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Hot Time 28/03/2013

Posted by zoidion in History, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It’s another brilliantly sunny and rapidly-warming day, after a twenty-two degree dawn with a gorgeous setting full moon. The temperature broke the forty-degree mark yesterday, the third consecutive day with a high above freezing, with each night below freezing.

One might think this slow snowmelt is a good thing, and it would be if the ground hadn’t been so dry last fall before the freeze; but this moisture can’t soak into the “concrete frost.” Much of the Red River valley is preparing for flooding, especially if heavy rains come (which I don’t expect).

Unlike last year’s record warmth, this March has seen a good pattern for maple sap gathering. Someone I know in the local food foraging scene had collected thirteen gallons of sap as of two days ago.

There’s still about six inches of snow in my yard, and the melt from the garage roof has filled my two rain barrels. One of them is actually mostly an ice barrel, and the other—covered until a few weeks ago—has a floating layer of ice; I noticed that yesterday, and got out there with a ratchet wrench to remove the low-hanging downspout before the ice rose enough to put a kink in it.

As for my raised garden beds, I’m taking a variety of approaches to preparing them for the growing season. With one, I’ve just left the snow in place. With one, I laid down a blue tarp to help the snow melt faster. And with the third, I shoveled off the snow and laid down black plastic bags—I think that one will be the kale bed, but when will I dare install them? Today’s the day to set the kale seedlings outside on the deck to begin the “hardening off” process—I’ll bring them back inside for the night.


From the beginning of my study of astronomical correlations with weather patterns, I’ve wrestled with the question of how much significance should be accorded to sign lords (i.e., “ruling planets”) for the specific place indicator and Sun and Moon signs. By “place indicator,” I mean the lower meridian, the vertical line at the bottom of the chart: the spot that shows “here.” Sign lords of the Sun and Moon signs enter the picture according to whether the chart represents the season—in which case the solar ingress into Aries, Cancer, Libra or Capricorn is the representative moment—or the week—when the phase of the Moon is the key moment.

A good example of this is the summer solstice—Cancer ingress—chart set for New York City in 1896. That summer included a nine-day heat wave that contributed to hundreds of deaths there among tenement- and apartment-dwellers: an event chronicled by Edward P. Kohn in Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt. Above 90-degree (F) days and nighttime lows of 75 or higher in that burgeoning urban heat island began on 5 August.

The core factor for that particular season is the sign of Pisces—an overall cool and damp indicator—on the place indicator. Was that summer mostly cool and damp? Having not read the book (so far I’ve only seen the blurb in the Daedalus Books catalog), I don’t know. But I suspect it was.

But the sign lord of Pisces is Jupiter in the hot fire sign of Leo in the eighth house of crisis and death. And the sign lord of Cancer is the Moon in the sign of Scorpio, promising extremes, and the sign lord of Scorpio is rising-temperature-indicator Mars in the hot fire sign of Aries.

These points are the season’s potential and promise.


As for timing, two lunations signify activation. The last-quarter Moon at the start of August showed both Sun and Moon connecting with Jupiter in the solar ingress chart—the Sun, obvious indicator of heat, directly aligning with Jupiter, the premier fair-weather symbol, in Leo where the Sun is sign lord. In the New Moon chart for 9 August, the Sun (and Moon) has all but caught up with Jupiter—an annual occurrence. The heat wave began as the Moon crossed into the sign of Cancer and the Sun’s place in the season chart. On the last day of the heat wave, the Sun was one degree past Jupiter.

The rising-temperature factor of Mars in the season chart came into play during the last-quarter phase, as Mars, now in Taurus, attained a sixty-degree angle to the season place indicator in the twenty-third degree of Pisces. Simultaneously, the potential for rare, even  unprecedented, conditions was represented in the last-quarter chart: the Mars-Uranus axis aligning with the local horizon (symbolized by the horizontally-bisected circle). And indications for excessive fair weather were aptly represented at the next lunation by the  new moon (with Jupiter) at midnight chart (symbolized by the vertically-bisected circle exactly opposite the Sun and Moon).

