The U.S. has a coronavirus vaccine, and doses of the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine are expected in the Philly region this week. First up to be vaccinated are health-care workers. And the work of a University of Pennsylvania scientist formed the backbone of this COVID-19 vaccine with a bit of clever biochemistry. Learn more about the history of the science involved here.

Also this week, I chatted with weather reporter Anthony R. Wood about his work and how much snow we might expect this winter. Turns out, it’s harder to predict snowfall than you might think.

— Lauren Aguirre (@laurencaguirre, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

The week ahead

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Behind the story with Tony Wood

Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with reporter Anthony R. Wood, who usually covers weather and has literally written the book on snow.

Why did you become a reporter and how did you get into weather reporting?

I’ve been into writing since grade school. I wanted to start a newspaper in eighth grade to report on the surreal happenings in my classroom; I didn’t, which probably spared me from expulsion. In high school and college I worked on the newspapers, and on exams far preferred essay questions to actually having to know something.

As for weather, I’m amazed that more people aren’t writing about it or aren’t intensely interested in it at the very least. The atmosphere is truly high drama. What could be more fascinating than chaos? It’s the ultimate live event, not to mention our life-support system. How sad that people would prefer a 55-inch screen over an enchanting snowfall or a sunset or a walk in the moonlight to admire all those never-ending tree branches out there. And as a reporter, one bonus that I particularly like about weather is that it comes with quite an extensive public record.

Will the Philly area get substantial snow this winter?

Beware of anyone who says they have an answer. In fact, I’m working on a story addressing that very question. For a variety of reasons, snowfall is stunningly random, and doesn’t even track that well with winter temperatures. But everyone wants to know “how much,” and that’s understandable. I like to say rain is of the earth; snow is of the universe.

Is there anything you’ve learned in your reporting that has surprised you?

Oh my, I wouldn’t even know where to start. In terms of weather, one thing that ceaselessly amazes is what I call weather amnesia. So many people appear to have virtually no memory even of recent weather. Our memories are so affected by what is happening now, and that speaks to your fourth question. The irony is, as mentioned above, the nation has a remarkable public weather record, and you can easily find out what the weather was like in Philadelphia in the 1870s.

What’s something you think is commonly misunderstood about the weather or weather patterns?

The world continues to warm, that is unmistakable, but embedded within that trend is a remarkable cyclicality. Warm and cold winters have occurred in clusters in the past, as have active and quiet hurricane seasons. Winters in the last 30 years definitely have trended warmer, but a decade between the world wars was about as warm. That all likely has something to do with slow changes in the oceans, which cover most of the Earth. Another important point is that disaster costs have soared, but that has a whole lot do with unwise human development.

What do you do for fun in your free time? Are you looking forward to anything within the next year?

I don’t know if it qualifies as “free” time, but I work on other writing projects when I’m not on company time. Otherwise, I have an insatiable appetite for mind pudding; a late-night retro TV show or mindless movie with the sound turned down will work. It’s something you have to do alone; I can’t explain it. My wife and I do walk a lot. I just had a book published, Snow, and I’m looking forward to author events and to conquering my Zoom-a-phobia.

Email Tony Wood at twood@inquirer.com.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

This is a great view of the third annual festive display on Kimball Street near the Italian Market. Thanks for sharing, @fleming.philly.photog!

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout-out!

How to feel creative again, according to Philly creatives

If you’re having difficulty finding motivation or getting into a creative flow these days, you’re not alone. And if you feel like you’re in a rut, there’s probably a good reason for it. The pandemic has upended many of our usual routines that help keep our thoughts organized. The key now is building new rituals that help us get there. Need ideas? Here’s what worked for a few Philly creatives.

What we’re…

Comment of the week

“Wishing Makyla good luck, an encouraging story, and I hope this young girl’s interest in fulfilling dreams through work and study continues. Makyla has a bright future ahead of her.” — zorro_dd6f9, on Out of the coronavirus doldrums, this Queen Village middle-schooler created her own pastry business.

Your Daily Dose of | Meteor showers

Look up at the sky tonight. The annual Geminid meteor shower is set to peak in the early morning hours of Monday. As many as 150 meteors an hour, with intermittent fireballs possible, could be visible near 2 a.m. But if weather conditions aren’t great or you don’t want to be outside that early, NASA will be live-streaming it starting at 9 p.m. Sunday.