sun, 31-dec-2017, 11:10

Introduction

I’m planning a short trip to visit family in Florida and thought I’d take advantage of being in a new place to do some late winter backpacking where it’s warmer than in Fairbanks. I think I’ve settled on a 3‒5 day backpacking trip in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which is in northeastern Tennesee and southeastern Kentucky.

Except for a couple summer trips in New England in the 80s, my backpacking experience has been in summer, in places where it doesn’t rain much and is typically hot and dry (California, Oregon). So I’d like to find out what the weather should be like when I’m there.

Data

I’ll use the Global Historical Climatology Network — Daily dataset, which contains daily weather observations for more than 100 thousand stations across the globe. There are more than 26 thousand active stations in the United States, and data for some U.S. stations goes back to 1836. I loaded the entire dataset—2.4 billion records as of last week—into a PostgreSQL database, partitioning the data by year. I’m interested in daily minimum and maximum temperature (TMIN, TMAX), precipitation (PRCP) and snowfall (SNOW), and in stations within 50 miles of the center of the recreation area.

The following map shows the recreation area boundary (with some strange drawing errors, probably due to using the fortify command) in green, the Tennessee/Kentucky border across the middle of the plot, and the 19 stations used in the analysis.

//media.swingleydev.com/img/blog/2017/12/biso_stations.svgz

Here are the details on the stations:

station_id station_name start_year end_year latitude longitude miles
USC00407141 PICKETT SP 2000 2017 36.5514 -84.7967 6.13
USC00406829 ONEIDA 1959 2017 36.5028 -84.5308 9.51
USC00400081 ALLARDT 1928 2017 36.3806 -84.8744 12.99
USC00404590 JAMESTOWN 2003 2017 36.4258 -84.9419 14.52
USC00157677 STEARNS 2S 1936 2017 36.6736 -84.4792 16.90
USC00401310 BYRDSTOWN 1998 2017 36.5803 -85.1256 24.16
USC00406493 NEWCOMB 1999 2017 36.5517 -84.1728 29.61
USC00158711 WILLIAMSBURG 1NW 2011 2017 36.7458 -84.1753 33.60
USC00405332 LIVINGSTON RADIO WLIV 1961 2017 36.3775 -85.3364 36.52
USC00154208 JAMESTOWN WWTP 1971 2017 37.0056 -85.0617 39.82
USC00406170 MONTEREY 1904 2017 36.1483 -85.2650 40.04
USC00406619 NORRIS 1936 2017 36.2131 -84.0603 41.13
USC00402202 CROSSVILLE ED & RESEARCH 1912 2017 36.0147 -85.1314 41.61
USW00053868 OAK RIDGE ASOS 1999 2017 36.0236 -84.2375 42.24
USC00401561 CELINA 1948 2017 36.5408 -85.4597 42.31
USC00157510 SOMERSET 2 N 1950 2017 37.1167 -84.6167 42.36
USW00003841 OAK RIDGE ATDD 1948 2017 36.0028 -84.2486 43.02
USW00003847 CROSSVILLE MEM AP 1954 2017 35.9508 -85.0814 43.87
USC00404871 KINGSTON 2000 2017 35.8575 -84.5278 45.86

To perform the analysis, I collected all valid observations for the stations listed, then reduced the results, including observations where the day of the year was between 45 and 52 (February 14‒21).

variable observations
PRCP 5,942
SNOW 5,091
TMAX 4,900
TMIN 4,846

Results

Temperature

We will consider temperature first. The following two plots show the distribution of daily minimum and maximum temperatures. In both plots, the bars represent the number of observations at that temperature, the vertical red line through the middle of the plot shows the average temperature, and the light orange and blue sections show the ranges of temperatures enclosing 80% and 98% of the data.

//media.swingleydev.com/img/blog/2017/12/min_temp_dist.svgz
//media.swingleydev.com/img/blog/2017/12/max_temp_dist.svgz

The minimum daily temperature figure shows that the average minimum temperature is below freezing, (28.9 °F) and eighty percent of all days in the third week of February were between 15 and 43 °F (the light orange region). The minimum temperature was colder than 15 °F or warmer than 54 °F 2% of the time (the light blue region). Maximum daily temperature was an average of 51 °F, and was rarely below freezing or above 72 °F.

Another way to look at this sort of data is to count particular occurances and divide by the total, “binning” the data into groups. Here we look at the number of days that were below freezing, colder than 20 °F or colder than 10 °F.

temperature observed days percent chance
below freezing 3,006 62.0
colder than 20 1,079 22.3
colder than 10 203 4.2
TOTAL 4,846 100.0

What about the daily maximum temperature?

temperature observed days percent chance
colder than 20 22 0.4
below freezing 371 7.6
below 40 1,151 23.5
above 50 2,569 52.4
above 60 1,157 23.6
above 70 80 1.6
TOTAL 4,900 100.0

The chances of it being below freezing during the day are pretty slim, and more than half the time it’s warmer than 50 °F, so even if it’s cold at night, I should be able to get plenty warm hiking during the day.

Precipitation

How often it rains, and how much falls when it does is also important for planning a successful backpacking trip. Most of my backpacking has been done in the summer in California, where rainfall is rare and even when it does rain, it’s typically over quickly. Daily weather data can’t tell us about the hourly pattern of rainfall, but we can find out how often and how much it has rained in the past.

rainfall amount observed days percent chance
raining 2,375 40.0
tenth 1,610 27.1
quarter 1,136 19.1
half 668 11.2
inch 308 5.2
TOTAL 5,942 100.0

This data shows that the chance of rain on any given day between February 14th and the 21st is 40%, and the chance of getting at least a tenth of an inch is 30%. That’s certainly higher than in the Sierra Nevada in July, although by August, afternoon thunderstorms are more common in the mountains.

