The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Items of note

Things to read later:

Back to work.

Lunchtime links

Stuff I'll read before rehearsal today:

Back to the mines...

Even on a day off

Welcome to February, in which I hope to increase my pathetic blogging rate (currently 1.23 per day for the last 12 months). Of course, even taking a day off to catch up on things doesn't seem to be helping, because I have all of these articles to read:

So, a lot to read. And still almost no time to read it.

Third time running: warmest year ever

Not that the incoming administration cares:

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The heat extremes were especially pervasive in the Arctic, with temperatures in the fall running 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal across large stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice in that region has been in precipitous decline for years, and Arctic communities are already wrestling with enormous problems, such as rapid coastal erosion, caused by the changing climate.

Since 1880, NOAA’s records show only one other instance when global temperature records were set three years in a row: in 1939, 1940 and 1941. The Earth has warmed so much in recent decades, however, that 1941 now ranks as only the 37th-warmest year on record.

Meanwhile, in Chicago this January week, it feels like March.

Darkest morning of the year

January 3rd is one of my favorite days of the year in astronomy, because it's the day that the northern hemisphere has its latest sunrise of the winter. This morning in Chicago, the sun rose at 7:19 (though it rose behind a thick rainy overcast), just a few seconds later than it rose yesterday. But tomorrow it will rise just a few seconds earlier, then a few more, until by the end of January it'll rise more than a minute earlier each day.

Meanwhile, thanks to the eccentricity of our orbit around the sun, sunsets have gotten later since the first week of December. It's noticeable now; today's sunset at 16:33 is 14 minutes later than the earliest sunset on December 7th. A week from now sunset is at 16:40; a week later, at 16:48.

By January 31st we will see more clearly that the dark days of northern hemisphere winter are ending. Sunrise at 7:04 and sunset at 17:04 gives us 10 full hours of sunlight, 47 minutes more than we'll get today.

So even though the 115th Congress opened today in Washington, with the House Republicans proposing to geld their own ethics watchdog (and why would they want to do that, hmmm?), at least things will literally get more sunny throughout the country every day for the next six months.

A chill in the air

That's not a metaphor. The polar vortex has descended upon Chicago, promising temperatures below -17°C tomorrow and Friday in the coldest December in years:

While the deep chill will be powered by the infamous polar vortex — the circulation of air around the Arctic Circle — meteorologists don't believe we're headed for anything like the winter of 2013-14 when Chicago suffered through its coldest four-month period ever. The polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo wouldn't even venture outdoors.

But Tom Skilling, WGN-TV's meteorologist, said people should not jump to conclusions from this week, when the high Thursday will be in the single digits.  Friday will be warmer, but there will be snow and maybe freezing rain over the weekend.

"This week is going to have the coldest air most of us have felt in 11 months," Skilling said. "It's going to be brutally cold for the Bears game on Sunday. But there's no reason to believe that, because we’re in a current cold spell, that this by any means sets the tone for the rest of the winter."

So the winter might be like Donald Trump? Objectively bad, but maybe not as bad as Hitler?