The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ten million unemployed

More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week (including 178,000 in Illinois), following the 3.3 million who filed the week before. This graphic from The Washington Post puts these numbers in perspective:

Hotel occupancy has crashed as well, down 67% year-over-year, with industry analysts predicting the worst year on record.

In other pandemic news:

Finally, unrelated to the coronavirus but definitely related to our natural environment, the Lake Michigan/Huron system recorded its third straight month of record levels in March. The lake is a full meter above the long-term average and 30 cm above last year's alarming levels.

Rainy Monday readings

After yesterday's perfect spring weather (18°C and sunny), today's gloom and rain reminds us we live in Chicago.

Also, it's eerily quiet at work...so maybe I'll also work from home the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, these crossed my (virtual) desk for reading later on:

  • Two days before testifying at a House hearing called "Holding Wells-Fargo Accountable," two of the bank's board members resigned.
  • A young woman in India who received two hand transplants from a darker-skinned person has baffled doctors as the new hands have changed color to match her native skin.
  • The Washington Post helpfully describes what smoke point means and how cooks needn't fear it.
  • Lakefront towns in Northern Indiana have sued the National Park Service for contributing to beach erosion as the Lake Michigan-Huron system goes into its third straight month of record levels.
  • And finally, the New York Times examines how the Trump Campaign took over the Republican Party in 2016.

Now back to making an app send status emails...

Lunchtime links

Even when I work from home, I have a lot to do. At least I don't have a commute today, giving me extra time to catch up later:

And now, back to work.

CO2 like you've never seen it before

New research shows that global CO2 levels will likely hit 417 ppm this year, the highest ever in human history, and a level not seen since the oceans were 20 m higher:

This year's rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to be 10 percent higher than normal, according to University of Exeter geography professor Richard Betts, head of the climate impacts division at the Meteorological Office, the U.K.'s national weather service. About 1 percent to 2 percent of the increase will come fromAustralia's devastating wildfire season, [said Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London].

Australia's historic fires, which raged from September through early February, are thought to have unleashed about 900 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

When the planet last had an atmosphere that mirrored today's chemical makeup, Earth was in the midst of the Pliocene Epoch. During that geologic period, which lasted from about 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago, humans had yet to appear on the planet, and average sea levels were up to 20 m higher than they are today. Global average temperatures were also around 3°C warmer, with temperatures at the poles likely double that, according to Siegert.

Well, here in Chicago, we're 183 m above sea level. If we were 163 m above sea level it would take us a lot less time to get to the Mississippi Delta by Vicksburg, Miss., or to the Atlantic Coast in Richmond, Va. (I'd really miss Boston and London, though.)

On the other hand, unless Lake Michigan drops about 4 m by Saturday, we're looking at the second consecutive month of record lake levels, after the record year we had in 2019.

Welcome to the new normal

Yesterday in Chicago the temperature bottomed out at -19°C after dumping 50 mm of snow on us. Today the temperature just went above freezing, where it's expected to hover for a while.

So, mild winter indeed, with more ridiculousness to come.

Working from home is still working

While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:

Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.

Balmy day in Antarctica

The frozen continent hit its all-time-warmest temperature yesterday:

Just days after the Earth saw its warmest January on record, Antarctica has broken its warmest temperature ever recorded. A reading of 18°C was taken Thursday at Esperanza Base along Antarctica’s Trinity Peninsula, making it the ordinarily frigid continent’s highest measured temperature in history.

The Antarctic Peninsula, on which Thursday’s anomaly was recorded, is one of the fastest-warming regions in the world. In just the past 50 years, temperatures have surged a staggering 3°C in response to Earth’s swiftly warming climate. Around 87 percent of glaciers along the peninsula’s west coast have retreated in that time, the majority doing so at an accelerated pace since 2008.

The WMO notes that cracks in the Pine Island Glacier “have been growing rapidly” in the past several days, according to satellite imagery.

Additional extreme warmth is likely in the Antarctic Peninsula in the coming days. Temperatures some 22–28°C above normal are predicted by some models.

Oh dear.

Three strikes against impeachment

Welp, the Senate has acquitted President Trump almost entirely along party lines, as everyone knew it would. Only Mitt Romney (R-UT) crossed the aisle to vote for conviction. Here's a roundup of the news in the last few hours:

About yesterday:

  • The Washington Post has an annotated SOTU.
  • Alexandra Petri clutched every pearl she owned, "and also the pearls of strangers, and some oysters that may contain pearls in the future" after Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ripped up her copy of the SOTU.
  • NBC called the address Trump's "victory lap." Oh no, NBC; he's got more lapping in him.

In other news:

And it's snowing.

Mild winters in Chicago have a depressing side effect

We conclude January 2020 in Chicago having 16 out of 31 days (including today) with no visible sun, tying the all-time record of 9 consecutive days without sun set on 9 January 1992. We've had only 24% of possible sunlight this month, making this the third-gloomiest January on record after 1998 (20%) and 2011 (23%).

But this is really just a consequence of our unusually mild winter. Since December 1st, we've had 46 out of 60 days above freezing, and only 6 days below -10°C. And mercifully, the forecast for tomorrow and Sunday calls for warmth (11°C on Sunday, fully 9°C above normal) and sunshine (20% predicted for tomorrow, and 90% predicted for Sunday).

So, all right, I can live with more than a week of gloomy skies in exchange for unseasonably mild weather in January.

Personal travel "should die:" New Republic

Chuck Thompson understands why we travel, but still thinks we shouldn't:

As evidence piles up about the deleterious impact of global tourism, the travel media charade is starting to feel like the almost comical hypocrisy of Trump surrogates ginning up increasingly contorted justifications on cable news for a worldview that’s becoming more detached from reality by the day.

All motorized transport is a problem—cruise ships generate 21,000 gallons of sewage per day, much of it flushed into the ocean—but the primary offenders are airplanes. According to U.K.-based Earth Changers, another outfit dedicated to “sustainable tourism,” aviation emissions account for 3.2 percent of total global carbon emissions. That figure could rise to 12 percent by 2050.

Short of regulations and fuel taxes on a scale that would restructure the entire global market, people probably aren’t going to stop traveling. More likely, as the world becomes ever more distressed by over-tourism—the 145 million annual overseas trips currently taken by Chinese tourists alone is expected to surpass 400 million by 2030—the travel journalists we rely on for hot tips and insider advice will simply conjure new ways of assuaging our guilt. That may serve the interests of their airline underwriters, but it won’t be doing the planet any favors.

I take no joy in saying so. I like travel as much as you do, and I’m not stopping either. Where’s the line between hypocrite and addict? I suspect we’re all going to find out sooner than we’d like.

And to think, I just got a brand-new passport...