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State of Siege 28/04/2014

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Long Emergency, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Another round of rain is lashing at the window just beyond this keyboard, and I hear a roof vent frequently flapping in the wind. Looking up, I can see the spots where, before the deluge began, I plugged in the veggies I started indoors. For the early-season species, which I’d been “hardening off” for a couple of weeks, I figured they could make it through any further frosts. (The average last-frost date is still ten days away.)

It was a bit of extra work–requiring extra push when I was feeling unwell–but I put individual chickenwire cages in place around all of the cabbage seedlings. Otherwise, the rabbits around here would have them chewed down to naked stems within a week.

It’s also good that I’ve been developing raised beds–otherwise, those little plants might be drowning in the rain that’s fallen in the forty-eight hours up to seven a.m. : 2.62 inches.

Perhaps I was too early, though, in putting in sprouting potato eyes, but it’s too soon to give up on those. I suspect the soil was not quite warm enough, even though I’ve been taking its temperature weekly. I was trying to have my potato crop and eat the potato too.

Perennials are showing little more growth than two weeks ago, and no wonder: There have been too few warm and sunny days to heat up the soil.

It’s a slow start to the growing season: close to what I expected.

Earth Day was a chilly one around here, so I layered up for my bike ride to a breakfast featuring some of the efforts–both urban and rural–of the Land Stewardship Project. The piece that I found most striking was about the impact of elder women on land management practices: The contingent of women as inheritors of farmland has been growing significantly, and many of them are interested in conservation approaches in their relationships with inherited renters of their land. And they are not on their own in an unfamiliar realm: LSP has established a learning group that provides resources for conservation leases, and helps in framing conversations with tenants.

In a conversation I had with the leader of the “Women Caring for the Land” program, I heard that some small but measurable reduction in the level of agricultural chemical pollution has taken place in the Chippewa River watershed in western Minnesota–a disproportionate contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Good news, or at least, news of a good trend.

In late afternoon, I attended a rally in the state capitol rotunda in support of funding for clean energy projects and employment. Followed by a presentation by former Oil Drum researcher / writer Nate Hagens at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus: the natural resources and agriculture division. It was a curious experience for me, who, not having been an Oil Drum reader, had only heard his name recently.

I expected the venue to be a lecture hall, but no: just a classroom. No crowd, but a modest group, largely professors and researchers, attending on a reservation-only basis. The intimacy was welcome, and I had the feeling that all of us were cooking individual and collective senses of purpose, as together we focused on the predicaments of our time.

Hagens touched on the emotional: Economic wants feel better than having. On the universality of cognitive biases (delusions are normal), his example being the brilliant Stephen Hawking’s support of notions of humans colonizing Mars. On cultural blindness, as in the widespread failure to recognize that economy is part of environment. On the industrial-age tilt of biomass toward the human-“controlled” realm: The mass of humans plus domestic animals has reached a fifty-to-one ratio over wild animals.

On the turn toward unreal wealth: Uneconomic growth (the financialization of wealth) has been the norm for the past generation. Real surpluses have been replaced by monetary measures of surplus. (Which, to my mind, calls a question: How are reserves of foods holding up?)

Hagens urged his audience to change words and thinking about energy: fossil hydrocarbon (a once-in-human-history reservoir), not fossil fuel (meant to be burned).

It wasn’t until the following morning that I had a chance to have a look at Paul Douglas’ weather blog, and saw his Earth Day message. (I broke out laughing.)

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like to save money. Skeptics may perk up when they realize clean energy options will eventually put more green in their wallets. Solar power is catching on as innovation causes prices to fall dramatically, but that’s just the beginning.

Last year I traded in 2 gas-powered cars for a Tesla Model S, an all electric vehicle that I charge up every night in my garage. It has a range of 200 miles and is continually connected to the Internet, allowing streaming media on a super-sized iPad-like center console. Software upgrades are sent automatically, making it the rough equivalent of an iPhone on wheels. I’m a car nut, and I can safely say this is the most fun I’ve had in a vehicle in 40 years. The best part: I’m saving $600/year on insurance and my electricity rates have yet to blip upward. The dream is to drive for free, powered by the sun. Some day soon.