When there is precipitation, the distribution of precipitation totals looks like this:

cumulative frequency precipition
1% 0.01
5% 0.02
10% 0.02
25% 0.07
50% 0.22
75% 0.59
90% 1.18
95% 1.71
99% 2.56

These numbers are cumulative which means that on 1 percent of the days with precipition, there was a hundredth of an inch of liquid precipitation or less. Ten percent of the days had 0.02 inches or less. And 50 percent of rainy days had 0.22 inches or liquid precipitation or less. Reading the numbers from the top of the distribution, there was more than an inch of rain 10 percent of the days on which it rained, which is a little disturbing.

One final question about precipitation is how long it rains once it starts raining? Do we get little showers here and there, or are there large storms that dump rain for days without a break? To answer this question, I counted the number of days between zero-rainfall days, which is equal to the number of consecutive days where it rained.

consecutive days percent chance
1 53.0
2 24.4
3 11.9
4 7.5
5 2.2
6 0.9
7 0.1

The results show that more than half the time, a single day of rain is followed by at least one day without. And the chances of having it rain every day of a three day trip to this area in mid-February is 11.9%.

Snowfall

Repeating the precipitation analysis with snowfall:

snowfall amount observed days percent chance
snowing 322 6.3
inch 148 2.9
two 115 2.3
TOTAL 5,091 100.0

Snowfall isn’t common on these dates, but it did happen, so I will need to be prepared for it. Also, the PRCP variable includes melted snow, so a small portion of the precipitation from the previous section overlaps with the snowfall shown here.

Conclusion

Based on this analysis, a 3‒5 day backpacking trip to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation area seems well within my abilities and my gear. It will almost certainly be below freezing at night, but isn’t likely to be much below 20 °F, snowfall is uncommon, and even though I will probably experience some rain, it shouldn’t be too much or carry on for the entire trip.

Appendix

The R code for this analysis appears below. I’ve loaded the GHCND data into a PostgreSQL database with observation data partitioned by year. The database tables are structured basically as they come from the National Centers for Environmental Information.

library(tidyverse)
library(dbplyr)
library(glue)
library(maps)
library(sp)
library(rgdal)
library(scales)
library(knitr)

noaa <- src_postgres(dbname = "noaa")

biso_stations <- noaa %>%
    tbl(build_sql(
        "WITH inv AS (
            SELECT station_id, max(start_year) AS start_year,
                min(end_year) AS end_year,
                array_agg(variable::text) AS variables
            FROM ghcnd_inventory
            WHERE variable IN ('TMIN', 'TMAX', 'PRCP', 'SNOW')
            GROUP BY station_id)
         SELECT station_id, station_name, start_year, end_year,
            latitude, longitude,
            ST_Distance(ST_Transform(a.the_geom, 32617),
                        ST_Transform(b.the_geom, 32617))/1609 AS miles
         FROM ghcnd_stations AS a
            INNER JOIN inv USING(station_id),
            (SELECT ST_SetSRID(
                ST_MakePoint(-84.701553,
                              36.506800), 4326) AS the_geom) AS b
         WHERE inv.variables @> ARRAY['TMIN', 'TMAX', 'PRCP', 'SNOW']
            AND end_year = 2017
            AND ST_Distance(ST_Transform(a.the_geom, 32617),
                            ST_Transform(b.the_geom, 32617))/1609 < 65
         ORDER BY miles"))

start_doy <- 32  # Feb 1
end_doy <- 59    # Feb 28

ghcnd_variables <- noaa %>% tbl("ghcnd_variables")

# ghcnd_obs partitioned by year, so query by year
obs_by_year <- function(conn, year, start_doy, end_doy) {
    print(year)
    filter_start_dte <- glue("{year}-01-01")
    filter_end_dte <- glue("{year}-12-31")
    conn %>% tbl("ghcnd_obs") %>%
        inner_join(biso_stations) %>%
        inner_join(ghcnd_variables) %>%
        mutate(doy = date_part('doy', dte),
            value = raw_value * raw_multiplier) %>%
        filter(dte >= filter_start_dte,
               dte <= filter_end_dte,
               doy >= start_doy, doy <= end_doy,
               is.na(qual_flag),
               variable %in% c('TMIN', 'TMAX', 'PRCP', 'SNOW')) %>%
        select(-c(raw_value, time_of_obs, qual_flag, description,
                  raw_multiplier)) %>%
        collect()
}

feb_obs <- map_df(1968:2017, function(x)
                  obs_by_year(noaa, x, start_doy, end_doy))

# MAP
restrict_miles <- 50
biso_filtered <- biso %>%
    filter(miles < restrict_miles)

nps_boundary <- readOGR("nps_boundary.shp", verbose = FALSE)
biso_boundary <- subset(nps_boundary, UNIT_CODE == 'BISO')
biso_df <- fortify(biso_boundary) %>% tbl_df()

q <- ggplot(data = biso_filtered,
            aes(x = longitude, y = latitude)) +
    theme_bw() +
    theme(axis.text = element_blank(), axis.ticks = element_blank(),
            panel.grid = element_blank()) +
    geom_hline(yintercept = 36.6,
               colour = "darkcyan",
               size = 0.5) +
    geom_point(colour = "darkred") +
    geom_text(aes(label = str_to_title(station_name)), size = 3,
              hjust = 0.5, vjust = 0, nudge_y = 0.01) +
    geom_polygon(data = biso_df,
                 aes(x = long, y = lat),
                 fill = "darkgreen") +
    scale_x_continuous(name = "",
                       limits = c(min(biso_filtered$longitude) - 0.02,
                                  max(biso_filtered$longitude) + 0.02)) +
    scale_y_continuous(name = "",
                       limits = c(min(biso_filtered$latitude) - 0.02,
                                  max(biso_filtered$latitude) + 0.02)) +
    coord_quickmap()

print(q)

