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Fall 2013 Review 27/12/2013

Posted by zoidion in Climate, History, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: A bright dawn under a fat-crescent waning moon lit the blanket of snow today: Sunrise actually came about two minutes later than on the solstice–one of the many factoids to be found in Jim Maynard’s  marvelous Astrologers Datebook. But the trend toward more daylight is most welcome, even though two more months of meteorological winter are still to come. (The area has been ensconced in a “real” winter since just after Thanksgiving.)

And to assist the mood, a milder air mass–a balmy 24 degrees F at 7:00 a.m.–has moved in, after a couple of distinctly chilly days: The official low point was minus 13 on the 24th. That was not a record low, although some records were set “up north” earlier in the month.

Yesterday’s high was 26 degrees: enough to motivate me to make a pilgrimage–well, I went by car, so it doesn’t count as a pilgrimage–to a place that I find charged with energy to help heal recent personal sorrows: Coldwater Spring.


The spring itself, pool and stream are little changed over the past few years, as the surroundings have changed greatly. Recent changes, in my view, have overall been distinctly positive: The abandoned and boarded Bureau of Mines buildings have been removed, with only a couple of partial foundations left behind to give a hint of the spring’s disregard for decades. The area has been planted with native prairie plants and scrub oaks: an effort to restore the oak savanna environment of old.

But those who love the spring–and some who have claimed the spring: the Mdewakanton Dakota community, who used it as a vital water source before the American invasion in the 1850s–very nearly lost it. For some time it was feared that the expansion in the late 1990s of the highway corridor–long named Hiawatha after Longfellow’s poem about a legendary leader of the faraway Iroquois confederacy–had cut the underground stream that issues at Coldwater. The highway is the direct route between downtown Minneapolis and the Twin Cities airport, and also leads to the remarkable Mendota Bridge over the Minnesota River to some of the southern suburbs.

The Dakota community and paleface ecological activists fought the highway expansion, destruction of modest but sound housing, and the cutting of many mature oak trees. It was a tense situation for some months as anti-highway people occupied the houses after longtime residents had been moved out, as state troopers and local police kept watch. I myself was tailed by a state trooper all the way back to the downtown end of Hiawatha after I stopped at Coldwater for the photo below in November 1999.

Coldwater99(I appreciated the tepee-shaped trunk of a silver maple in the background. It was an odd coincidence when I stopped by several years ago in the spring and found the smoldering remains of the tree: Apparently someone had accidentally started a fire in the cavity where people customarily placed candles and ritual objects.)

The standoff came to a climax when hundreds of state troopers and police descended on the area in the predawn hours of a late December morning in 1999. A whole lotta cops got overtime pay playtime, and the land got the short end of the deal. The struggle is chronicled in Mary Losure’s Our Way or the Highway and summarized by Friends of Coldwater.

When I went there yesterday, it was strangely deserted but for a couple of dog-walkers: Before the site became National Park Service property, the Friends of Coldwater would be allowed access at winter solstice time and would fashion a labyrinth in the snow. I missed it keenly as I silently observed the anniversary of the 1862 executions up the Minnesota River at Mankato: the largest mass hanging (38 Dakota warriors) in American history.

More cheerfully (or not): A couple of local friends (hat tip) have been feeding me stories and sources of studies related to weather and climate. One of the best sites is Climate Central  and one of the key researchers is Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University. The latter link is to a story about the apparent relationship of altering weather patterns to warming of the Arctic region; in particular, the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere has lately become “wavier”–resulting in slower moving weather systems, which in turn raises the chances for extreme events such as droughts, floods and heat waves.

Much work lies ahead to grasp how such shifts in the jet stream relate to solunar-planetary patterns. As I suggested in a recent post, one key may lie in occultations of the various planets by the Moon.

An intriguing view of the approach of winter is contained in a series of maps from 1 October to 25 December of the continental United States: “86 Days of Snow in Less Than 1 Minute!” My prosaic review of the fall season in this area is below: the forecast in plain text, followed by a summary of actual weather conditions in italic.

Outline for the season in the upper Mississippi River basin: Autumn 2013

The season overall can be expected to be somewhat wetter than the summer (which is not saying much, as drought conditions returned by August), and below average in temperature. Most precipitation should fall from late October to early November, followed by two weeks of unseasonably cold weather (near or below historic lows), then a warmup for Thanksgiving week. The week of the winter solstice, leading up to Christmas, appears unseasonably cold but dry.

Precipitation: September 23-30: dry; October: somewhat above average; November: below average; December up to the winter solstice: average

Temperature: September 23-30: mild; October: average; November: slightly below average; December up to the winter solstice: much below average 

Week by Week

Fourth Quarter: 27 September – 3 October
Primarily dry
Rain at beginning and end of week (0.99″ total), mild

New Moon: 4-10 October
Mild, some rain; notable wind
Some rain (0.48″) at start of period, then dry, warm, very windy

First Quarter: 11-17 October
Some rain, less than expected; sharply colder
Mostly mild, rainy (2.00″ total)

Full Moon (Lunar Eclipse): 18-25 October
Mild with some rain, followed by cold and windy conditions
Mild with a little rain (0.22″), then heavy frost, then milder, windy, clear

Fourth Quarter: 26 October – 2 November
A wet week, blustery and cold
Chilly, a little rain (0.18″) over several days

New Moon (Solar Eclipse): 3-8 November
A sharp break in the pattern, turning unseasonably cold
Very windy beginning and end of week; first snow 5-6 Nov. (0.31″ melted)

First Quarter: 9-16 November
Cold records set, first significant snow of the season
Severe cold at start of period, then milder with some rain (0.15″)

Full Moon: 17-24 November
Another sharp break: milder, dry
Mild and dry at start, then unseasonably cold

Fourth Quarter: 25 November – 2 December
Dry, cool
Cold through first half of week, then milder; dry throughout

New Moon: 3-9 December
Dry, a little warmer
Mild at first, then much colder; snow (0.99″ water)

First Quarter: 10-16 December
Seasonably cool, some snow likely
Below normal temperatures, a little snow (0.11″ water); minus 32 degrees F at International Falls on the 15th

Full Moon: 17-24 December
Unseasonably cold (close to historic records), dry
Colder trend through week after break in below-freezing stretch (13 days) at start; a little snow (0.23″ water); minus 13 degrees F at Minneapolis on the 24th

Chart for the season at Minneapolis

Primary indications: Wettest earth sign Taurus (with the Moon) on the lower meridian: relatively cool with moderate precipitation; coldest earth sign Capricorn on ascendant; Venus (“ruling” planet of ingress sign Libra and Moon sign Taurus) on upper meridian opposite Moon and conjunct Saturn (“ruling” planet of Capricorn ascendant

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