Well, sorry Paul, but even this less-than-expert observer can some spot major blind spots and unwarranted assumptions here. For one thing, “innovation causes prices to fall.” Really? From what I’ve read more than once, the drop in the price of solar panels has been due in recent years to massive Chinese subsidies to undercut competition. (But that situation is unlikely to hold up as China runs into deeper economic bubble trouble.)

And the Tesla–you’re talking high-end price that few people can afford. Did you consider the energy and environmental cost embedded in that Tesla? I doubt it. And that “clean” energy with which you’re filling up the batteries each night? A great deal of that comes from burning fossil hydrocarbons. I’d like to see you try powering that Tesla on your own solar panels. I dare say your range would prove to be a good deal less than 200 miles. (Gotta love that “some day soon.”)

I know you mean well, Paul, but I think you’d do well to stick to what you know: weather and, to some degree, climate.

What are the indicators, you may ask, for so much rain here just now? There are several in the relevant lunation charts: the one for the fourth quarter Moon on 22 April, and the one for the New Moon (solar eclipse) on the 29th.

The two main culprits in the fourth quarter chart are the Moon exactly on the ascendant and Saturn near the upper meridian.

4Q April 2014

Moon indicates moisture aplenty, while Saturn represents persistent, cloudy, stormy conditions. The techno-meteorologists are calling it a cut-off low: a lingering storm system, nearly stationary, drawing in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dropping much of it in the upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes region.

Two more points borne out in the past week: Venus (moisture) in water sign Pisces in the weekly lunation chart is in the same degree as Moon in water sign Scorpio in the season chart. Similarly, Mercury in the week’s chart is closely opposed to the place of Mars in the season chart: a warning of more violent winds.

In addition, the solar eclipse signals an imminent significant shift in wind and weather patterns, particularly (and more dangerously) affecting the midsection of the continent. The eclipse, with Mercury, is right at the lower meridian: The impacts will be most acute through this band of longitude.

New Moon (SE) April 2014

That the impacts are apt to be both large-scale and transformative–let’s admit it, a more pleasant-sounding word for “destructive”–is shown by the pair Jupiter-Pluto across the horizon. (Not forgetting that Mars and Uranus, at right angles to Jupiter-Pluto, are also part of the mix of this “interesting” time.) And for further emphasis on the call to pay close attention: The position of the previous solar eclipse (twelve degrees Scorpio on 3 November) is quite closely conjunct the upper meridian.

There’s short-term good news and bad news about all this rain. The good news is that it will likely erase any lingering drought-touched areas in the state. ( See U.S. Drought Monitor.) The bad news is that it impedes time-sensitive field work.

Taking a longer view: Ancient teachings about solar eclipses in the earth sign Taurus is that they foretell crises in agricultural systems. This is likely to appear in retrospect as the start of a period of widespread inundations–Neptune is tied in closely to the new eclipse degree.

Earth’s productive capacities, upon which all of industrial civilization depends, are threatened. In part, it is because of the play of the elements: “acts of God.” But it is also because the time of the established ways is over. Humans have lately been feeding their burgeoning numbers with energy borrowed from the distant past and the near future; we’ve been living on borrowed time.

It’s a tough time for farmers. And learning gardeners too.


(Do you remember when I identified Venezuela as a country likely to be in particular trouble in this period? It has been. It just hasn’t gotten the overall coverage that the Ukraine crisis has, and no cable network has opted to cover it to the exclusion of all else–as CNN has done with the mystery of the missing Malaysian airplane. You might have to do a bit of searching, but you can start with this video.)


Tornado Watch 21/04/2014

Posted by zoidion in Event, forecast, Long Emergency, urban agriculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The latest (last?) snow has melted away, almost as a mirage. A half-cold week that began with the lunar eclipse—an eerie sight in the midnight sky, with Mars and Spica—brought, the following day, about five inches of heavy snow to the backyard: Even before it began falling, the soil temperature had dropped five degrees from the week before. A band of snow up to a foot-and-a-half fell within thirty miles north of here.

Over the next several days, the temperature crept upward, and the solar radiation through he clouds also went to work on the snow. Two blustery days, the sun occasionally parting the clouds. Then a mild day that called me outside to get the composting season started.

It had dawned on me at some point over the winter that with a three-foot-by-three-foot-by-three-foot compost bin that I acquired three years ago—and expanded to nine-foot-length two years ago—provided plenty of composting power. I could pass on the small black-plastic bin: the gardener’s gateway drug.