# OBS
feb_obs_filtered <- feb_obs %>%
    filter(miles < restrict_miles,
           doy >= 45, doy <= 52)  # feb 14-21

# TEMP PLOTS
tmin_rects <- tibble(pwidth = c("80", "98"),
                     xmin = quantile((feb_obs_filtered %>%
                                      filter(variable == 'TMIN'))$value*9/5+32,
                                     c(0.10, 0.01)),
                     xmax = quantile((feb_obs_filtered %>%
                                      filter(variable == 'TMIN'))$value*9/5+32,
                                     c(0.90, 0.99)),
                     ymin = -Inf, ymax = Inf)
q <- ggplot(data = feb_obs_filtered %>% filter(variable == 'TMIN'),
            aes(x = value*9/5+32)) +
    theme_bw() +
    geom_rect(data = tmin_rects %>% filter(pwidth == "98"), inherit.aes = FALSE,
              aes(xmin = xmin, xmax = xmax, ymin = ymin, ymax = ymax),
              fill = "darkcyan", alpha = 0.2) +
    geom_rect(data = tmin_rects %>% filter(pwidth == "80"), inherit.aes = FALSE,
              aes(xmin = xmin, xmax = xmax, ymin = ymin, ymax = ymax),
              fill = "darkorange", alpha = 0.2) +
    geom_vline(xintercept = mean((feb_obs_filtered %>%
                                      filter(variable == 'TMIN'))$value*9/5+32),
               colour = "red",
               size = 0.5) +
    geom_histogram(binwidth = 1) +
    scale_x_continuous(name = "Minimum temperature (°F)",
                       breaks = pretty_breaks(n = 10)) +
    scale_y_continuous(name = "Days", breaks = pretty_breaks(n = 6)) +
    ggtitle("Minimum daily temperature distribution, February 14‒21")

print(q)

max_temp_distribution <-
    quantile((feb_obs_filtered %>%
                filter(variable == 'TMAX'))$value*9/5 + 32,
    c(0.01, 0.05, 0.10, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 0.90, 0.95, 0.99))

tmax_rects <- tibble(pwidth = c("80", "98"),
                     xmin = quantile((feb_obs_filtered %>%
                                      filter(variable == 'TMAX'))$value*9/5+32,
                                     c(0.10, 0.01)),
                     xmax = quantile((feb_obs_filtered %>%
                                      filter(variable == 'TMAX'))$value*9/5+32,
                                     c(0.90, 0.99)),
                     ymin = -Inf, ymax = Inf)

q <- ggplot(data = feb_obs_filtered %>% filter(variable == 'TMAX'),
            aes(x = value*9/5+32)) +
    theme_bw() +
    geom_rect(data = tmax_rects %>% filter(pwidth == "98"), inherit.aes = FALSE,
              aes(xmin = xmin, xmax = xmax, ymin = ymin, ymax = ymax),
              fill = "darkcyan", alpha = 0.2) +
    geom_rect(data = tmax_rects %>% filter(pwidth == "80"), inherit.aes = FALSE,
              aes(xmin = xmin, xmax = xmax, ymin = ymin, ymax = ymax),
              fill = "darkorange", alpha = 0.2) +
    geom_vline(xintercept = mean((feb_obs_filtered %>%
                                      filter(variable == 'TMAX'))$value*9/5+32),
               colour = "red",
               size = 0.5) +
    geom_histogram(binwidth = 1) +
    scale_x_continuous(name = "Maximum temperature (°F)",
                       breaks = pretty_breaks(n = 10)) +
    scale_y_continuous(name = "Days", breaks = pretty_breaks(n = 8)) +
    ggtitle("Maximum daily temperature distribution, February 14‒21")

print(q)

# TEMP BINS
below_freezing_percent <- feb_obs_filtered %>%
    filter(variable == 'TMIN') %>%
    mutate(`below freezing` = ifelse(value < 0, 1, 0),
           `colder than 20` = ifelse(value*9/5 + 32 < 20, 1, 0),
           `colder than 10` = ifelse(value*9/5 + 32 < 10, 1, 0)) %>%
    summarize(`below freezing` = sum(`below freezing`),
              `colder than 20` = sum(`colder than 20`),
              `colder than 10` = sum(`colder than 10`),
              TOTAL = n(),
              total = n()) %>%
    gather(temperature, `observed days`, -total) %>%
    mutate(`percent chance` = `observed days` / total * 100) %>%
    select(temperature, `observed days`, `percent chance`)

kable(below_freezing_percent, digits = 1,
      align = "lrr",
      format.args = list(big.mark = ","))

# PRCP BINS
prcp_percent <- feb_obs_filtered %>%
    filter(variable == 'PRCP') %>%
    mutate(raining = ifelse(value > 0, 1, 0),
           tenth = ifelse(value > 0.1 * 25.4, 1, 0),
           quarter = ifelse(value > 0.25 * 25.4, 1, 0),
           half = ifelse(value > 0.5 * 25.4, 1, 0),
           inch = ifelse(value > 1 * 25.4, 1, 0)) %>%
    summarize(raining = sum(raining),
              tenth = sum(tenth),
              quarter = sum(quarter),
              half = sum(half),
              inch = sum(inch),
              TOTAL = n(),
              total = n()) %>%
    gather(`rainfall amount`, `observed days`, -total) %>%
    mutate(`percent chance` = `observed days` / total * 100) %>%
    select(`rainfall amount`, `observed days`, `percent chance`)

kable(prcp_percent, digits = 1,
      align = "lrr",
      format.args = list(big.mark = ","))

# PRCP DIST
prcp_cum_freq <-
    tibble(`cumulative frequency` = c("1%", "5%", "10%", "25%", "50%", "75%", "90%",
                                      "95%", "99%"),
       precipition = quantile((feb_obs_filtered %>% filter(variable == "PRCP",
                                                           value > 0))$value/25.4,
                              c(0.01, 0.05, 0.10, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 0.90, 0.95, 0.99)))

kable(prcp_cum_freq, digits = 2, align="lr")

