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A Chill in the Air 17/07/2014

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Long Emergency, Mundane, Photography.
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Twin Cities ephemera: As much fun (and obsessive) as the process generally is, I’ve found it challenging lately to find / make time for this endeavor. One might think that by midsummer the garden would be “in”– way in — and coasting. But no.

True, the lettuce has been having a great season, with a seemingly nonstop string of cool weather and plenty of rain. Salad days indeed.

But I’ve had a bumper crop of crabgrass to deal with. And now the first fruit harvests are at hand. I’ve waded in jeans and long-sleeve shirt into the barbed patch of black raspberries three times, and have come out with almost enough to start a batch of wine. They’re still coming.

It’s an off year for cherries, before its first major pruning next winter. Only a single unblemished cherry came off the tree: I left the funky one to the ants that had already claimed it.

But there’s a medium-size bowl’s worth of red currants to do something with. And the black currant bush is fairly heavy with plump fruit that I plan to dry: Black currants are great with oatmeal and brown sugar.

At this point there’s no need to do anything but watch the elderberries: The green berries-to-be are small nodules, and most of the stems that hold the clusters of nodules have already turned from green to purple: a clue to what’s to come.

I start each day with a look at the thermometer and rain gauge, then stand at the deck railing and survey the small expanse of vegetation. My gaze this week is blessed with the purple rockets of blue vervain, and the satisfaction that they have grown from the small root that I buried in barely-thawed soil only three months ago. The awesome powers of nature . . .

But my gaze is not untroubled: In the process of my near-daily browse of the Minnpost.com site of Minnesota news and commentary, I came across an item that hits very close to home.  The nationwide organization ForestEthics has posted an interactive map  showing the routes and potential blast and evacuation zones relating to oil trains.

It confirms what I’ve known for a while: This place where I live, on a ridge overlooking the towers of the corporate district, is a danger zone. The single-track line that passes two blocks from my house is on the map. Over the past couple of years I’ve noted many more and longer trains, including some oil cars.

My neighborhood–or yours for that matter–could become a version of Lac Megantic, Quebec.


After that last forecast–for the days of the baseball All-Star Break–some closer-than-usual followup seems appropriate. There was rain the evening before–not the morning before–the Big Game (the Home Run Derby was delayed), but not in any problematic amount: only a quarter-inch at my place a few miles away, up to an inch in outlying spots.

The dominant factor that had the media buzzing was the wind shift: not merely the surface winds but the jet stream that tugged a blob of chilly air out of Canada in time for the opening pitch. (For more on the current phenomenon, see this.) A mostly-cloudy day–picturesque nonetheless–yielded to fair skies by game time, and an unseasonably cool and very dewy morning after to begin a glorious day of getting back to normal.


The main thing I neglected to take into account was Mercury’s entrance into Cancer two days before, crossing the Sun in the season chart. That was when the jet stream began sagging south. Mercury was retrograde in the season chart, promising some tricks later. When Mercury returned to the retrograde-station point–right around the time the game was ending–the tricksy weather made its impact.

One part of the forecast was closer to actuality: It was a close game, relatively low-scoring.


In a year in which the temperature has yet to reach 90F here, a general surge of heat is due–foretold by the tightening Mars-Jupiter square, with Mars soon to shift into its own sign and Jupiter already in fire-sign Leo.

But between the winter of the “polar vortex” mania and a cooler-than-average summer so far, the segment of the public not firmly embedded in denial has perhaps been shocked out of its expectations of “global warming forever.” (See Wiki’s list of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming.) Personally, I’ve thought for some time that “global weirding” was a much more appropriate term, more descriptive of the mental/emotional wrenching of this era, than “global climate change.”

But my research–hat tips to J and M–leads me to acceptance of the likelihood of a long-term chill. A lighter sleeper than I, it was J who put me on to the “Suspicious 0bservers” videos on Youtube: a new one each day summarizing the latest earth and space weather and relevant peer-reviewed scientific investigations. Perhaps their most cogent one that includes a historical perspective is a recent one that sketches out five seldom-mentioned climate change factors.

1. Earth’s weakening magnetosphere: The magnetic field has been weakening since the 17th century, and has weakened by ten percent since mid-19th century, and an additional five percent in the past ten years. There’s also a magnetic pole shift underway–the north pole more than the south so far.

2. There is a potential water formation mechanism above our heads: “star water” or “space water”: oxygen in upper reaches of atmosphere combining with solar hydrogen (especially coming from coronal mass ejection) to form hydroxyls and then water which would add to cloudiness of atmosphere.

3. A weaker magnetosphere means more hydrogen influx.

4. Cosmic rays make clouds, and a weaker magnetosphere means more penetration of such rays.

5. A Grand Minimum of sunspot activity (similar to the Maunder Minimum ~1645-1715, which coincided with the middle of the Little Ice Age), and therefore cosmic ray surges, may come very soon.

See the whole piece here, and follow the links to sources.

Thus a cooler–and more normal–regime is in the forecast.

From an astrohistorical perspective, the 2020s would appear to be the likely period of the critical shift: On the day of the Capricorn ingress 2020 (winter solstice for Northern Hemisphere dwellers), Jupiter and Saturn conjoin in the first degree of Aquarius. That alignment marks the start of what will constitute the essence of the two millennia of the Aquarian Age.

Capricorn Ingress 2020

A key feature of the chart is the square between Jupiter-Saturn and Uranus, with Uranus on the ascendant at Washington, DC. and Jupiter-Saturn (with Pluto) high in the sky (if the calculated time can be trusted). This portends far-reaching and profoundly disruptive political, economic — and environmental — changes unfolding that likely will force a precipitous end of the United States of America in its current territorial and governmental format. (Let’s leave aside for now the violent implications of the exact Mars-Pluto square.)

