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Damage Done 26/06/2013

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: A twenty-five minute hurricane blew through here in the hour before sundown on Solstice Day. Up here on the relative heights of Minneapolis, lots of trees came down, along with two inches of rain. That’s right: two inches of rain in less than half an hour.

It was what the meteorologists now are calling “bow echo” storms, characterized by sixty-to-seventy mile-per-hour winds (with gusts even higher) and torrential rains. The damage path was twenty to twenty-five miles wide, and, according to Paul Douglas, equivalent to an EF-0 tornado. Estimates of eight hundred trees felled in Minneapolis and five hundred in St. Paul are in recent reports. And nearly six hundred thousand customers lost electric power for hours or days afterwards.

While I await the arrival of my rain gauge to begin reporting for the CoCoRaHS observer network, I’m using a crude receptacle to estimate rainfall: an old galvanized tub. It was empty at the moment of the solstice at 12:05 a.m. on the 21st, and began collecting rain a couple hours later. When the third rainstorm ended on the morning of the 22nd, it held about four-and-a-quarter inches. (That’s our monthly average for June.)

The weekend overall saw many places in the southern third of Minnesota affected by local flooding. Coming just after the anniversary of the great Duluth area flood of 2012, it’s forcing more people to wake up to the nature of our collective predicament: game over for “normal,” comfortable, predictable lives.

The deluge may have helped my yard ecology, contaminated earlier in the week by Mr. Tru-Green next door. I could see the mist of the anti-Japanese beetle insecticide drifting over onto my vegetables as I yelled, This is outrageous, that you can legally do this!!

But I have no way of knowing what damage it’s done (and could still do), just as I had no prior notice and no opportunity to at least cover up the vegetables.

This is what some people have to deal with, who see the importance of ecological restoration and food production on urban lots. We get absolutely no consideration in the matter, while those who want to keep chickens or bees have to get written approval from neighbors and pay a fee to get a permit from the city. That ain’t right. That is so not right.

While the solstice storm was striking here, a much greater scale of damage was already done through much of the Canadian province of Alberta, where life in metropolitan Calgary—“capital” of the tar sands extraction region—and beyond was severely disrupted. Much of the infrastructure was crippled, and the occupants of more than 100,000 homes were forced to evacuate. (Meanwhile, temperature records in the mid-nineties were being set in southwest Alaska: hotter than Miami, Florida.)

Columnist Andrew Nikiforuk of the Vancouver-based Tyee news organization reported:

The historic deluge re-arranged much geography in the Rocky Mountains, shut down Canada’s fourth largest city, destroyed the Calgary Zoo, crippled the city’s light rapid transit system, flooded scores of neighbourhoods and turned several Aboriginal communities and towns such as High River into full scale disaster zones. Damages to bridges, roads, towns and homes could exceed $5 billion.

This Youtube video shows the washout of the Trans Canada Highway as well as rail tracks at Canmore.

The stalled rainstorm that produced these floods occurred during the week following the First Quarter Moon of 16 June. Several things stand out in a comparison of that chart with the season chart.


Factor number one for interpreting the nature of the season is the sign Taurus on the lower meridian—ordinarily a pleasant and moist indicator. But the solar eclipse on 9 May fell two degrees from that meridian (the previous eclipse on 13 November 2012 fell exactly on the upper meridian). That is a likely-crisis indicator.

Taurus’ domicile ruler is Venus, whose keynote, according to George J. McCormack, is “humidity and warmth, and its general tendency weatherwise is to make moisture pregnant.” Venus in the season chart is in flood-prone Pisces, where Neptune (relating to freak situations) also resides.

It is the movement of Venus that appears to be the key factor in timing this event: Venus’ arrival at the local horizon (on the right side of the chart: the outer ring). Venus arrived at that point on the 17th, trailing about-to-go-retrograde Mercury before passing Mercury (usually the faster planet) on Solstice Day. And Venus is in water sign Cancer.

Another timing factor: The meridian and horizon of the First Quarter (1Q) chart clicked in with the season chart.  The meridian “flipped”: The upper meridian was at the place of the season’s lower meridian, while the 1Q Ascendant was exactly aligned with Neptune in the season chart.

The 1Q declination table shows the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter parallel: all within a range of 22.4 and 23.7 degrees north of the celestial equator. That is an unusual form of conjunction power: a get-one / get-‘em-all situation. With Mercury, then Venus, crossing the horizon of the season chart, the cosmic and atmospheric conditions were set for the location of Calgary and vicinity.

It is a cruel irony that the region’s tar sands operations require vast amounts of water, yet there was little in the way of a stream monitoring system in place to help hydrologists assess the dangers and issue warnings. The devastated Rocky Mountain town of Canmore, where the Trans-Canada Highway was cut, was overwhelmed before a flood warning was even issued.

Nikiforuk outlines how this gap came to be:

In the 1970s, the federal government set up the Inland Waters Directorate, in part to map and stop development on flood plains in the prairies. But the Liberal government of Jean Chretien dismantled the program in 1992. Governments since then, such as the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, have systemically reduced the role and functions of Environment Canada.