# PRCP PATTERN
no_prcp <- feb_obs %>% filter(variable == 'PRCP', value == 0,
                              miles < restrict_miles, doy >= 44, doy <= 53)
consecutive_rain <- no_prcp %>%
    group_by(station_name) %>%
    arrange(station_name, dte) %>%
    mutate(days = as.integer(dte - lag(dte) - 1)) %>%
    filter(!is.na(days), days > 0, days < 10)

consecutive_days_dist <- consecutive_rain %>%
    ungroup() %>%
    mutate(total = n()) %>%
    arrange(days) %>%
    group_by(days, total) %>%
    summarize(`percent chance` = n()/max(total)*100) %>%
    rename(`consecutive days` = days) %>%
    select(`consecutive days`, `percent chance`)

kable(consecutive_days_dist, digits = 1,
      align = "lr")

# SNOW DIST
snow_percent <- feb_obs_filtered %>%
    filter(variable == 'SNOW') %>%
    mutate(snowing = ifelse(value > 0, 1, 0),
           half = ifelse(value > 0.5 * 25.4, 1, 0),
           inch = ifelse(value > 1 * 25.4, 1, 0),
           two = ifelse(value > 2 * 25.4, 1, 0)) %>%
    summarize(snowing = sum(snowing),
              inch = sum(inch),
              two = sum(two),
              TOTAL = n(),
              total = n()) %>%
    gather(`snowfall amount`, `observed days`, -total) %>%
    mutate(`percent chance` = `observed days` / total * 100) %>%
    select(`snowfall amount`, `observed days`, `percent chance`)

kable(snow_percent, digits = 1,
      align = "lrr",
      format.args = list(big.mark = ","))
tags: R  weather  BISO  Tennessee  Kentucky 
sat, 10-jun-2017, 10:21
Koidern on her bed

Koidern

Yesterday we lost Koidern to complications from laryngeal paralysis. Koidern came to us in 2006 from Andrea’s mushing partner who thought she was too “ornery.” It is true that she wouldn’t hesitate to growl at a dog or cat who got too close to her food bowl, and she was protective of her favorite bed, but in every other way she was a very sweet dog. When she was younger she loved to give hugs, jumping up on her hind legs and wrapping her front legs around your waist. She was part Saluki, which made her very distinctive in Andrea’s dog teams and she never lost her beautiful brown coat, perky ears, and curled tail. I will miss her continual energy in the dog yard racing around after the other dogs, how she’d pounce on dog bones and toss them around, “smash” the cats, and the way she’d bark right before coming into the house as if to announce her entrance.


Koidern hug

Koidern hug (with her sister Kluane and Carol Kaynor)

Koidern with Piper and Buddy

Koidern in Tok, with Piper and Buddy

tags: Koidern  dogs  memorial 
sat, 08-apr-2017, 11:30

Introduction

The Alaska Department of Transportation is working on updating their bicycling and pedestrian master plan for the state and their web site mentions Alaska as having high percentages of bicycle and pedestrian commuters relative to the rest of the country. I’m interested because I commute to work by bicycle (and occasionally ski or run) every day, either on the trails in the winter, or the roads in the summer. The company I work for (ABR) pays it’s employees $3.50 per day for using non-motorized means of transportation to get to work. I earned more than $700 last year as part of this program and ABR has paid it’s employees almost $40K since 2009 not to drive to work.

The Census Bureau keeps track of how people get to work in the American Community Survey, easily accessible from their web site. We’ll use this data to see if Alaska really does have higher than average rates of non-motorized commuters.

Data

The data comes from FactFinder. I chose ‘American Community Survey’ from the list of data sources near the bottom, searched for ‘bicycle’, chose ‘Commuting characteristics by sex’ (Table S0801), and added the ‘All States within United States and Puerto Rico’ as the Geography of interest. The site generates a zip file containing the data as a CSV file along with several other informational files. The code for extracting the data appears at the bottom of this post.

The data are percentages of workers 16 years and over and their means of transportation to work. Here’s a table showing the top 10 states ordered by the combination of bicycling and walking percentage.

  state total motorized carpool public_trans walk bicycle
1 District of Columbia 358,150 38.8 5.2 35.8 14.0 4.1
2 Alaska 363,075 80.5 12.6 1.5 7.9 1.1
3 Montana 484,043 84.9 10.4 0.8 5.6 1.6
4 New York 9,276,438 59.3 6.6 28.6 6.3 0.7
5 Vermont 320,350 85.1 8.2 1.3 5.8 0.8
6 Oregon 1,839,706 81.4 10.2 4.8 3.8 2.5
7 Massachusetts 3,450,540 77.6 7.4 10.6 5.0 0.8
8 Wyoming 289,163 87.3 10.0 2.2 4.6 0.6
9 Hawaii 704,914 80.9 13.5 7.0 4.1 0.9
10 Washington 3,370,945 82.2 9.8 6.2 3.7 1.0

Alaska has the second highest rates of walking and biking to work behind the District of Columbia. The table is an interesting combination of states with large urban centers (DC, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts) and those that are more rural (Alaska, Montana, Vermont, Wyoming).

Another way to rank the data is by combining all forms of transportation besides single-vehicle motorized transport (car pooling, public transportation, walking and bicycling).

  state total motorized carpool public_trans walk bicycle
1 District of Columbia 358,150 38.8 5.2 35.8 14.0 4.1
2 New York 9,276,438 59.3 6.6 28.6 6.3 0.7
3 Massachusetts 3,450,540 77.6 7.4 10.6 5.0 0.8
4 New Jersey 4,285,182 79.3 7.5 11.6 3.3 0.3
5 Alaska 363,075 80.5 12.6 1.5 7.9 1.1
6 Hawaii 704,914 80.9 13.5 7.0 4.1 0.9
7 Oregon 1,839,706 81.4 10.2 4.8 3.8 2.5
8 Illinois 6,094,828 81.5 7.9 9.3 3.0 0.7
9 Washington 3,370,945 82.2 9.8 6.2 3.7 1.0
10 Maryland 3,001,281 82.6 8.9 9.0 2.6 0.3

Here, the states with large urban centers come out higher because of the number of commuters using public transportation. Despite very low availability of public transportation, Alaska still winds up 5th on this list because of high rates of car pooling, in addition to walking and bicycling.

