According the National Weather Service Forecast office, this has been one of the snowiest, coldest winters. Compare this winter’s 47.3 inches (so far!) to 2011/2012’s 19.8 inches. Last year there was barely any accumulation at all. Why is this happening? And how do we deal with it?
Rick Dimaio, formerly the senior meteorologist for Fox News Chicago for 12 years and currently a professor of aviation meteorology at Lewis University, also teaches a class on Extreme Weather to students at SAIC. The class covers issues of how humans use technology to maintain infrastructure when natural events challenge our physical endurance. Before working at Fox News, Dimaio spent 15 years as an aviation meteorologist, watching weather to ensure safe airplane travel. Much of his long career in weather analysis has been based in Chicago. He acquiesces that this year has been a particularly severe winter, with record numbers of below-zero days in January.
This year’s storms, says Dimaio, are “totally and directly related to the fact that the Pacific Ocean was at 30-year-high temperatures. Whenever there is extreme cold in one continent, it’s likely that it will be extremely warm in another. Last year when it was warm here, Europe was cold.” Taking note of these patterns is a meteorologist’s job, but, one could argue, it is a wider responsibility to respond to these accumulative effects. Dimaio notes that many people have short memories in regards to weather. Global warming’s influence can be observed in the five category five typhoons that pushed warm water into Alaska, leading to early snow in the Rockies, and setting up the Midwest for the extreme cold. A climate changing increase in humidity due to increased evaporation from heat later leads to greater levels of precipitation.
Dimaio, however, loves a brisk snowy winter and cross country skiing. He encourages people to bundle up and get outside. After all, Chicago weather this year, although comparatively extreme, is now only almost as cold and snowy as Minneapolis is regularly. From December 8 to January 26, Chicago experienced accumulating snow for over half the days. That’s seven weeks of snow every other day. So far.
Although embracing crisp air and sliding over the slippery surface of the cold earth is appealing in the countryside, the city is a gray mush. Chicago’s snow hides trash and dog waste, reveals slush corners in the gutter of the sidewalks, and makes the walk to the CTA treacherous. Another way to deal with the urban winter is to stay inside and contemplate the soothing warmth inside the house versus the biting winds. These moments of juxtaposing temperatures often evoke the essence of the obstacle, the unattainable, the pure, and the severe.
A technology readily available to many in our own community is a radio, a CD player, or the old YouTube. Combating the psychological decline inflicted by cabin fever, the playlist here hopes to both encourage active consideration of the season and assist in easing its pains.
THE BEAUTY OF COLD
Kate Bush 50 Words for Snow
The eponymous track on a self-produced album (2011) has Stephen Fry exercising his vocabulary skills in a flurry of invigorating wistfulness.
Bjork sampled the sound of walking on snow for an homage to the sparkly glacier. From Vespertine (2001).
Sigur Ros Cold
Icy, drippy dulcimers hang throughout this track from a year 2000 Peel Session.
Brian Eno Slow Ice, Old Moon
Tentative, slow drone for a blank landscape. From Small Craft on a Milk Sea (2010).
Nils Frahm Tristana
Piano, celeste, and reed organ sweetly jangle oh so pensively. From Wintermusik (2008).
LOVE ON ICE
The Doors Wintertime Love
Within the canon of songs about missing loved ones in the winter, when shared body heat is more appealing. From Waiting for the Sun (1968).
PJ Harvey The Wind
A reminder that walking through windy streets is heroic, spiritual, and cool. From Is This Desire (1998).
Rolling Stones Winter
This song combines lovelorn yearning with California nostalgia. From Goats Head Soup (1973).
The unrelenting impact of love and snowballs. From Freedom of Choice (1980).
Zephyr Winter Always Finds Me
A tune made for evoking that looking out a window on a mountaintop feeling. From Sunset Ride (1972).
Henri Salvador Jardin d’Hiver
The voice of this Caribbean French singer carries the nostalgia for warmth like viscous sun. Originally written by Keren Ann (2000) it can be found on Salvador’s Performance! album (2008).
The Mamas & the Papas California Dreamin
John Phillips dreamt this song during a cold winter in New York City and awoke his wife Michelle to flesh out this now-iconic song of longing (1965).
Frank Zappa Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow
Zappa dreams of life as an Eskimo and the kind of advice he would receive. From Apostrophe (1974).
Foreigner Cold as Ice
Classic, 70s rock that evokes lusty revenge against the frozen heart of winter. From Foreigner (1977).
Bangles Hazy Shade of Winter
A screaming guitar version of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 ballad, recorded by the group for the 1987 film Less Than Zero.
Vivaldi Winter Movement 1 on synthesizer by Gazdatronik
Silly winter bleep for removing the serious, by a synthesizer maker and analog enthusiast.(2011)
Kanye West Coldest Winter
Kanye’s pop-lament for his mother and ex-girlfriend heavily riffing on Tears for Fears’ 1983 Memories Fade (which is far better, fyi, if you feel like bobbing your head to your tears).
Etnobit Percussion Group Lake Baikal Ice
The wife of a member of a percussion group from Irkutsk slipped while on a walk on Lake Baikal and discovered that the meter-thick frozen ice on top of this five meter deep portion of lake had tone. The 1,642 meter deep area did not. So they went out and played some tunes!
Terje Isungset Frozen
This Norwegian group makes all of their instruments out of ice, and they sound pretty funky. Turn that frown upside down when you have two hours of sun per day. From Iceman is (2007).
Song About a Thumb Inuit Music Games
Katadjait are throat vocalizations made for entertainment by pairs of women in the Canadian Arctic as a musical game. Check out Inuit Throat and Harp Songs, Eskimo Women’s Music of Povungnituk (1980).