The personal star of Theodore Roosevelt continued its rise through this crisis as the thirty-seven-year-old police commissioner led efforts to get ice to overcrowded and unventilated tenements and use the plenteous water supply to cool the baking pavement. This face-to-face experience with the living conditions of the working poor helped Roosevelt win the governorship of New York two years later, and the vice presidency under William McKinley in 1900. When McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, the Republican Party old guard’s “damned cowboy” was suddenly president. The rest is history.


Winter Won’t Quit 19/03/2013

Posted by zoidion in Weather.
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Twin Cities weather report: The days are getting long, but the nights—and days—remain cold. The latest Alberta clipper arrived here around first light on Monday, perfectly timed to snarl a lot of folks’ morning commute—poor sods. A few more inches of snow fell out of the sky before the wind shifted to the northwest and shifted to wind-chill speed.

That was about the time M and I arrived by bus at the small but energetic rally opposing the Keystone XL2 pipeline, planned to send more oil-sands oil out of Alberta. This action had been called over the weekend, following the announcement by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) that she would vote in favor of the pipeline. A month ago, a rally of many thousands from across the country gathered in Washington to call on the President to nix it, but in the absence of any decision from the White House, the Senate has claimed authority. Is this federal government dysfunctional or what? Wasn’t there, once upon a time, a constitution that defined the roles of various branches of government? Or  has it all become far too big, too Byzantine?

At one point during the rally, word went around that nine people would be allowed into the Senator’s local office to talk about the issue. Then a city cop car showed up at the building entrance and soon left, though I couldn’t quite see whether anyone had been shown into the back seat. Soon after that, the message filtered through the crowd of about fifty: no meeting. No surprise.

So why show up? I went with no illusion that one vote in that far-away, out-of-touch chamber would change. No, I went simply to be another body in a small crowd, to refuse to be passive and accepting of the insanity of the day.

I had spent some time Sunday evening delving into the petro-state dysfunction of the province of Alberta, and Canada as a whole. It’s really quite a mess, just as spectacular, just as teetering-on-the-abyss, as the one south of the forty-ninth parallel. For the past several months I’ve been aware of the Idle No More movement’s opposition to violations of tribal lands for pipeline shipments of the very dirty oil coming out of Alberta. More recently I picked up on reports that Alberta has been running large governmental deficits for the past five years, despite—or because of—the tar sands mining. (It seems the only country that has managed oil wealth well in long-term principles is Norway.) I found a remarkably sharp analysis—“Alberta’s Strange Sinking Sensation”—by Andrew Nikiforuk of The Tyee newspaper/web site based in Vancouver.

But I recognize the essential futility of fighting a destructive system without primarily building an alternative, constructive one. So I turned to one of my favorite sites, Resilience.org. There I found Dan Allen’s two-part piece on local food systems organized around the concept of polyculture: the growing of many crops on a small scale.

I’m quite convinced that food production and/or simple processing are things that most people can do to some degree. I have little in the way of technical skills, but I can and do implement ways of treating my place as a homestead rather than a consumption zone. That means, in part, helping my yard become an edible landscape. And though I have much to learn before I dare call myself an experienced gardener, I have begun the process and urge others to do so, whenever opportunity arises.

As Allen says:

“I think there’s an awful lot we can do now – that we must do now – to give ourselves and the planet the best shot of coming out of this in one piece. And I think that most of these things (aside from hastening the collapse of the industrial earth-destroying machine), involve the manner in which we get our food. And please don’t wait around for BigAg Inc. (and its subsidiary, the US government) to start doing anything useful. Because they won’t. They have very clearly cast their policy vote for the mass murder-suicide of the industrial model of agriculture. It’s up to us – you and me. We need to do this ourselves.”

To summarize the context, Allen lays out ten premises regarding the prospects forf food production in the years ahead:

#1: The Earth’s climate is destabilizing.

#2. Our agriculture is adapted to the stable Holocene climate. (The past 10,000 years.)

#3. Climate destabilization will severely stress agriculture.

#4. Collapse of industrial civilization will magnify the climatic stresses.

#5. Agriculture will unavoidably shrink in scale and technological complexity.

#6. Ecological complexity in agriculture will necessarily replace technological complexity.

#7. A polyculture of perennial vegetation has the best chance of providing food for humans in the future.