Map data

To look at regional patterns, we can make a map of the United States colored by non-motorized transportation percentage. This can be a little challenging because Alaska and Hawaii are so far from the rest of the country. What I’m doing here is loading the state data, transforming the data to a projection that’s appropriate for Alaska, and moving Alaska and Hawaii closer to the lower-48 for display. Again, the code appears at the bottom.

You can see that non-motorized transportation is very low throughout the deep south, and tends to be higher in the western half of the country, but the really high rates of bicycling and walking to work are isolated. High Vermont next to low New Hampshire, or Oregon and Montana split by Idaho.

Urban and rural, median age of the population

What explains the high rates of non-motorized commuting in Alaska and the other states at the top of the list? Urbanization is certainly one important factor explaining why the District of Columbia and states like New York, Oregon and Massachusetts have high rates of walking and bicycling. But what about Montana, Vermont, and Wyoming?

Age of the population might have an effect as well, as younger people are more likely to walk and bike to work than older people. Alaska has the second youngest population (33.3 years) in the U.S. and DC is third (33.8), but the other states in the top five (Utah, Texas, North Dakota) don’t have high non-motorized transportation.

So it’s more complicated that just these factors. California is a good example, with a combination of high urbanization (second, 95.0% urban), low median age (eighth, 36.2) and great weather year round, but is 19th for non-motorized commuting. Who walks in California, after all?

Conclusion

I hope DOT comes up with a progressive plan for improving opportunities for pedestrian and bicycle transportation in Alaska They’ve made some progress here in Fairbanks; building new paths for non-motorized traffic; but they also seem blind to the realities of actually using the roads and paths on a bicycle. The “bike path” near my house abruptly turns from asphalt to gravel a third of the way down Miller Hill, and the shoulders of the roads I commute on are filled with deep snow in winter, gravel in spring, and all manner of detritus year round. Many roads don’t have a useable shoulder at all.

Code

library(tidyverse)  # data import, manipulation
library(knitr)      # pretty tables
library(rpostgis)   # PostGIS support
library(rgdal)      # geographic transformation
library(maptools)   # geographic transformation
library(viridis)    # color blind color palette

# Read the heading
heading <- read_csv('ACS_15_1YR_S0801.csv', n_max = 1) %>% names()

# Read the data
s0801 <- read_csv('ACS_15_1YR_S0801.csv', col_names = FALSE, skip = 2)

names(s0801) <- heading

# Extract only the columns we need, add state postal codes
commute <- s0801 %>%
    transmute(state = `GEO.display-label`,
              total = HC01_EST_VC01,
              motorized = HC01_EST_VC03,
              carpool = HC01_EST_VC05,
              public_trans = HC01_EST_VC10,
              walk = HC01_EST_VC11,
              bicycle = HC01_EST_VC12) %>%
    filter(state != 'Puerto Rico') %>%
    mutate(state_postal = c('AL', 'AK', 'AZ', 'AR', 'CA', 'CO', 'CT',
                            'DE', 'DC', 'FL', 'GA', 'HI', 'ID', 'IL',
                            'IN', 'IA', 'KS', 'KY', 'LA', 'ME', 'MD',
                            'MA', 'MI', 'MN', 'MS', 'MO', 'MT', 'NE',
                            'NV', 'NH', 'NJ', 'NM', 'NY', 'NC', 'ND',
                            'OH', 'OK', 'OR', 'PA', 'RI', 'SC', 'SD',
                            'TN', 'TX', 'UT', 'VT', 'VA', 'WA', 'WV',
                            'WI', 'WY'))

# Print top ten tables
kable(commute %>% select(-state_postal) %>%
      arrange(desc(walk + bicycle)) %>% head(n = 10),
  format.args = list(big.mark = ","),
  row.names = TRUE)

kable(commute %>% select(-state_postal) %>%
      arrange(motorized) %>% head(n = 10),
  format.args = list(big.mark = ","),
  row.names = TRUE)

# Connect to the database with the state layer
layers <- src_postgres(host = "localhost",
                             dbname = "layers")

states <- pgGetGeom(layers$con, c("public", "states"),
                    geom = "wkb_geometry", gid = "ogc_fid")

# Transform to srid 3338 (Alaska Albers)
states_3338 <- spTransform(states, CRS("+proj=aea +lat_1=55 +lat_2=65 +lat_0=50
                                       +lon_0=-154 +x_0=0 +y_ 0=0 +ellps=GRS80
                                       +towgs84=0,0,0,0,0,0,0 +units=m
                                       +no_defs"))

# Convert to a data frame suitable for ggplot, move AK and HI
ggstates <- fortify(states_3338, region = "state") %>%
    filter(id != 'PR') %>%
    inner_join(commute, by = (c("id" = "state_postal"))) %>%
    mutate(lat = ifelse(state == 'Hawaii', lat + 2300000, lat),
           long = ifelse(state == 'Hawaii', long + 2000000, long),
           lat = ifelse(state == 'Alaska', lat + 1000000, lat),
           long = ifelse(state == 'Alaska', long + 2000000, long))

# Plot it
p <- ggplot() + geom_polygon(data = ggstates, colour = "black",
                        aes(x = long, y = lat, group = group,
                            fill = bicycle + walk)) +
    coord_fixed(ratio = 1) +
    scale_fill_viridis(name = "Non-motorized\n commuters (%)",
                       option = "plasma",
                       limits = c(0, 9), breaks = seq(0, 9, 3)) +
    theme_void() +
    theme(legend.position = c(0.9, 0.2))

width <- 16
height <- 9
resize <- 0.75

svg("non_motorized_commute_map.svg", width = width*resize, height = height*resize)
print(p)
dev.off()
pdf("non_motorized_commute_map.pdf", width = width*resize, height = height*resize)
print(p)
dev.off()

