The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Remember all those storms in 2005?

Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Atlantic on 30 December 2005 and almost became a hurricane on 2 January 2006. When Zeta finally dissipated on January 6th, it ended the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history, and also one of the most destructive: category-5 hurricanes Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma caused incredible damage and loss of life throughout the US. The season also included three unnamed tropical depressions and an unnamed tropical storm.

That season, Tropical Storm Alpha formed on October 22nd, and Hurricane Beta formed on October 26th.

Flash forward 15 years, and it looks like we're going to break a few of 2005's records. This year, storms Alpha and Beta both formed on September 18th. So far only Hurricanes Laura and Teddy—the latter now about to pound Nova Scotia and Newfoundland—got up to category 4, and we haven't yet had any category 5 storms. But the season shows no sign of winding down.

We have known for decades that climate change would cause more frequent tropical storm activity. Welcome to the future.

Hazy shade of wildfires

Smoke from the wildfires out west reached Chicago yesterday:

It’s not unusual for smoke from various regions to reach northern Illinois, especially from larger fires, according to Mark Ratzer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Chicago-area office.

Smoke from fires hundreds of miles away can billow high into the atmosphere and get carried to other regions by jet streams and winds aloft, causing cloudier skies and slightly cooler temperatures. Mid- and upper-level winds were carrying smoke this week from the West and Northwest into the Chicago area, creating the same effect.

“It’s not that it’s affecting our air quality (at the) surface,” Ratzer said. “You’re not able to smell it or anything like that, but it has created kind of a smoke layer aloft which is keeping the sun rather dim.”

It shows up pretty clearly from space, as do hurricanes Sally (over Louisiana) and Paulette (near Bermuda):

The president, meanwhile, suggests that the states go on to federal land and rake up some of the undergrowth to prevent fires. Because of course, it couldn't be climate change.

Slow news day? In 2020? Ha!

Just a few of the things that crossed my desktop this morning:

And last night, Cubs pitcher Alec Mills threw the club's 16th no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 315 no-hitters. The last time the Cubs won a no-hitter was 51 years ago.

Afternoon news break

Here we go:

Finally, for only $875,000, you can own this contemporary, 2-story house...on top of an 8-story building.

Weather, just more of it

This is the view from Half Moon Bay, Calif., not far from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, at 9am this morning:

Update: The same reader sent this photo from noon PDT:

Fires continue to burn all over the state despite some modest cooling from this weekend's record temperatures. The California Air Resources Board notes that the increased frequency and severity of these fires, like the increased frequency and severity of other weather-related incidents, comes directly from climate change.

The image seems eerily familiar to us sci-fi fans:

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountains have a completely different set of weather problems today:

Across parts of the northern and the central Rockies, including Denver, some 6 million people were under winter alerts Tuesday. Across this region, 100 to 200 mm of snow could fall, with locally higher amounts of 300 to 450 mm at the highest elevations through Wednesday. As the day broke, snow was already falling across parts of Idaho, Utah and Wyoming and moving into northern Colorado. By midmorning Tuesday, the snow was expected to spread across Colorado and last through Wednesday morning.

Winter hadn't just arrived through precipitation: Temperatures 17–22°C below average were forecast to lead to numerous records Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lows were forecast to dip below -10°C with wind chills [well below that], with highs that will struggle to get [above freezing] for several locations from the Rockies to parts of the Plains.

On Saturday, [Denver] hit 39°C. Not only was that a daily record high, But it also set an all-time hottest temperature record for the month of September in the city, and it was the furthest into September the city had ever hit 38°C. The previous record was 36.5°C, set last September.

On Monday, Denver hit a high of 34°C, making it the 73rd day in 2020 to exceed 32°C. That tied the all-time record of 73 days set in 2012.

Just 12 hours later, Denver was nearly 34°C colder Tuesday morning, with light snow beginning to fall around the area.

So, in three days, Denver went from a record-shattering 39°C to one of its earliest snowfalls on record.

This year just continues to get weirder.

Wow, that's hot

Yesterday, Woodland Hills, Calf., a neighborhood in Los Angeles, recorded its hottest temperature ever:

As a historic heat wave left Southern California broiling, Woodland Hills on Sunday recorded an all-time high of 49.4°C, which the National Weather Service said was the hottest temperature recorded at an official weather station in Los Angeles County.

It broke the old record of 48.3°C set in July of 2006 and was one of several records to fall on Sunday. The NWS said Riverside hit its highest temperature ever for September at 47.2°C; Santa Ana hit a record high for the day at 41.1°C.