That’s news to virtually no one, since a sense that “this can’t continue” is so much in the air now.

But what seems rather curious–and potentially instructive–is the reversal of the configuration. In 2000, Jupiter-Saturn were in earth-sign Taurus, square to Uranus (and Neptune) in Aquarius: This was the moment of seeming stability before the mad unraveling that continues apace.

Were we lulled then into somnolence by the seeming ease of Y2K transition? Did we really buy into the notion that technological tweaking would solve all pressing problems? Did we collectively discount all the evidence that a predicament was bearing down upon us?

It would seem so. It would not be long before drones supplanted dreams.

It was twenty years after the anomalous Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in air-sign Libra, breaking the string of earth-sign conjunctions that began in 1840: the run that marked the most productive (or, from an Earth-centered point of view, rapacious) decades of the Industrial Revolution.

Soon the slope of inexorable unraveling steepens, bringing a distinct chill in the air.




All-Star Weather 07/07/2014

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Event, foraging, forecast, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It’s a sunny morning, very nearly half way through the summer–if one counts (as I do) the whole of June as the first month of that season. That’s a scary thought, after the long-drawn-out winter we had.

At least it began with a number of contacts with nature’s magnificence. In the process of checking the rain gauge, I disturbed a monarch flutterby–the only one I’ve seen here this year–from feeding amongst the clump of milkweed. Then I made a cursory inspection of the herb garden, noting the flowers just beginning to form on the anise hyssop and blue vervain, as well as the explosion of blue blossoms on the borage. Even the twisty flower stalks of the volunteer plantain were intriguing.

Come and get it, you pollinators.

Returning inside, my attention was caught by the movement of a fox through the tangle outside the sunroom: third sighting in the past two months.

I got out of town for the Fourth–as well as the second, third, fifth and half of the sixth. On the Fourth, I was camping with M and another couple at Frontenac State Park: part forest, part prairie, perched on the top of a steep-sided hill overlooking Lake Pepin, a naturally-dammed section of the Mississippi River. Noting the turkey vultures circling above, I looked down at the muddy water of the “lake”: a result, probably of the copious rains. (Over much of the region, this past June set the all-time rain record.) That muddy appearance is merely the latest evidence that the “lake” is rapidly filling with sediment from agricultural runoff, most of it from the Minnesota River valley.

It’s not a must-see for me, but as fireworks time approached I accompanied my cohort to the small picnic area, where there was an excellent view to the south over a considerable stretch of water, the hills of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the small town of Lake City (birthplace of water skiing). It was a modest-sized, remarkably sedate and courteous crowd: A retirement-age man came over to us, seated on the hard bench of a picnic table, and offered us the use of two extra chairs that would be more comfortable. As the sky darkened, we could spot distant silent eruptions of light from half a dozen spots in the town. But we left too soon and missed the main show.

By dawn on the fifth–now under the weather regime of the First Quarter Moon, dominated in this longitudinal zone by the energetic and turbulent Mars-Uranus axis–the wind had risen. And it continued through the day and following night. A thin layer of clouds gathered but yielded, at daybreak, only a smidgen of moisture.

That’s alright: We’re wet enough.

But one foraging-related recognition came out of my time at Frontenac: The very familiar three-leafed  vine I found there (also present in a shady section of my yard) is commonly called ground bean (Amphicarpaea bracteata). The excellent photos in Samuel Thayer’s Forager’s Harvest, which I had on hand, confirmed it beyond doubt.

Though it is ordinary-looking in the extreme, and provides a highly nutritious but rather labor-intensive food, Thayer describes a remarkable characteristic:

“If, as is often the case, the ground bean plant does not receive sufficient sunlight to produce these aerial beans, it has a superb backup plan: It starts acting like a perennial. It produces one or two inconspicuous flowers, without petals, at or near the ground. These flowers are self-fertile and guaranteed to set seed. Each produces a single bean that is much larger than an aerial seed. The parent vine then pushes these larger beans into the soil–in essence, planting itself.”

I now imagine that, come September, I’ll be doing a bit of on-my-knees foraging in the area where heretofore I’ve only been yanking out the pesky vines.


Plenty of excitement–and anxiety–attends preparations for the spectacles surrounding the major-league baseball all-star game, scheduled to begin 15 July, at 7:04 p.m. And since the venue, Target Field here in Minneapolis, is roofless, weather forecasters will be working overtime. Satellites and radar are very nearly useless in providing a sense of weather more than a week in advance, but planetary indications have no such limitations.

For the Full Moon week beginning 12 July, the basic forecast, issued a month ago, is for “dry and warmer overall, with gradual increase in incidence of sudden local storms.” Some of these storms will likely be severe: The Full Moon occurs soon after sunrise and coincides with the monthly lunar perigee (what some call a “Super Moon”), and the Full Moon forms one axis of a cosmic cross (the other being Mars-Uranus).

Overall good weather is indicated by Jupiter on the eastern horizon at the time of the Full Moon, but that is complicated by Mars eighty-four degrees ahead: slowly approaching the exact “square” on 2 August. Mars-Jupiter is the warm-and-storms combination.

With lunar motion as a key timing indicator, it appears that flood-threatening rains–especially in this longitude–are likely to hold off until Moon crosses the place of the next planet, Neptune, at the upper meridian of the season chart. That will occur mid-morning (Central time) on Game Day.

A fair-weather factor will also be in play, though a day too soon to suit the crowds: The Sun one degree away from Jupiter’s place in the season chart.

My analysis: High likelihood of torrential rains on Game Day that will test the state-of-the-art design of Target Field, local transportation facilities and storm drainage infrastructure, and a lovely day-after for surveying the situation.

The game itself: a close, low-scoring contest.



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