# Urban and rural percentages by state
heading <- read_csv('../urban_rural/DEC_10_SF1_P2.csv', n_max = 1) %>% names()

dec10 <- read_csv('../urban_rural/DEC_10_SF1_P2.csv', col_names = FALSE, skip = 2)

names(dec10) <- heading

urban_rural <- dec10 %>%
    transmute(state = `GEO.display-label`,
              total = D001,
              urban = D002,
              rural = D005) %>%
    filter(state != 'Puerto Rico') %>%
    mutate(urban_percentage = urban / total * 100)

# Median age by state
heading <- read_csv('../age_sex/ACS_15_1YR_S0101.csv', n_max = 1) %>% names()

s0101 <- read_csv('../age_sex/ACS_15_1YR_S0101.csv', col_names = FALSE, skip = 2)

names(s0101) <- heading

age <- s0101 %>%
    transmute(state = `GEO.display-label`,
              median_age = HC01_EST_VC35) %>%
    filter(state != 'Puerto Rico')

# Do urban percentage and median age explain anything about
# non-motorized transit?
census_data <- commute %>%
    inner_join(urban_rural, by = "state") %>%
    inner_join(age, by = "state") %>%
    select(state, state_postal, walk, bicycle, urban_percentage, median_age) %>%
    mutate(non_motorized = walk + bicycle)

u <- ggplot(data = census_data,
       aes(x = urban_percentage, y = non_motorized)) +
    geom_text(aes(label = state_postal))

svg("urban.svg", width = width*resize, height = height*resize)
print(u)
dev.off()

a <- ggplot(data = census_data,
       aes(x = median_age, y = non_motorized)) +
    geom_text(aes(label = state_postal))

svg("age.svg", width = width*resize, height = height*resize)
print(a)
dev.off()

# Not significant:
model = lm(data = census_data,
           non_motorized ~ urban_percentage + median_age)

# Only significant because of DC (a clear outlier)
model = lm(data = census_data,
           non_motorized ~ urban_percentage * median_age)
tags: bicycling  walking  census data  R 
mon, 09-jan-2017, 09:49

Introduction

The latest forecast discussions for Northern Alaska have included warnings that we are likely to experience an extended period of below normal temperatures starting at the end of this week, and yesterday’s Deep Cold blog post discusses the similarity of model forecast patterns to patterns seen in the 1989 and 1999 extreme cold events.

Our dogs spend most of their time in the house when we’re home, but if both of us are at work they’re outside in the dog yard. They have insulated dog houses, but when it’s colder than −15° F, we put them into a heated dog barn. That means one of us has to come home in the middle of the day to let them out to go to the bathroom.

Since we’re past the Winter Solstice, and day length is now increasing, I was curious to see if that has an effect on daily temperature, hopeful that the frequency of days when we need to put the dogs in the barn is decreasing.

Methods

We’ll use daily minimum and maximum temperature data from the Fairbanks International Airport station, keeping track of how many years the temperatures are below −15° F and dividing by the total to get a frequency. We live in a cold valley on Goldstream Creek, so our temperatures are typically several degrees colder than the Fairbanks Airport, and we often don’t warm up as much during the day as in other places, but minimum airport temperature is a reasonable proxy for the overall winter temperature at our house.

Results

The following plot shows the frequency of minimum (the top of each line) and maximum (the bottom) temperature colder than −15° F at the airport over the period of record, 1904−2016. The curved blue line represents a best fit line through the minimum temperature frequency, and the vertical blue line is drawn at the date when the frequency is the highest.

Frequency of days with temperatures below −15° F

The maximum frequency is January 12th, so we have a few more days before the likelihood of needing to put the dogs in the barn starts to decline. The plot also shows that we could still reach that threshold all the way into April.

For fun, here’s the same plot using −40° as the threshold:

Frequency of days with temperatures below −40°

The date when the frequency starts to decline is shifted slightly to January 15th, and you can see the frequencies are lower. In mid-January, we can expect minimum temperature to be colder than −15° F more than half the time, but temperatures colder than −40° are just under 15%. There’s also an interesting anomaly in mid to late December where the frequency of very cold temperatures appears to drop.

Appendix: R code

library(tidyverse)
library(lubridate)
library(scales)

noaa <- src_postgres(host="localhost", dbname="noaa")

fairbanks <- tbl(noaa, build_sql("SELECT * FROM ghcnd_pivot
                                  WHERE station_name='FAIRBANKS INTL AP'")) %>%
    collect()

save(fairbanks, file="fairbanks_ghcnd.rdat")

for_plot <- fairbanks %>%
    mutate(doy=yday(dte),
           dte_str=format(dte, "%d %b"),
           min_below=ifelse(tmin_c < -26.11,1,0),
           max_below=ifelse(tmax_c < -26.11,1,0)) %>%
    filter(dte_str!="29 Feb") %>%
    mutate(doy=ifelse(leap_year(dte) & doy>60, doy-1, doy),
           doy=(doy+31+28+31+30)%%365) %>%
    group_by(doy, dte_str) %>%
    mutate(n_min=sum(ifelse(!is.na(min_below), 1, 0)),
           n_max=sum(ifelse(!is.na(max_below), 1, 0))) %>%
    summarize(min_freq=sum(min_below, na.rm=TRUE)/max(n_min, na.rm=TRUE),
              max_freq=sum(max_below, na.rm=TRUE)/max(n_max, na.rm=TRUE))

x_breaks <- for_plot %>%
    filter(doy %in% seq(49, 224, 7))

stats <- tibble(doy=seq(49, 224),
                pred=predict(loess(min_freq ~ doy,
                                   for_plot %>%
                                       filter(doy >= 49, doy <= 224))))