More irony: Calgary is Harper’s adopted home.

Oops. Chalk up another “triumph” of the unfettered “free market” system.

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Belt-Tightening Time 19/06/2013

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Climate, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: After what has seemed like a season of monsoon rains, it’s now been four days since a general rainfall through the area. Amazing, and yet largely as expected (see previous post).

Last week’s total rainfall was impressive: about three inches. And the anticipated surge in heat on the 15th arrived a day later, with the temperature reaching eighty-four; even then, though, the pull of this season toward cool was dramatically evident: Within a half-hour of noting that level, and spying the first-quarter moon through a hole in the clouds, a gusty shower had dropped the temperature to an even seventy.

On the 15th, I decided to have a look at the farmland at the edge of the belt of exurbs, and so headed west to Watertown, on the Crow River. With open land coming into view, I had to avert my eyes from the mushroom clusters of cul-de-sac tracts and the naked McMansions plunked down on the once-rich prairie. I was there for an eyeball assessment of the state of crops, and that too was ugly.

The amount of acreage that appeared unplanted—due to chronically too-wet soil off-limits to mechanized planting—or with standing water induced a profound sense of shock and unease. Here are two examples:


Many others showed only a slightly buzz-cut look—and this at the midpoint of June, well into the short growing season. It brought home to me how very vulnerable is this region’s food supply—something that the middle and upper classes have long taken for granted. (“Problem solved”—only temporarily.)

And both in town and between towns, yards big and small sported green carpets, most up-to-date in the cutting. Food-crop gardens were the exception to the rule. I shuddered and gaped as I went, recalling weeks of reports of excess water in much of the Mississippi River basin above the Great Confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi.

It seems that most people around here have become so accustomed to record-breaking hot summers that anything but that is inconceivable. But as I began writing more than six months ago, I expect an overall cooler-than-average and relatively dry summer.

In part, that’s because of a degree of continuity between seasons as reflected in a curious astronomical phenomenon. I don’t have a ready explanation, but charts for the same location at the spring equinox (Aries ingress) and summer solstice (Cancer ingress) have the same angles, within four degrees, on the meridian and horizon. (A table for all four ingresses each year for the years 2000 through 2015 confirms it.)

For 2013 at the Twin Cities, that means cool air sign Gemini on the key lower meridian and cold air sign Aquarius on the eastern horizon (or Ascendant). Look at the two charts below:


Thus Mars has replaced Jupiter at the lower meridian, and that means overall a dryer and more violently windy season. Alfred John Pearce provides this summary in The Textbook of Astrology:

“Mars when in an angle at the equinox or solstice promotes evaporation and raises the temperature, causing a drier state of the weather than Jupiter, particularly when in Aries, Leo or Cancer. . . . Mars when in power generally causes such mischief and destruction as are concomitant with dryness. The atmosphere parched by hot, pestilential, and blasting winds, accompanied by drought.”

With reference to the spring of 2013, Jupiter was the most prominent indicator. In general, the expected seasonal characteristic would be, again in Pearce’s words:

If Jupiter be in an angle at a solstice or an equinox . . . a temperate, good and wholesome air and a season favourable to the increase and fructifying of that which is sown and planted in the earth will follow. The ancients held that the action of Jupiter was varied in signs.

Indeed so, as far as the last point goes. It appears that with reference to meteorology, the Jupiter effect when in the sign of Gemini—the sign of its “exile”—is considerably weakened. There has been much weather woe through the American “breadbasket” (and cattle feedlot) in this season: a dramatic but largely unhelpful reversal of the extreme “flash drought” that erupted in the summer of 2012.

Not only has Jupiter been “in exile” for the past year, but for the spring season Mercury—lord of Gemini—has also been “in exile” in water sign Pisces, where Jupiter is lord. This is a condition that bodes ill for any territory—such as the American midsection—where those two planets are prominently placed. Hence the specter of crop failure for the second consecutive year.

Though Jupiter is still in Gemini at the time of the solstice, the indications of Mercury are not nearly so wet. With Venus in water sign Cancer, and with Neptune again near the Ascendant, Mercury shows there will certainly be enough moisture for what managed to emerge from spring’s wet.

However, the Moon, as lord of the season’s Sun sign (Cancer) and as the prime signifier for the summer’s potential for moisture, points to incidents of extreme and destructive precipitation. I use that particular word because I anticipate more than the usual occurrence of hailstorms, due to the nature of the Moon’s sign (Scorpio), and due to the appearance of the Moon in the midnight sky at an exact (to the degree and minute) right angle to the local Ascendant.

It would be lovely to forecast a pleasant summer season leading to a bountiful harvest. Wasn’t it Hemingway who wrote: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”?

But there are no rose-colored lenses for viewing the prospects for the season ahead: This chart for summer is a harbinger of harder times. Alas, as spring goes, so goes the year. There is no recovery from this year’s bad start.

What is there to do but adapt and prepare for further disruptions?

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