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One Fine Day 31/03/2014

Posted by zoidion in Long Emergency, Mundane, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It was the first genuine taste of spring here on Sunday the 30th: the first time the temperature hit sixty since 13 October. Whew! That was a long spell.

People came staggering out of their shelters, eyes blinking at the bright hazy sunlight, hands stripping off layers of clothing. Many climbed on bicycles for the first time this year and headed to whichever cafe or eatery had chairs and tables set up outside.

M and I went to the Stone Arch Bridge, the graceful arcing remnant of the age of passenger rail travel. (I arrived here by passing over it a few years before the downtown Minneapolis train station closed, to be replaced ultimately by a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank: the depot relocated to a nondescript new box midway between the two downtowns.) It was thronged with students from the U, young couples, families, dogs–not so many bikers: Maybe they were put off by the challenge of threading their way through all the creatures on foot and paw.

We paused several times on our way across, to gaze down at the large chunks of ice (and an abundance of trash) floating in the uppermost lock on the Mississippi, at the curling sheet of water going over the concrete lip of St. Anthony “Falls,” at the “outdoor stream lab” area used to simulate full-scale river systems. I recalled an opinion piece I saw a few years ago that called for the closing of the lock (added only in the 1960s): There is little commercial traffic above St. Paul, and river ecologists are greatly concerned about the prospect of Asian carp arriving and moving upstream. 

Coming back across on the Third Avenue Bridge, I noted how very rusty the railings are: typical neglect of the old while money and resources are poured into yet another new stadium (third here in a decade, not counting the minor league baseball stadium soon to be built in St. Paul) and the exurban mega-bridge going up at Stillwater. Both of us gestured to a film crew set up on the other side, and M–looking down at a still pool–thought the pattern of foam looked like chromosomes.

Throughout our circuit, I found it amazing that the air was not only warm–okay, warm for Minnesota in March–but still: The great continental conduit of water is usually accompanied by a comparable rush of air.

That was one most welcome respite, though I must admit that the pace of snowmelt has been remarkably steady, with no reports of flooding. Even our backyard has been manageable. But I’m mourning the passing of the Nazca pattern. The view today from my study window:

backyard30032014

Today has been far more typical: a forty-six-degree start rapidly changing from cloudy to showery to sunny, rinse and repeat, with plenty of gusty winds. During an evening walk, a distant boom of thunder could be heard. Even now, as I write, the wind roars in the bare trees. Another sharp freeze is due overnight.

Our warm, calm, sunny Sunday afternoon coincided with the Aries New Moon: Following by ten days the equinox (or solar Aries ingress), it was in effect the first day of spring. A one of a kind. At nine degrees fifty-nine minutes Aries, it was less than two degrees from the position of Uranus in the ingress chart: a sure indication of a momentary idyll. Two days hence, we’d get a blast from the north.

We would have our pleasant moment, as Sun also closed in on the ninety-degree mark to Jupiter: a prominent but not dominant feature in the map of the season.

ARing2014-NM2March2014

It doesn’t look like anything particularly drastic is in the offing for the upper Mississippi River region, but, as many others (including Starlight News) have foretold, considerable turbulence–geological, atmospheric, economic and political–is shown in the ingress configuration of Uranus, Jupiter and Pluto. A series of cosmic triggers is indicated by the Sun’s movement this week making strong angles to all three. Then: the Sun-Mars opposition on 8 April, the start of a period of release of pent-up energies.

There is one obvious flashpoint in the weeks ahead: Ukraine. The Aries ingress moment, calculated for Kiev (and Moscow and Washington), shows considerable potency. The year’s greatest drama–perhaps tragedy–will likely unfold there.

But the astromap shows another likely one: Venezuela.

Ju-Ur-Pl_ARing2014

There, in the lower right, the lines of greatest potency of Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto all conjoin. Events are likely to show that oil politics there have greater relevance to the plight of the teetering American Empire than the situation in eastern Europe.

<-zoidion->

Ground Zero 22/03/2014

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Long Emergency, permaculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Ah, spring in Minnesota: It’s the second full day of astronomical spring, and I went out just before sunup to check conditions and walk what’s left of the Nazca pattern in the compacted, crusty snow. Venus was still visible in the eastern sky, along with the slightly-more-than-half waning Moon in the south: beautiful. And when the sun did come up, it was a marvel once again to note the northward march of the sunrise point.

But yikes! The chill and the wind chill . . . Twelve degrees air temperature: about twenty degrees below average for the date. Rude, especially after the welcome warmth, with sun, on the equinox. (Yesterday, with a cloudy sky and gusty winds, an impending shift was obvious, so I seized the opportunity and some water collected off the garage roof to hand-wash the grime off ye olde Camry: 235,000 miles and still going–knock on wood.)

In a little while, I’ll place my order for several of the perennial vegetables I’ve identified as this year’s additions to the garden. And check on the annuals I’m starting indoors from seed. Then I’ll gather my gear and head over to the garden fair where I’ll be making a presentation about hugelkultur.

That practice is merely one response touched upon in a workshop I recently attended. It was organized by a local organization devoted to developing and promoting permaculture skills and practices suited to the climate of this region.

