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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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