Earlier Posts

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me… El Niño!

We’ve been sick. Here’s why.

“Most people are above average height.”

– A Housing Works customer who either doesn’t understand how averages work or believes that everyone with stunted growth is acting as an outlier.

I haven’t written any posts recently, because not a whole lot has happened over here and we’ve both been quite sick lately. Besides the last post about finding my name in other countries, I haven’t checked in since we went and sat front row for The Book of Mormon, so this will just be a quick update. I originally started writing this on Friday, November 11, but I haven’t been particularly well for the last week or so. However we’ll get to that soon because there is more important news:


Anna and her grandmother, circa February, 2009

On Sunday, November 29th, Anna’s true maternal grandmother, Mary Ho, passed away at the age of 97. She was always a cool woman, resplendent in her ornate pant-suits and, although she spoke very little English, I was always made to feel welcome by her.

We both wanted to travel back to Malaysia for the wake and the funeral, but, financially, it just wasn’t feasible for us both to go when you consider Singapore’s current economic shape, so Anna went alone. The flight there was 24 hours long, taking her from the mild beginnings of a New York winter and plunging her deep into South-East Asia’s monsoon season.
Anna was to return to New York in the middle of the afternoon on Monday, December 7th and when she arrived home she was greeted by something she wasn’t expecting to see; Me. I had had a cold for most of the weekend and I’m not sure if that contributed or not, but I had a seizure in my sleep on the Sunday night, my first since coming to New York and first overall in about six months. It wasn’t a huge one, but it still knocked me around pretty badly. Anna, being hermetically sealed in a plane for a day at a time and being perpetually jet-lagged, as well as having gone from winter to the tropics and back again in a space of six days, got sick, too, and she got it bad. I don’t know if she got it from me or not, but we aren’t the only people here who have been sick; Everyone in New York is brimming with snot.

I guess the easiest explanation is the bizarre, unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing and of which we can expect more of here in New York.
Apparently, last year’s winter here was brutal. To put it in perspective, on December 11, last year, New York had an inch (2.5 cm) of snow. Last Friday, December 11th, was 16°C (60.8°F) and sunny. In fact, the last few days have been as follows:

  • Saturday: 19°C (66.2°F) – 13°C (55.4°F)
  • Sunday: 19°C (66.2°F) – 13°C (55.4°F)
  • Monday: 18°C (64.4°F) – 14°C (57.2°F)

And tomorrow we can expect 16°C (60.8°F) – 7°C (44.6°F). Yup, it has been far warmer overnight here than it should. In fact, to truly put it in perspective, my home town, Traralgon, was expecting a maximum of 19°C (66.2°F) and a minimum of 7°C (44.6°F) on Friday and they are in the second week of Summer in Australia. We’re getting the same temperatures in the second week of Winter in New York!


The daily average low (blue) and high (red) temperature with percentile bands (inner band from 25th to 75th percentile, outer band from 10th to 90th percentile).

But what should it really be like? Well, according to this graph (left), the average high should be 44°F, or around 6.6°C. Due to America’s resistance to all things metric, that graph might be a little difficult for most to interpret, so here are some details from the source and I’ve added temperatures in Celsius:

This report describes the typical weather at the New York City (New York, United States) weather station over the course of an average December. It is based on the historical records from 1974 to 2012. Earlier records are either unavailable or unreliable.
The month of December is characterized by falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs decreasing from 48°F [8.8°C] to 41°F [5°C] over the course of the month, exceeding 59°F [15°C] or dropping below 29°F [-1.6] only one day in ten.

In other words, the temperature is double (in Celsius, at least) what it should be and a term that I haven’t heard in about 18 years is getting thrown around again; El Niño. And it makes sense, too. According to Wikipedia‘s page on the effects of El Niño on North America:

Winters, during the El Niño effect, are warmer and drier than average in the Northwest, northern Midwest, and upper Northeast United States, so those regions experience reduced snowfalls. Meanwhile, significantly wetter winters are present in northwest Mexico and the southwest United States, including central and southern California, while both cooler and wetter than average winters in northeast Mexico and the Southeastern United States (including the Tidewater region of Virginia) occur during the El Niño phase of the oscillation.

Whether that’s the reason we’re all getting sick or not is beyond me, but it helps explain this strange weather. I hate the cold, so this is a welcome relief to me.

Anyway, on the 24th we will be traveling to Guatemala for a week, including a stay in Tikal to check out some Mayan ruins, and then onto Honduras so Anna can do some volunteer surgeries for a few days, but you should hear from me before then.

R.I.P. Mary Ho, 1918-2015.

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