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Kickstarting Winter 28/11/2014

Posted by zoidion in Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: With an Alberta Clipper zooming by on the average of every other day, there’s a few fresh inches of snow on the ground to make up for the past weekend’s welcome thaw. (Largely as expected, by the way.)

I took advantage of the thaw to collect a few gallons of meltwater off the garage roof, to feed to my indoor plants, which include aloe vera (every home should have some), parsley, tarragon and lavender (the leaves of which, alas, have lost much of their scent in the move). I figure the atmospheric water is better for them than the chlorinated stuff from the tap.

Outside, the lingering leaves of the elderberry, (red) currant and cherry have been a welcome sight. Not so much the sight of the rabbit tracks in and out of the storage space under the deck: Those critters will be wanting a long season’s worth of food. They have me wondering if I protected the trunks of the three fruit trees well enough. Plus, I didn’t put chicken-wire cages around the currant bushes this year. Will those wabbits take to chewing off the bark, killing the stems that would hold next year’s berries? (Will I take steps to protect them?)

Locally, the temperature for November 2014 has been nearly eight degrees below average. And the somewhat early snow and cold that came during the second week was — let’s be frank — rude. But still run-of-the-mill rude.

Far ruder was the early cold that enveloped the entire contiguous US of A, and the massive “Snowvember” dump of precipitation off Lake Erie that hit the Buffalo, New York, area. The latter was a perfect storm wrought by a combination of relatively warm lake water and strong cold winds blowing across nearly the entire length of the lake. After several rounds of such storms, dropping up to five to six feet of snow, came a major rebound in temperature and rain, producing local flooding and collapsed roofs. It sounds really tough, even though that area is well accustomed to heavy snow. Just not that heavy.

What accounts for it? The sequence of conjunctions of Sun, Mercury, Venus and Saturn.

The transitory Full Moon — an atmospheric high tide, occurring a few days after lunar perigee — of 6 November set the stage. At the time of the Full Moon, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Saturn meridian lines all passed through the Gulf of Alaska. (Notice in the astromap below how the angling Mars and Pluto ascendant lines cross the vertical  lines of those other bodies in that region.)


When Super Typhoon Nuri moved into that area from Japan in the following days — bringing subtropical heat and moisture — it produced a reaction that many meteorologists termed an “atmospheric bomb” that “kickstarted winter.”

Triggered by Nuri, a frigid air mass plunged in the course of the following week across North America all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Many, many early-season cold temperature records were broken.

As one might expect from such a cluster of planetary bodies in a “fixed” sign — Scorpio — the Arctic air mass held on rather stubbornly. But the cluster has broken up, and rapid movement of weather systems is the new regime. For a time.



Zombie Ideology 15/11/2014

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, Long Emergency, Mundane.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The snow arrived on the schedule laid out by the techno-weather folks, although in less amount than forecast. After a gorgeous October that seemed almost endless, the reality of an old-fashioned early winter has blanketed the region. There has been a lot of muttering, a lot of forced smiles. A lot of creeping commutes.

Realizing in my bones that the snow really was coming, I forced myself to take one last chilly bicycle ride, then busied myself gathering the last bags of leaves set out for collection by neighbors–for the compost pile, garden bed and raspberry patch in the community garden.

I gazed at the green tarp that I’d weighted down with sections of branches, over the new mushroom bed of sunflower stalks and wood chips. Did the mycellium have enough of the October warmth to get established before the freeze? I won’t know for six months.

I snipped off the last little broccoli florets, and brought inside about half of the leafy branches of peppermint–to dry for a winter’s worth of tea.

I fired up the grill with wood to bake some butternut squash, while I scraped and brushed the soil–and in a few cases, rust–off a number of garden tools, and coated them with oil for the long sleep.

Another gardening year is done.

On Saturday evening, I was feeling the centrifugal pull to “get out and do something fun,” though the occasion with the most pull involved getting myself to the other side of town and back. I was also feeling the centripetal pull of the easy chair: easy to succumb to when feeling the fatigue from walking an hour and a quarter on sidewalks with a thin blanket of new snow over . . . whatever is underneath. Somehow I managed the trek with about a dozen skids, but no major twists or falls.

