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The Storm That Stopped the Boom 15/10/2012

Posted by zoidion in Weather.
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Twin Cities weather report: The rain came on Saturday: less than one-tenth inch of it, with an occasional light breeze. There were maybe five minutes when rain fell hard enough to visibly bounce off the pavement. So my forecast was slightly correct. Thinking about it on Sunday, I recalled that Venus in the Libra ingress chart was east of the meridian (and in the south), indicating—duh!—that, in general, rainfall would go in that direction. And so it did.

Apparently Iowa got a good dose. Good for them: they baked all summer. But now we’re hurtin’, the rivers and lakes dropping way more than usual for this time of year. According to Bill McAuliffe at the StarTribune:

The Minnesota River at Jordan [about 15 miles upstream from the Minnesota’s confluence with the Mississippi, near the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport] was down to one-seventh of its historical average for the date. State rivers are contributing so little to the Mississippi that three-fourths of the water in the river downstream from La Crosse is now from the Wisconsin and Chippewa rivers.

Part of that time on Saturday, I was at the Twin Cities Book Festival, organized by the local Rain Taxi Review of Books, held this time at the Progress Center (gotta snort at that one) at the State Fair grounds. The author reading by Candace Savage, presenting her newly published A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, was vivid in its imagery and emotionally moving; it is a combination of geography, geology, history and memoir, centered on the misnamed Cypress Hills area of southern Saskatchewan. Before she signed my copy of the book, I asked Ms. Savage about a detail from her talk: the “saskatoon berries.” I had heard of the city, seen it on the map—I grew up poring over maps of “real” places and conjuring up some of my own—but berries? The same as serviceberries, she said. A reminder that though the language is much the same along most of the U.S.-Canada border, there is a great deal of cultural difference. (Note to self: as the American Empire continues to contract and implode, it behooves those living in border states to pay attention to developments on the other side.)

The Progress Center was buzzing with a fine crowd of lit lovers (including a sizeable contingent of parents with young children), reps of established small presses and upstarts, first-time self-publishers hawking their titles. It was interesting to note some of the gimmicks used to attract attention, sales, word of mouth. One was the “literary caricature” spot, where one could plunk oneself down in a chair before a chubby-faced red-haired man with full beard and requisite round spectacles, and the latter would engage the subject in conversation and pour forth impressions on a sheet of paper from a manual typewriter. Good gimmick! Though I didn’t sit for him, I did stop by the adjacent table and buy the first two issues of 32, so named because Minnesota was/is the thirty-second state (the last to enter the Union before the War Between the States).

My third buy, from one of a number of used book vendors, was All Hell Broke Loose, a collection of accounts by survivors of the regionally notorious Armistice Day 1940 blizzard. It still ranks number one as the storm with greatest statewide impact since settlement began. (The switch from mild, rainy weather to heavy snow with a howling wind and an extreme drop in temperature, happened on a day with a rare astronomical event: Mercury, retrograde, crossing the disc of the Sun—similar to the transit of Venus  this past June 5.) Most people were caught unprepared for the abrupt change. Officially, 59 people—most of them hunters and motorists—and countless livestock, poultry and waterfowl died in the storm.


Today, October 15, Britons—especially those in the southeast—are remembering the Great Storm of 1987, when a hurricane-force storm felled an estimated 15 million trees. It ushered in an era of more varied tree cultivation, and more habitat for endangered species of wildlife. And it played a role in bringing the Thatcher economic boom years to an end, as financiers—who mostly resided in the storm area—were unable to drive to their City offices to respond to the emerging Wall Street stock market panic. Many small players who only recently had entered the stock game lost their money and their faith.

Again, trickster Mercury was a major player, turning stationary retrograde the next day, as the winds abated. (Just before the storm hit that Thursday evening, television meteorologist Michael Fish issued a most fishy forecast for a “perfect weekend.”) A week before, slowing in forward motion, Mercury had crossed the position of Pluto, and would re-cross it twice more in the five weeks to come. Though George J. McCormack, self-publishing his Text-Book of Long-Range Weather Forecasting in the 1940s, did not include Pluto, it appears that its prominence correlates with great, though concentrated, devastation.

In the preceding lunation chart—for the fourth quarter Moon on the 14th—the Moon was close to the lower meridian: not in itself an indication of a severe storm, but rather one of rapidly changing local conditions (Moon in cardinal sign Cancer). Out-of-the-ordinary change was shown by the Moon “out of bounds”—in extreme north declination. And a high potential for destruction: Mars close to the equinoctial point (i.e., early Libra) and closely aligned with Pluto by declination.

The timing of this storm’s arrival in the southeast of England illustrates a couple of points made by McCormack (p. 100):

Make note of the Moon’s transits over the ascendant or descendant [of the previous ingress chart], or midway between any of these four points. These aspects bring to manifestation the seven and three-and-a-half day cycles of changes during periods of freak weather, i.e., when the major planets hold important positions. Note further those days when the Moon is in perigee, in the celestial equator, or in maximum north declination as periods of excessive humidity and barometric pressure, hence tending to intensify existing atmospheric disturbances.

I have already noted the Moon’s maximum north declination (bringing more lunar tidal force to bear upon the northern hemisphere). Come midnight between the 15th and 16th, when the sound of crashing trees rivaled the roar of the wind, the Moon was at 5 Leo, rising in the east after crossing the midway point between the upper and lower meridian in the Libra ingress chart. Moon was at apogee, though (farthest from Earth).

One more factor  doesn’t appear in the middle chart below, the one for the seasonal Libra ingress chart. It can be inferred, though, from the positions of Sun, Moon and lunar node, all early in the sign of Libra: a solar eclipse occurred just hours before the ingress, when Sun and Moon were in the last degree of Virgo.

Is the eclipse relevant to this atmospheric rampage? Not so much because it was on equinox day. McCormack says (pp. 97-98):

The popular idea that equinoctial storms coincide with the Sun’s passage over the celestial equator at the equinoxes is not supported by practical observations. Our own experiences indicate that the relative positions of the planets at or near the time of Sun’s equinoxes are largely the causes of such atmospheric phenomena, particularly if any celestial bodies then occupy the early degrees of cardinal signs [Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn]. . . . Voluminous statistics . . .  confirm Ptolemy’s admonitions that eclipses are the forerunners of earthquakes, droughts, famines, inundations, epidemics and other major causes, including political mutations or wars. [emphasis mine]

So what configuration(s) does this eclipse contain? Mars in square to Saturn and Uranus (approximately 90 degrees apart)—that’s the big one. And according to McCormack, Mars-Saturn correlates with “conflicting currents in the atmosphere, promoting varying winds and destructive storms in the lowlands”; Mars-Uranus is “provocative of wind velocity.” Another, involving Mercury (“concerned with wind pressure”) again, is an exact-to-the-degree connection with Uranus, bringing in the element of the sudden, the unanticipated, the historic; with Mercury conjunct the place of the previous lunar eclipse, and with the Mercury-Uranus midpoint conjunct the lower meridian, well, the deal with at least the longitude of southeast England was sealed.

The rest is history, twenty-five years ago today.



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