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Forecast Spring 2014 28/02/2014

Posted by zoidion in forecast, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Today is the last day of winter–well, meteorological winter: The coldest quarter of the year is December through February.

But there’s no sense or sign that the cold and deep snow pack will be melting away anytime soon. 

Since last week’s heavy snow, many walkways and roadways have been in–shall we say–challenging condition. Two full days after the clouds cleared, the notorious I-35 through Minneapolis was a washboard surface of hard-packed snow and ice, with the temperature too low for the chemicals to work at melting it; traffic moved along at thirty miles an hour. A friend pointed out: It’s like travel was eighty years ago. Even major through routes remain in fair driving condition. Many municipalities have been maintaining passage by spending money earmarked for next winter: Something’s gotta give, but there’s little public talk yet about that.

The word from those who tabulate the numbers is that this winter already is number six on the list of winters in number of days/nights with below-zero minimums, with a total so far of forty-five. Chances appear good that the eventual total will exceed the forty-eight days with below-zero minimums racked up in 1935-36.

The temperature has been below the freezing mark for over ninety percent of the time since December 1, 2013. And yet, in the Twin Cities area, there has not been a single new record-low set. Strange . . .

On the other hand, the local National Weather Service office has issued a forecast indicating that new records may be set for coldest daytime high temperatures in the first week of March.

As for frost in the ground, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been monitoring the depth of frost near Monticello (site of one of the state’s two nuclear power plants), and reports that frost has reached between seventy and seventy-five inches. Call it six feet. Whew! That could and probably will make the snowmelt period–assuming the sun does manage to penetrate the polar vortex–a flood period.

Two words summarize the prospects for spring weather through this region: cold and wet.

The meteorological terms that have become prevalent of late are apt to be repeated ad nauseum: The wavy jet stream over North America remains stuck, allowing Arctic air masses to pour south over the eastern two-thirds of the continent. (A good video about the jet stream phenomenon, featuring Jennifer Francis, is here.)

Global climate disruption in this season becomes greatly intensified and irrefutable to all but the most profoundly deranged. In general, existing trends are reinforced: Those areas that have been cold and wet remain so, only more so, and drought-stricken areas enter crisis conditions.

Aries Ingress 2014

Season chart indications: Virgo on lower meridian signals cold, blustery trend; ruling planet Mercury in opposite sign, Pisces, with Neptune, symbolizing cold and wet conditions conducive to flooding, especially through prolonged snowmelt period, punctuated by additional heavy snows/rains, with deeply frozen soils; water sign Cancer rising with ruling planet Moon in water sign Scorpio with Saturn, and Moon occulting Saturn during night following solar Aries ingress; Mars (ruling Sun sign Aries and Moon sign Scorpio) retrograde and exactly opposite place of most recent lunar eclipse.

Week by week to early May:

Fourth Quarter Moon: 24 – 30 March

Stormy, turbulent

New Moon: 30 March – 6 April

Somewhat warmer after abrupt chill expected 1 April, dry until end of week

First Quarter Moon: 7 – 14 April

Very wet, stormy–carrying over from end of previous week; mark calendars for 10 April in particular for dangerous rain/snowfall

Full Moon (Lunar Eclipse): 15 – 21 April

Gradual tapering off of clouds and precipitation, slightly warmer, becoming windier

Fourth Quarter Moon: 22 – 28 April

Lingering precipitation through 25th, then slight drying; windier conditions carrying over from previous week

New Moon (Solar Eclipse): 29 April – 6 May

Very wet and windy conditions hampering agriculture and transportation/communication

Stay aware, keep safe.

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The Big One 21/02/2014

Posted by zoidion in Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Small, wispy clouds scuttle rapidly across an intensely blue sky above a blindingly white surface. The blanket of snow is the deepest in years: On either side of any path or sidewalk, the pile is at least waist-high.

The season’s biggest addition came yesterday, beginning midday as rain but changing soon after to snow. Most of the afternoon, the snow fell so thickly the world seemed wrapped in a gauzy, hushed haze. In the evening I went to an event down the way at the food co-op–a “seed-packing” for the local food resource hub, followed by a showing of the film “The Garden”:  a group of mostly Latino urban farmers in Los Angeles struggling to keep their glorious green from being swallowed up by the concrete and asphalt surrounding them. Coming home I got off the bus and began walking west, into the wind, and soon changed my tack: to walking backwards.

By morning, the scene in my backyard looked like this:

 BigOne-gauge

(Three weeks ago, it looked like this.)

A lot of moisture fell yesterday and overnight: 1.04 inches melted.

It’s been a week of extremes: first a modest snowfall, then several teasing days of sun with temperatures reaching forty degrees (a major mess, and a menace in going anywhere on foot). On the last of those, I grabbed the opportunity to hike, with bare hands, for an hour along the frozen Minnesota River.

What has followed has been a weather shift that only residents of this region can fully appreciate. It’s only the second snow emergency of the season–there were a couple of bitter-temperature emergencies that seemed to be noticed elsewhere. The temperature has been hovering through the day at about twenty degrees as the wind surges in, increasing the chill factor and promising a night (and probably several) in the neighborhood of zero.

This has been a “real” winter, as in olden times. Many residents had nearly forgotten them, and the younger folk had yet to experience one.

The telltale signs of the big one were certainly there in the chart for this week following the Full Moon, but it seems my assessment in the forecast was needlessly modest, and the timing faulty.

With the Full Moon occurring locally at sunset, and with Mercury close to the Sun, a dramatic shift on the 14th or 15th seemed a reasonable conclusion. But factoring in the Moon’s motion is crucial. Saturn in Scorpio at the lower meridian was the key to a week of weather extremes dominated by cold.

Full Moon February 2014

A curious and unusual feature of the chart’s configuration is the relationship of Sun, Moon and Mercury to Mars (indicator of a rise in temperature) and Saturn (generally representing cold and storms). Hence the thaw followed by . . . this.

The brightest, warmest day was the 19th, when Moon was in late Libra, approaching and passing Mars (about four p.m. here). As Moon began moving through the early degrees of water sign Scorpio, the storm clouds gathered; the rack unleashed the greatest intensity of wind-driven snow as Moon approached the lower meridian of the week’s chart.

Today’s conjunction of Moon and Saturn–an unusual occultation–heralds another round of Arctic chill.

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