max_stats <- stats %>%
    arrange(desc(pred)) %>% head(n=1)

p <- ggplot(data=for_plot,
            aes(x=doy, ymin=min_freq, ymax=max_freq)) +
    geom_linerange() +
    geom_smooth(aes(y=min_freq), se=FALSE, size=0.5) +
    geom_segment(aes(x=max_stats$doy, xend=max_stats$doy,
                     y=-Inf, yend=max_stats$pred),
                 colour="blue", size=0.5) +
    scale_x_continuous(name=NULL,
                       limits=c(49, 224),
                       breaks=x_breaks$doy,
                       labels=x_breaks$dte_str) +
    scale_y_continuous(name="Frequency of days colder than −15° F",
                       breaks=pretty_breaks(n=10)) +
    theme_bw() +
    theme(axis.text.x=element_text(angle=30, hjust=1))

# Minus 40
for_plot <- fairbanks %>%
    mutate(doy=yday(dte),
           dte_str=format(dte, "%d %b"),
           min_below=ifelse(tmin_c < -40,1,0),
           max_below=ifelse(tmax_c < -40,1,0)) %>%
    filter(dte_str!="29 Feb") %>%
    mutate(doy=ifelse(leap_year(dte) & doy>60, doy-1, doy),
           doy=(doy+31+28+31+30)%%365) %>%
    group_by(doy, dte_str) %>%
    mutate(n_min=sum(ifelse(!is.na(min_below), 1, 0)),
           n_max=sum(ifelse(!is.na(max_below), 1, 0))) %>%
    summarize(min_freq=sum(min_below, na.rm=TRUE)/max(n_min, na.rm=TRUE),
              max_freq=sum(max_below, na.rm=TRUE)/max(n_max, na.rm=TRUE))

x_breaks <- for_plot %>%
    filter(doy %in% seq(63, 203, 7))

stats <- tibble(doy=seq(63, 203),
                pred=predict(loess(min_freq ~ doy,
                                   for_plot %>%
                                       filter(doy >= 63, doy <= 203))))

max_stats <- stats %>%
    arrange(desc(pred)) %>% head(n=1)

q <- ggplot(data=for_plot,
            aes(x=doy, ymin=min_freq, ymax=max_freq)) +
    geom_linerange() +
    geom_smooth(aes(y=min_freq), se=FALSE, size=0.5) +
    geom_segment(aes(x=max_stats$doy, xend=max_stats$doy,
                     y=-Inf, yend=max_stats$pred),
                 colour="blue", size=0.5) +
    scale_x_continuous(name=NULL,
                       limits=c(63, 203),
                       breaks=x_breaks$doy,
                       labels=x_breaks$dte_str) +
    scale_y_continuous(name="Frequency of days colder than −40°",
                       breaks=pretty_breaks(n=10)) +
    theme_bw() +
    theme(axis.text.x=element_text(angle=30, hjust=1))
tags: weather  climate  temperature  R 
sat, 19-nov-2016, 15:50

Introduction

So far this winter we’ve gotten only 4.1 inches of snow, well below the normal 19.7 inches, and there is only 2 inches of snow on the ground. At this point last year we had 8 inches and I’d been biking and skiing on the trail to work for two weeks. In his North Pacific Temperature Update blog post, Richard James mentions that winters like this one, with a combined strongly positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation phase and strongly negative North Pacific Mode phase tend to be a “distinctly dry” pattern for interior Alaska. I don’t pretend to understand these large scale climate patterns, but I thought it would be interesting to look at snowfall and snow depth in years with very little mid-November snow. In other years like this one do we eventually get enough snow that the trails fill in and we can fully participate in winter sports like skiing, dog mushing, and fat biking?

Data

We will use daily data from the Global Historical Climate Data set for the Fairbanks International Airport station. Data prior to 1950 is excluded because of poor quality snowfall and snow depth data and because there’s a good chance that our climate has changed since then and patterns from that era aren’t a good model for the current climate in Alaska.

We will look at both snow depth and the cumulative winter snowfall.

Results

The following tables show the ten years with the lowest cumulative snowfall and snow depth values from 1950 to the present on November 18th.

Year Cumulative Snowfall (inches)
1953 1.5
2016 4.1
1954 4.3
2014 6.0
2006 6.4
1962 7.5
1998 7.8
1960 8.5
1995 8.8
1979 10.2
Year Snow depth (inches)
1953 1
1954 1
1962 1
2016 2
2014 2
1998 3
1964 3
1976 3
1971 3
2006 4

2016 has the second-lowest cumulative snowfall behind 1953 and is tied for second with 2014 for snow depth with 1953, 1954 and 1962 all having only 1 inch of snow on November 18th.

It also seems like recent years appear in these tables more frequently than would be expected. Grouping by decade and averaging cumulative snowfall and snow depth yields the pattern in the chart below. The error bars (not shown) are fairly large, so the differences between decades aren’t likely to be statistically significant, but there is a pattern of lower snowfall amounts in recent decades.

Decadal average cumulative snowfall and snow depth

Now let’s see what happened in those years with low snowfall and snow depth values in mid-November starting with cumulative snowfall. The following plot (and the subsequent snow depth plot) shows the data for the low-value years (and one very high snowfall year—1990), with each year’s data as a separate line. The smooth dark cyan line through the middle of each plot is the smoothed line through the values for all years; a sort of “average” snowfall and snow depth curve.

Cumulative snowfall, years with low snow on November 18

In all four mid-November low-snowfall years, the cumulative snowfall values remain below average throughout the winter, but snow did continue to fall as the season went on. Even the lowest winter year here, 2006–2007, still ended the winter with 15 inches of snow on the groud.

The following plot shows snow depth for the four years with the lowest snow depth on November 18th. The data is formatted the same as in the previous plot except we’ve jittered the values slightly to make the plot easier to read.