Meanwhile, up the coast in the Bay Area, San Francisco (!) topped out at 38.9°C—a little warmer than the 14°C they recorded Saturday morning—and even Half Moon Bay, right on the coast, hit 32°C, which almost never happens. (It's back down to 20°C there right now.)

In case you're wondering, Death Valley hit a cool 50°C around noon yesterday before dropping off to 36°C overnight.

Record confirmed by the pros

The Chicago Tribune's Frank Wachowski concurs with the Daily Parker: 2020 was the warmest summer in Chicago history:

To be sure, there have been many summers with hotter individual temperatures (2012, 1995, 1988 come to mind) but the warmth this summer has been persistent, especially at night where many warm overnight low temperatures have been observed. 

But when you average out all the high and low temperatures this summer since June 1, the 24.8°C degree average temperature for 2020 just edges out 1955’s record of 24.6°C degrees for top honors. Summer 2020 also finishes 2.7°C degrees above the normal average.  

What’s more, there have been 31 days at or above 32°C at O’Hare this year to date, while the “normal” number of 32°C or higher temps in a year here is just 17, meaning we recorded 182 percent as many over-32°C as normal.  

Today, the first day of meteorological autumn, will be cool and damp, as befits fall.

Oh, and let's not forget, August saw the 8th consecutive month of record-high water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron:

Calling it: Hottest summer in history

With today's high temperature at O'Hare (29°C) coming in slightly above forecast—as it has almost every day this week—I can now state with confidence that 2020's was the hottest summer ever in Chicago. By my figures, we hit an average daily temperature of 24.8°C, 0.2°C above the record set in 1955.

The string of 6 days above 32°C from the 23rd to the 28th put us over the top, so that even the weekend's milder temperatures couldn't bring us back under the line.

Congratulations?

Oh, and this is the blog's 7,501st post since May 1998. Look for the 8,000th next July.

Record looking shaky...

As of Saturday, it looked like we might break the record for hottest summer ever (average daily temperature 24.7°C) in Chicago, set way back in 1955. If the today's forecast holds, however, we will merely tie the record.

This is actually a good-news, bad-news thing. The good news is: (a) we came just a bit short of breaking the record (36.7°C) for August 26th, and (b) a cold front will push through tomorrow evening, dropping temperatures into the high 20s for the weekend.

You know? I'm OK with not breaking the record. It's 33°C at O'Hare and 32°C at my house right now, and that ignores the 21°C dewpoint that makes even light clothes cleve after walking just a few steps outside. And my electric company sent me an email this morning warning I'm about to have a higher-than-expected electric bill.

Roll on October.

On track for Chicago's hottest summer ever

Chicago experienced its hottest summers (June 1st through August 31st) in 1955 (24.7°C), 1995 (24.6°C), and 2012 (24.5°C). As of Thursday, we've had an average temperature of 24.6°C—already tied for 2nd place. If the 10-day forecast holds, we will end the summer a week from Monday with an average temperature of 24.7°C, tying the 1955 record.

WGN-TV's Tom Skilling explains why we have this situation, despite none of the three months of 2020 making it into the top 3. (Hint: all three made it into the top 5.)

How is it possible this summer ranks among the top tier of warmest summers to date here? What about the deadly heat in summer 1995. Or how about the scorcher of a summer in 1988 with its 47 days with above–32°C and seven days of above–38°C?”

1995’s July heat wave was historic and responsible for the greatest loss of life on the books produced by a natural disaster in the Chicago area–but it occupied a week’s time. It was a single hot period and not reflective of the average temp over the full season through August 19 which came in under this years 24.6°C average to date.

It’s true summer 1988 produced the greatest number of above–32°C and above–38°C of any warm season since official records began in 1871. But summer 1988 produced also produced historic drought. Moisture was so limited in the Summer of ’88 that the drier than normal atmosphere allowed nights which cooled more than usual from the broiling daytime highs. So when the comparatively “cool” nights were averaged with the hot daytime highs, the average summer temps through August 19 came in well below this year’s 24.6°C to date.

So, Chicagoans, neither you nor your air conditioning is wrong. This summer has suuuuuuuucked.

Also, starting in January, we will have new climate normals. Every 10 years climatologists crunch the previous 30 years of data and produce a new set. The 1991-2020 set will almost certainly have higher temperatures and precipitation amounts for most US locations than any previous set, just as the 1981-2010 set did. Early in 2020, meteorologist Becky Bolinger ran 29 years of data and discovered that only one county in Iowa had fewer above-average monthly temperatures than below-average from 1991 onward. Every other part of the US experienced rising average temperatures.

In other words: welcome to the new normal, thanks to human-caused climate change.