So I took a quick photo, posted it with a description on the Twin Cities Free Market web site, and took the Sunday off from checking email. I found out this morning that a lot of people had pounced on that listing, several within the first hour. That was a gratifying response, but I know I had to disappoint nearly a dozen people.

That absence now opens up a spot for one of two American hazelnut trees. After yesterday’s gloriously warm and sunny weather, and today’s sunny and breezy conditions, I was feeling very ready to put two in the ground. (The soil temperature was back to the low fifties.) But I’ll have to wait. Dang.

It’s that season again, when contending warm and cold air masses, fueled by the moisture wafting northward from the Gulf of Mexico, bring the threat of devastation to the midsection of the North American continent. But of course, springtime is merely the most active and notorious period for tornado activity. And North America has no monopoly on this type of storm.

But the focus here is on, well, here. And the planetary configurations that might help one to anticipate danger and live (even survive) accordingly.

Back in the year 2000, years before I began studying astrometeorology in earnest, I gathered a few sheets of information and a map on the biggest of them all: the Tri-State Tornado of 18 March 1925, which devastated a swath beginning in southeastern Missouri, across southernmost Illinois, into southwestern Indiana: 219 miles. On the ground for three-and-one-half hours. Now reckoned as an F5 tornado on the Fujita scale, with winds perhaps exceeding 300 miles per hour. 695 deaths, 234 in Murphysboro, IL alone. 2,027 injuries. Nineteen communities in thirteen counties affected. (Strangely, Murphysboro–perhaps deserving of the unwelcome title “tornado capital of the world” (though that was said in 2013 about Moore, Oklahoma)–was the recipient of an F4/F5 tornado on 18 December 1957, one of nineteen in Illinois that day, the latest in any year that a tornado of that strength has been recorded.)

Since the 1925 event occurred several days before the vernal equinox, the seasonal stage was set 21 December 1924, with Saturn on the lower meridian and Neptune on the ascendant showing the region ripe for stormy and unusually humid conditions (Venus low in the chart also guaranteeing an added measure of moisture). Tellingly perhaps, the preceding lunar eclipse fell exactly on the western horizon, opposite Neptune.

On 13 March 1925, at the moment when Mercury entered Aries, that planet was exactly conjunct the eastern horizon, and close to the place of Mars in the season chart; the upper meridian was exactly conjunct the season’s Sun-Jupiter conjunction: a big event involving wind. Sun had passed Uranus the previous day: a timing factor for increasing atmospheric turbulence; and over the next several days, Venus would approach both, cueing more moisture.


The configuration for the first quarter Moon on 17 March shows violent forces about to be unleashed: Venus / Uranus / Sun / Mercury all near the zenith, with slowest-moving Pluto–closely opposite Mercury in the season chart–close to the ascendant.

1Q Mar 1925

When the Tri-State Tornado first touched down at Ellington, Missouri, on 1:01 p.m. on the 18th, Mercury was exactly on the upper meridian, in a tight right angle to an exact opposition of Moon (with Jupiter) and Pluto. No wonder if was such a monster.


When it arrived at Murphysboro, at 2:34 p.m., meridian and horizon were nearly identical to those of the season chart.


And when it dissipated at Petersburg, Indiana, at 4:30 p.m., Mercury was exactly quincunx to the ascendant (and ruling it, as well as the upper meridian). Moon was approaching perigee two days later.

As for Murphysboro 1957–those folks ought to hire a town astrologer–the relevant season chart (the Libra ingress) put Uranus near the ascendant, and Venus and Neptune near the lower meridian. Ripening again. Fullness of atmospheric conditions is shown in the fourth quarter Moon of 13 December: Moon exactly conjunct the ascendant, and only one degree from Moon (and eight degrees from Mars) in the season chart, and Venus having arrived at the western horizon. Jupiter had moved to the lower meridian: time for something big.


The unleashing waited until 4:45 p.m.–sundown–on the 18th, when Moon was just passing Mars.

Murphysboro Tornado 1957

The 2011 tornado season produced the record for most tornadoes in one day (199 on 27 April) as well as the most catastrophic single tornado (the F5 multiple-vortex tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, on 22 May). The planetary configuration in the season chart had as many indications of severe weather as is possible: Sun exactly conjunct Uranus at zero degrees Aries (as well as zero degrees declination)—part of a five-body cluster that also included Mars (on the western horizon), Jupiter and Mercury, indicating extreme winds—a Full Moon conjunct Saturn (general severity), and Venus with Neptune (augmented moisture conditions).

