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A Different Day 06/06/2014

Posted by zoidion in History, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The area has been blessed with a week of sunny skies and pleasantly warm temperatures since last weekend’s heavy rains (two inches in my backyard). So early and late in the days, I’ve been stepping out, usually in long pants (why make unnecessary blood donations?), to tame the wild growth of the past few weeks. I’ve chopped the season’s first growth of comfrey and distributed the leaves throughout the garden.

Officially, 16.77 inches of moisture has fallen on the Twin Cities so far this year, a full seven inches more than average: very much in line with astro-meteorological expectations.

Some spots in the metro area and beyond received four to six inches of rain over the weekend, creating some significant problems and highlighting some of the built-in drawbacks to industrialized, centralized ways of doing some things. A case in point: this blip from Minnesota Public Radio: “The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is advising people to avoid swimming or skiing in Lake Minnetonka and two other nearby lakes, after heavy rains forced the city of Mound to release untreated sewage into the storm water sewer system Sunday morning.” That’s a dandy near-start to the summer on the biggest lake in the metro area. Maybe it’s about time to start relaxing the highly restrictive regulations on composting toilets, and begin moving away from the increasingly-failing big-scale sewage systems. (As my friend Mac includes in his set of beatitudes: “Blessed are the sanitation engineers – for they enable our denial!”)

Another bit of change that not a lot of people want to believe in was in evidence when I had occasion recently to spend a few days on Nantucket Island. (And no, I’m not the man from Nantucket.) Actually, I noted the latest phases of two major controversies: the proposal for constructing a large set of wind turbines in Nantucket Sound (between the island and Cape Cod), and the erosion of sand cliffs on which some very rich off-islanders have built or bought massive mansions. 

It sounds like the long-fought turbine project is about to go ahead, despite the minor visual inconvenience. Smart idea, seeing as how New England has no oil and no coal, though maybe enough trees to keep the current population warm enough for maybe one winter. A good step, but still a very small one.

The beach erosion issue was prominently profiled in 2013 in Vanity Fair magazine. Long story short: The very rich folks who wanted to have thousands of tons of sand piled up where “their” sand used to be–only to see it, from afar, before long swept out to sea–were told: No, you don’t.

I have visited Nantucket perhaps a half dozen times over the past thirty years, and have seen enough “development” occur to arouse dismay. Even though there are no mass-produced cookie-cutter suburbs–they would not be allowed–there has been suburbanization nonetheless. There are now cul-de-sacs and many more vast dead zones, er, “lawns.” The vast majority of the real estate is occupied for only a few weeks a year, and for the small contingent of regular folks who call the island home, living there is nearly unaffordable.

I can foresee many of those now-spiffy places becoming salvage zones within the next decade or so. Shame about those cedar shakes with their lovely light-gray weathered look being needed for stove fuel.

On the plus side, however, there is nothing that would quite qualify as a strip-mall, there is not one bit of commercial cartoon architecture or franchise signage. Because there are no franchise operations: because there is no year-round stream of wealth to pump out. And, in Siasconset, many modest cottages remain–many with rose-supporting trellises upon their roofs. Spring is quite lovely there, though chilly: before the crowds arrive. (Around the Fourth of July, the island airport is second only to Boston as New England’s busiest!)

Much of the island remains as moors, which apparently provide habitat for unusual birds. During my visit I was entranced by the unfamiliar birdsong. I also learned that autumn storms have a way of blowing birds from the mainland, though presumably only a portion manage to get down to last-stop Nantucket, and safety. One such storm, within the past few years, left behind three individuals of a bird species whose appearance had never been recorded there before.

As nearly everywhere across this country these days, there is an active contingent of residents who are developing the island’s capacity for soil building, for local food production. It’s not just sand, held together by poison ivy. And there is an upwelling of awakened thinking going on: One young man was elected to local office last year after a campaign that apparently consisted primarily of standing in front of the doors to one of the two supermarkets and listening to the concerns of residents. Imagine that!

What a difference a day makes. One of the better known instances of weather forecasting in relation to historic events occurred seventy years ago: the Allied invasion at the Normandy beaches in June 1944. But one day’s delay because of weather conditions was crucial.

A number of conditions had to be met: a new or (preferably, for ease of supporting nighttime aerial operations) full moon with low tide at sunrise, no rain falling, minimal cloud cover, and wind of less than twelve miles per hour (for reduced difficulty of navigation and stress on infantrymen at sea). The vast amphibious assault force was appropriately termed Operation Neptune.

Appropriately from a symbolic point of view, the season chart for the landing area featured Neptune near the ascendant and military Mars at the upper meridian and separating from Saturn (restraint, delay, hesitation).

The key weather-related developments are represented in the lunation charts and ongoing configurations of the invasion period. The chart for the first quarter moon showed extremely and rapidly changeable conditions: the Sun in exact conjunction with Uranus (with Venus approaching both) on the lower meridian: altogether foretelling a period of cooler, damp weather with strong north and northwest winds, atypical of early summer.

Monday 5 June was the initial date set for the invasion, but a critical planetary indication said no: Venus still approaching Uranus. As George J. McCormack describes the influence: “There is likely to be cold, drizzling rain. Spasmodic winds contribute to a raw, penetrating, cold atmosphere.”

And besides, unless one wants a campaign characterized by atrocities, electing a beginning with the Moon in Scorpio is best avoided.

AR-ing_1Q-May_0506-1944

By Tuesday 6 June another, easily-overlooked configuration shifted: Mercury passed the square to Jupiter, correlating with a wind shift, higher atmospheric pressure, and easing of potential for precipitation. (Remember that Mercury is planetary ruler of Gemini, through which sign Sun, Venus and Uranus were passing.)

By late morning of the 6th, Moon–now in Sagittarius–had crossed the lower meridian of the lunation chart, and passed the opposition to Venus-Uranus. A combination favoring turbulence–Mars-Uranus–was also about to begin fading. Skies were gradually clearing, favoring the operations of the liberators.

(See anniversary articles posted by the UK Met Office and a longer piece, “Meteorology and D-Day.”)

Storms had broken out among the several groups of advising Allied meteorologists, particularly involving the methods and conclusions of one controversial American: Irving Krick. Unlike others who relied on frequently updated observations, he favored analysis of historic patterns and cycles, going so far as to reuse old weather maps that resembled current situations. The system was called “weather typing.”

Krick clashed with Norwegian-born Sverre Petterssen, whose forecast–shared by others–caused Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower to decide at 0430 on 4 June to postpone D-Day until 6 June. The initial proposal was to postpone until 19 June, though 6 June was judged “good enough.”

And that was fortunate: seaborne casualties and difficulties would have been greater on the 5th, and a launch on the 19th would have been impossible: On that date, the worst storm to date in the twentieth century struck the English Channel.

On D-Day, the soldiers wading ashore, many of them too heavily laden, at least had the wind at their backs.

And it was a Tuesday: a Mars day, with Mars strong in fire-sign Leo.

 

-<zoidion>-

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