At the halfway point of my walk, I stopped briefly at the neighborhood food co-op, where I noted and skimmed the Strib’s front-page column on the passage, with the votes of three of Minnesota’s newly-re-elected Democratic Party Congresscritters, of legislation authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“It’s about jobs.” Yeah, right.

Having long since grown accustomed to “elected” officials acting in lockstep with the prospects for corporate profit, it was no surprise. Still, I trudged home, despite glimmers of the pale westering sun, in a cloud of dismay.

No doubt the Keystone story was what nudged my brain to remember someone whose opinions I sought out not so long ago: George Monbiot. And though he views the politi-scape with a similar degree of dismay, his writings seldom fail to illuminate.

That was the case with his 11 September piece, “Political Straitjacket,” beginning with a slice of comedic truth.

In The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins, a comedy made in 1971, Spike Milligan portrays Sloth as a tramp trying to get through a farm gate. This simple task is rendered almost impossible by the fact that he can’t be bothered to take his hands out of his pockets and open the latch. He tries everything: getting over it, under it, through it, hurling himself at it, risking mortal injury, expending far more energy and effort than the obvious solution would require.

The situation is a metaphor for the impasse — the fusion of big business and big government, the rapacious fever for ever-more Progress — that has stood for so long that it now seems as permanent as the Cold War once did.

But the Cold War did end, effectively, twenty-five years ago, when Germans breached, then tore down, even with bare hands, the Berlin Wall.

Coincidentally, it has been twenty-five years since the Montreal Protocol came into effect.

The what, you say? I didn’t remember, either.

As Monbiot reminds us, every member of the United Nations–even the United States of America–has ratified Montreal, the agreement to phase out and eliminate the production and use of chemicals suspected of harming Earth’s ozone layer. Suspected, mind you. The scientific understanding at the time was far from conclusive. (Sound familiar?)

And the positive results of that agreement have been considerable.

Twenty-five years later, it is inconceivable to anyone paying any attention at all that national governments, worldwide, are capable of agreeing to–and adhering to– any effective limits on the burning of fossil hydrocarbons. Even with — or perhaps because of — near-unanimous agreement among climate scientists about catastrophic climate impacts.

What, in the cosmic weather, reflects that clear day of agreement?

Even a brief look at the chart for the crucial date for the Montreal Protocol –the date when it became effective (binding) — tells much.

Montreal Protocol - effective

It is the grouping of bodies in the governmental sign of Capricorn: Sun, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. It symbolizes a rare moment of collective unity of purpose and will.

Sun (will) and Mercury (communication, agreement) pass through Capricorn each year, Saturn (limitation) for about two years out of twenty-nine, Uranus (breaking of precedent) for seven out of eighty-four, Neptune (unity, vision) for fourteen out of one hundred sixty-eight.

For all five to overlap is rare indeed.

There was another unusual combination: Venus in Sagittarius and Jupiter in Taurus: each planet in the sign of the other’s domicile. In this context, they represent the confluence of economic interests with international concerns.

Mars in its own domicile, Aries, represents unfettered action.

The moment is gone, long gone.

What rules now is, as Monbiot calls the doctrine of market fundamentalism, a “zombie ideology” enshrining profit, oblivious to any cost. That is at the heart — if one can call it that — of the latest trade agreement, the Trans Pacific Partnership, whose protocols await approval from the shadowy anterooms of Congress. The key to its function is what is called investor-state dispute settlement, under which corporations can file suit for actual or potential loss of profits from any level of government, with decisions handed down by “an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation, and which is not subject to judicial review.”

Monbiot documents several specific disputes already underway under other agreements in “A Gunpowder Plot against Democracy”: for example, tobacco company Philip Morris suing both Uruguay and Australia for trying to discourage people from smoking, and oil company Occidental awarded $2.3bn in compensation from Ecuador, which terminated the company’s drilling concession in the Amazon when it discovered that Occidental had broken Ecuadorean law.

Towns in Maine, New Hampshire and elsewhere have been threatened with crippling lawsuits from corporations demanding the “right” to drain local water tables for plastic-bottle water.

The list, of course, goes on . . . and on . . .

Halloween may be past for this year, but the zombie ideology remains on the move, coming soon to a country or community near you.

And Congresscritters —  plenty of them, probably enough for passage — sit ready to rubber-stamp it.


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