Snow depth, years with low snow on November 18

The pattern here is similar, but the snow depths get much closer to the average values. Snow depth for all four low snow years remain low throughout November, but start rising in December, dramatically in 1954 and 2014.

One of the highest snowfall years between 1950 and 2016 was 1990–1991 (shown on both plots). An impressive 32.8 inches of snow fell in eight days between December 21st and December 28th, accounting for the sharp increase in cumulative snowfall and snow depth shown on both plots. There are five years in the record where the cumulative total for the entire winter was lower than these eight days in 1990.

Conclusion

Despite the lack of snow on the ground to this point in the year, the record shows that we are still likely to get enough snow to fill in the trails. We may need to wait until mid to late December, but it’s even possible we’ll eventually reach the long term average depth before spring.

Appendix

Here’s the R code used to generate the statistics, tables and plots from this post:

library(tidyverse)
library(lubridate)
library(scales)
library(knitr)

noaa <- src_postgres(host="localhost", dbname="noaa")

snow <- tbl(noaa, build_sql(
   "WITH wdoy_data AS (
         SELECT dte, dte - interval '120 days' as wdte,
            tmin_c, tmax_c, (tmin_c+tmax_c)/2.0 AS tavg_c,
            prcp_mm, snow_mm, snwd_mm
         FROM ghcnd_pivot
         WHERE station_name = 'FAIRBANKS INTL AP'
         AND dte > '1950-09-01')
   SELECT dte, date_part('year', wdte) AS wyear, date_part('doy', wdte) AS wdoy,
         to_char(dte, 'Mon DD') AS mmdd,
         tmin_c, tmax_c, tavg_c, prcp_mm, snow_mm, snwd_mm
   FROM wdoy_data")) %>%
   mutate(wyear=as.integer(wyear),
            wdoy=as.integer(wdoy),
            snwd_mm=as.integer(snwd_mm)) %>%
   select(dte, wyear, wdoy, mmdd,
            tmin_c, tmax_c, tavg_c, prcp_mm, snow_mm, snwd_mm) %>% collect()

write_csv(snow, "pafa_data_with_wyear_post_1950.csv")
save(snow, file="pafa_data_with_wyear_post_1950.rdata")

cum_snow <- snow %>%
   mutate(snow_na=ifelse(is.na(snow_mm),1,0),
         snow_mm=ifelse(is.na(snow_mm),0,snow_mm)) %>%
   group_by(wyear) %>%
   mutate(snow_mm_cum=cumsum(snow_mm),
         snow_na=cumsum(snow_na)) %>%
   ungroup() %>%
   mutate(snow_in_cum=round(snow_mm_cum/25.4, 1),
         snwd_in=round(snwd_mm/25.4, 0))

nov_18_snow <- cum_snow %>%
   filter(mmdd=='Nov 18') %>%
   select(wyear, snow_in_cum, snwd_in) %>%
   arrange(snow_in_cum)

decadal_avg <- nov_18_snow %>%
   mutate(decade=as.integer(wyear/10)*10) %>%
   group_by(decade) %>%
   summarize(`Snow depth`=mean(snwd_in),
            snwd_sd=sd(snwd_in),
            `Cumulative Snowfall`=mean(snow_in_cum),
            snow_cum_sd=sd(snow_in_cum))

decadal_averages <- ggplot(decadal_avg %>%
                              gather(variable, value, -decade) %>%
                              filter(variable %in% c("Cumulative Snowfall",
                                                      "Snow depth")),
                           aes(x=as.factor(decade), y=value, fill=variable)) +
            theme_bw() +
            geom_bar(stat="identity", position="dodge") +
            scale_x_discrete(name="Decade", breaks=c(1950, 1960, 1970, 1980,
                                                   1990, 2000, 2010)) +
            scale_y_continuous(name="Inches", breaks=pretty_breaks(n=10)) +
            scale_fill_discrete(name="Measurement")

print(decadal_averages)

date_x_scale <- cum_snow %>%
   filter(grepl(' (01|15)', mmdd), wyear=='1994') %>%
   select(wdoy, mmdd)

cumulative_snowfall <-
   ggplot(cum_snow %>% filter(wyear %in% c(1953, 1954, 2014, 2006, 1990),
                              wdoy>183,
                              wdoy<320),
            aes(x=wdoy, y=snow_in_cum, colour=as.factor(wyear))) +
   theme_bw() +
   geom_smooth(data=cum_snow %>% filter(wdoy>183, wdoy<320),
               aes(x=wdoy, y=snow_in_cum),
               size=0.5, colour="darkcyan",
               inherit.aes=FALSE,
               se=FALSE) +
   geom_line(position="jitter") +
   scale_x_continuous(name="",
                     breaks=date_x_scale$wdoy,
                     labels=date_x_scale$mmdd) +
   scale_y_continuous(name="Cumulative snowfall (in)",
                     breaks=pretty_breaks(n=10)) +
   scale_color_discrete(name="Winter year")

print(cumulative_snowfall)

snow_depth <-
   ggplot(cum_snow %>% filter(wyear %in% c(1953, 1954, 1962, 2014, 1990),
                              wdoy>183,
                              wdoy<320),
            aes(x=wdoy, y=snwd_in, colour=as.factor(wyear))) +
   theme_bw() +
   geom_smooth(data=cum_snow %>% filter(wdoy>183, wdoy<320),
               aes(x=wdoy, y=snwd_in),
               size=0.5, colour="darkcyan",
               inherit.aes=FALSE,
               se=FALSE) +
   geom_line(position="jitter") +
   scale_x_continuous(name="",
                     breaks=date_x_scale$wdoy,
                     labels=date_x_scale$mmdd) +
   scale_y_continuous(name="Snow Depth (in)",
                     breaks=pretty_breaks(n=10)) +
   scale_color_discrete(name="Winter year")

print(snow_depth)
tags: snow depth  snowfall  weather  climate  R 

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