnight temperature actually tied for the second-coldest January 1st on record. Only 1969 was colder. If the daytime temperature stays where it is, we'll set a new record for the coldest January 1st in history.
The forecast calls for warming temperatures next weekend, but with a string of -17°C–degree nights until then. It discourages me from leaving the house. Even Parker hasn't liked going outside the past two days, despite his boots and two fur coats.
The silver lining to this frozen cloud is that there is a real possibility that today will be the coldest day of 2018. Despite what people believe about Chicago, days below -18°C are pretty rare: even during the Polar Vortex of 2014 when we set the record for most days at that temperature, we only had 26 of them. And it's even less likely that we'll stay below freezing for the entire month of January; the record for that is 43 days, set from 28 December 1976 to 8 February 1977. We'd have to go through February 5th without getting above freezing to set a new record.
In other words, the probability of having any more days this winter dropping down to -23°C is pretty small.
At least, that's what I told myself when I walked Parker this morning.
Yesterday I spent almost the whole day cooking and eating, while outside the temperature barely got above -10°C. So despite averaging better than 15,000 steps for the entire week preceding, I only managed 7,292 steps yesterday, my 3rd poorest showing of 2017.
The problem is, when I'm working from home, I get most of my steps by taking Parker on long walks. Below about -10°C, even his two thick fur coats aren't enough to keep him warm for more than 10-15 minutes, tops. And below -18°C, forget it; even with boots, his paws get dangerously cold in just a couple of minutes.
The forecast for the rest of the week, unfortunately, calls for brutally cold temperatures every day. Parker and I just got back from his (5-minute) morning walk with -19°C showing on the thermometer. My goal today is just to get above 5,000 steps, which may involve a lot of pacing in my apartment.
That said, thanks to the long weekend and no other responsibilities, I'm actually getting enough sleep. So I have lots more focus and energy. I just can't walk it off very easily.
I'm under the weather today, probably owing to the two Messiah performances this weekend and all of Parker's troubles. So even though I'm taking it easy, I still have a queue of things to read:
I will now...nap.