AR-Ing 2011-Joplin

The relevant Mercury ingress chart (entrance into Aries on 9 March) has a classic indication of turbulence: Mercury almost precisely conjunct Uranus, the latter late in the last degree of Pisces. And at that moment at Tuscaloosa, Alabama—the most severely affected place on “tornado record day”—Sun and Mars were at the upper meridian: more potency.

Mercury Aries 2011

The F4 tornado that hit Tuscaloosa was a particularly long-lived one: in contact with the ground from 4:43 to 6:14 p.m. CDT. And it caused 65 fatalities, 1500 injuries and extensive property damage. But the storm that produced it was most unusual: a supercell thunderstorm that began in Mississippi at 2:54 p.m. CDT and persisted until 10:18 p.m. CDT over North Carolina; it traveled approximately 380 miles, producing several strong to violent tornadoes along the way.

The configuration of the preceding lunation—the fourth quarter of 24 April—doesn’t appear particularly dire: The Venus-Uranus conjunction (and parallel of declination) near the lower meridian is more indicative of “cold, drizzling rain” (George J. McCormack, A Text-Book of Long-Range Weather Forecasting). My understanding, however, is that the combination can represent an abruptly shifting weather regime.

The chart for the time when the tornado struck Tuscaloosa, however, is extremely potent: The very unusual and close cluster Uranus / Venus / Mercury / Mars / Jupiter appears on the western horizon, opposite Saturn, with Pluto on the lower meridian. This is a planetary picture of devastation.

Tuscaloosa AL tornado 2011

Indications preceding the Joplin tornado were definitely dire. The Mercury ingress into Taurus on 15 May had Jupiter, Venus and Mars also with Mercury—all within an eight-degree arc—on the western horizon, opposite the Moon. And the Full Moon on the 17th came with additional caution: Sun rose as Moon set.

Merc TA-2011_FM-May-2011

The Joplin tornado was a monster: nearly one mile wide during its path through a densely populated area. That is what made it so deadly, resulting in 158 deaths and over 1,100 injuries—the deadliest tornado since 1947 How did the actual event connect with previous charts, you ask?

The lower meridian for the time of its most devastating moment—5.14 p.m.—was four degrees Aquarius (with the Moon close by at eleven degrees), which was one degree from the upper meridian in the Full Moon chart. Translation: potential manifestation grounded. Additionally, Jupiter was on the western horizon, with Venus, Mars and Mercury about to set.

Joplin Tornado 2011

There were reports of 56 tornados that day, from northeastern Oklahoma to northern Wisconsin. One of them passed within two miles of my house, as I sheltered in the basement. Not particularly noteworthy for its intensity—high-end F1 to F2 (winds between 100 and 125 miles per hour)—it still left a lasting mark on the poorest section of Minneapolis. With hundreds of mature trees downed and roof and structural damage to hundreds of houses, the storm’s swath remains obvious. Many repairable rental houses were torn down—their absentee owners had them minimally insured—leaving even more gaps in an urban fabric already shredded. Many residents who remain have organized to pressure the City to have many vacant lots declared available for long-term use as community gardens.

The same Full Moon chart, cast for Minneapolis, has three degrees Gemini on the western horizon. The Sun at the time of the tornado was at two degrees Gemini.

What about the current season, rather quiet so far? There is cause for concern: A major eruption of atmospheric turbulence appears likely in the first week of June, following the conclusion of the Mars retrograde period (violent outbreaks reduced in size and scope) on 19 May, and as Mercury approaches its own retrograde station (7 June).

The first quarter Moon (5 June) shows explosive energies on the verge of release in storms of various types, in various human and natural venues.

1Q June 2014

The much-ballyhooed configuration of Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto appears on the horizon and meridian in the midsection of the North American continent—awaiting, probably, only the Moon’s arrival at Mars’ place on the seventh. The Mississippi River valley appears particularly vulnerable.

Venus’ conjunction with the place of the solar eclipse of 28-29 April indicates an extra measure of moisture—and economic, especially agricultural, impact—in the mix.

Something tells me insurance won’t be covering much of . . .  whatever happens.



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