#8. Our current ‘leaders’ will not aid the necessary transition to an ecologically-sound perennial agriculture – they will hinder it.

#9. Local responses are possible, necessary, and should begin as soon as possible.

#10. We may not succeed, but we must try.

It’s ironic, though, that in the midst of this, a new appliance—a gas stove—arrived at my place and got hooked up—ultimately to the Alberta oil-sands and gas fields. I had no affection for the old, broken-down electric model—which had also been connected a bit less directly to Alberta: the power plant, just across the railroad tracks, converted from coal to natural gas a few years ago. But I was annoyed at the new models available: among those that would fit our situation, not a ding-dang one had mechanical controls for the oven; no, they have to have circuit-board controls that are not repairable—a boon to the “repair” business, if they manage to keep a replacement board in stock. And the new stove doesn’t have a handy level shelf atop the control board, but rather a curvy plastic thingy—meltable!—that’s metallic-coated. Newer is not better.

As the view out the window continues to be predominantly white, I continue to wonder about the indications for our spring in this area—particularly, when will the snow melt. When can planting begin? And even more important: Will winter’s precipitation pattern continue?

As I’ve written in earlier posts, the primary indication of the chart for spring temperature and moisture potential—cast for 20 March 2013, 6:02 a.m. CDT, Minneapolis—is Gemini and the planet Jupiter at the lower meridian (where the sun would be at midnight). Those factors foretell a mostly dry and cool season. As C.C. Zain says, in Weather Predicting, of Gemini:

[It] is a cold and drafty sign. Its influence in the Temperature Chart may be considered as favoring cold weather. However, it may also be considered to favor rapid changes and variable temperatures. . . . No other sign is as windy as Gemini. . . . Gemini is bone dry, even though cold. It does not favor rain, and even tends to blow fog and mist away. . . .  Only when the rest of a weather chart shows rain does it play any part with precipitation. Then it indicates that it will be a driving rain, or rain which is part of a wind storm.


The addition of Jupiter to the mix increases the dryness. With the cold air sign Aquarius on the Ascendant at this latitude, a further drought factor is included; further south and east, however, water sign Pisces rises—thus, contrary to expectations of some of the techno-weather folks, I expect that sections of the American midsection south and east of central Missouri will fare somewhat better for much-needed rainfall along with fair growing weather.

As for warming, the prospects are for a gradual trend at best: There are no warming factors (the Sun or Mars) in position to cross the Ascendant, to indicate a surge of warmth. The Sun and Mars, scheduled for conjunction on 17 April at twenty-eight degrees Aries, will both make a slightly-warming sixty-degree angle to our local Ascendant for the season in the week previous—that should be our most notable warming period.

The best chances for rain in this area through May are the weeks of 27 March (following the Full Moon), 2 April (during the last quarter of the lunar cycle), 18 April (from first quarter to Full Moon), 2 May (last quarter), 17 May (second quarter) and 24 May (Full Moon). I suspect that the rain of the week of 18 April is likely to be a near-miss for this area, with perhaps heavy rain just to our east, as indicated by the first-quarter moon at twenty-eight-and-a-half degrees of water sign Cancer, with twenty-nine degrees of Cancer on the lower meridian.

One of the more “interesting” episodes of wet weather appears to be scheduled for the week following the Full Moon of April, but not for this area; that Full Moon is also a lunar eclipse (not visible in North America) in conjunction with Saturn in water sign Scorpio, so where that sign is located on the lower meridian (western United States and Canada), extreme conditions can occur.  In the astromap below, the Moon and Saturn lines, marking where each is conjunct the lower meridian, are indicated by the dark-blue and brown rectangles near the bottom of the graphic.


(I note that my earlier anticipation of snowmelt flooding on the western slopes of the Appalachians did not play out, as the rainy system veered to the northeast, following the last quarter moon of 4 March.)

All this talk of wished-for rain brings to mind a photo of a plant-nursery sign that a friend sent me (thanks, MW): “It’s spring! I’m so excited I wet my plants.”

Addenda 20 March: Check out these two nationwide temperature maps—graphic representations of the regions dominated in the astronomical charts by cold Gemini. The western regions showing warmer conditions are dominated seasonally by temperate Taurus.



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