After taking a few classes over the past few years, but never the full-blown design course, I decided to join the group last year, wishing and looking for–but not finding–avenues to connect with regular folks who have been observing their places and experimenting with ways to help the health of their habitats. By the time I heard about this gathering, my disappointment and discontent had brought me close to deciding not to renew my membership.

But in the course of the evening, I was feeling that there may be some hope–ooh, dangerous word–yet for this group. Or should I say: a place where I may fit in. 

I was glad to see the room–not a large one–nearly full: full of quite animated people, many of whom were audibly ready and willing to grapple with the difficult implications. The overarching topic: Designing for Minnesota’s Changing Climate.

Knowing, I suspect, that the crowd would be largely peak- and collapse-savvy, the presenter very ably summarized the deep challenges we face here. One factor: geography. Near the center of the continent, this region is a complex convergence zone: of coniferous forest, deciduous forest, prairie and savanna biomes, and of Arctic, Pacific and Gulf air masses.

Among the effects of a changed climate regime observed already: an increase of seven to eight degrees Fahrenheit in average maximum winter temperature, an increase by one-third in winter precipitation, and an increase in summer nighttime temperature. One impact: decline and eventual disappearance of some tree species: birch, maple, spruce. (There are mature birch and spruce trees in front of my house, placed there at least twenty years before I came on the scene: Their welcome summer afternoon shade may be gone before I depart the scene, their absence creating more food production potential.)

Populations of pollinators, including some crucial insects, have already been disrupted. Increased disease-carrying tick and pest populations have been noted, along with an increase in mosquito-borne diseases.

Insurance companies have factored in the “new normal”: simultaneous drought and flood disasters in adjacent areas within Minnesota, the tornado that carved through Minneapolis three years ago. Homeowner insurance within the state has increased more than the national average.

Far from any rising sea level, we around here are nevertheless at ground zero of climate change. How can we adapt and survive?

The themes were quite familiar, yet it seems helpful to have the handout sheet (with a few personal comments) for reinforcement of key strategies:

  • Build soil: Rapidly sequester carbon (grasses grow faster than trees) and create buffers; jump-start soil health (e.g., with mycorhizal inoculants).
  • Work with water: Slow it down (reduce rapid runoff during deluge events), spread it out, infiltrate it to withstand drought; clean it, filter it.
  • Focus on perennials: Plant legacy trees (including coppice trees) ASAP; use diverse polycultures; plant high-value foods for people and animals; eat perennial foods.
  • Harbor biodiversity: Assist species migration; provide shelter, food and habitat (e.g., a bee hotel for non-honey bees).
  • Grow locally adapted plant material: Save seed (a critical skill); start nurseries to propagate locally adapted perennials.
  • Enlist animals as our partners; Use goats, for instance, rather than herbicides to rid areas of invasive buckthorn.
  • Create abundance: Go to the garden and grow food; grow and share medicines; turn waste streams into assets; repurpose materials.
  • Create community resilience: Build skills to share; fabricate low-cost tools; build community energy systems; link urban and rural communities.
  • Commit to the places where we live: The era of large-scale casual relocation is closing.
  • Observe and honor the natural world.

I’m ready–somewhat.

Do you remember several previous mentions I’ve made here about occultations? I haven’t seen any mention of them in the available astro-weather literature, but they seem to be reliable indicators of abrupt shifts in weather systems.

They are similar to eclipses, occurring when the Moon passes between a planet and Earth. Based on the handy list near the front of Jim Maynard’s indispensable Astrologers Datebook, the most common occultation is of Saturn: eleven times in 2014. (Watch out in November and December, though: Three occultations of Uranus, signifier of the unprecedented, will be visible, optically aided, in arctic and sub-arctic regions.)

Occultations of Saturn seem to correlate with outbreaks of notable cold waves, and the latest one has followed reliably on the one that occurred about ten hours after the equinox moment. It casts an ominous shadow over this entire season.

Zodiacal signs take a back seat in weather forecasting to planets and their relationship to the meridian and horizon. Thus it is reasonable to focus particular attention on zones of Earth where Moon and Saturn in the ingress (the equinox moment) chart were emphasized. Not particularly here, fortunately.

It’s a rather different story for the eastern North Atlantic and central South Atlantic, where the Saturn / lower meridian line passes through; Iceland and the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa are included in this area. (Note the bold dashed brown line running vertically through the astromap below, and the dashed blue Moon line to the west.) Unusually cold (in the higher latitudes) and stormy conditions will persist through the season through this zone. Shipping and fishing operations will be extremely hazardous.

ARing2014-astromap-Sat

It will be instructive to compare the current season with 2010, when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano erupted for the first time in 190 years on the very day of the Aries ingress, subsequently shutting down air traffic for weeks at a time over a wide area extending through the British Isles. In the astromap for that season, the Moon-on-the-upper-meridian line (solid blue on the map below) passed just west of Iceland. (The Moon in the chart was in very close angular relationship to both Uranus and Neptune.)

ARing2010-astromap

But complacency ought not to be on the agenda. It seems unlikely that the world’s continental areas will be spared the raw zodiacal significance of Moon with Saturn in Scorpio in the season chart: The doo-doo of industrial civilization hits the fan in rather more blatant fashion.

-<zoidion>-

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