The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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?

Lunchtime links

It's not all about PETUS today:

  • Via AVWeb, the FAA has issued an airworthiness directive requiring owners of Boeing 787-8 airplanes to reboot them at least every 21 days. I am not making this up.
  • Trump, never a fan of intelligence of any kind, is sticking his fingers in his ears about Russian hacking of our election. Jeet Heer warns that this yet another way Trump is very dangerous. Plus, he's lying about the CIA's role in the Iraq WMD fiasco. It wasn't the CIA who lied; it was the Administration.
  • By the way, Trump has the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president since 1988 (and probably since 1974).
  • Oh, and we got about 200 mm of snow over the weekend. Parker's going to need a new pair of pairs of shoes.

Winter is here.

Longing for the halcyon days of James Watt

Trump has outdone himself with this doozy of a cabinet nomination:

Donald Trump intends to select Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior transition official confirmed to NBC News Wednesday — the clearest sign yet the president-elect will pursue an agenda that could undo President Obama's climate change legacy.

An ally to the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt has aggressively fought against environmental regulations, becoming one of a number of attorneys general to craft a 28-state lawsuit against the Obama administration's rules to curb carbon emissions. The case is currently awaiting a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which heard oral arguments in September.

Pruitt, who questions the impact of climate change, along with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, penned an op-ed in the Tulsa World earlier this year that called criticism they've received "un-American."

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall raises the alarm that having four (or five) recently-retired generals in top national security positions is not normal, for very good reasons. He concludes, "as a pattern, a government dominated by recently retired generals is a very negative development. Even if the nominees in question are not part of his thinking, there's little doubt that Trump's decision to nominate so many generals is rooted in a mix of his own lack of military service and his instinctive inability to think of relations between people or nations as anything but ones of domination."

It just keeps looking more and more like 1933.

The constant drumbeat of stupidity and cupidity

Tales in the war against reality waged by Trump and his party:

And yet, James Fallows sees cause for optimism (assuming Trump doesn't blow up the world):

In [the election's] calamitous effects—for climate change, in what might happen in a nuclear standoff, for race relations—this could indeed be as consequential a “change” election as the United States has had since 1860. But nothing about the voting patterns suggests that much of the population intended upheaval on this scale. “Change” elections drive waves of incumbents from office. This time only two senators, both Republicans, lost their seats.

[C]ity by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.

Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.

Only 698 days until the 2018 election...