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Equinox Epicenter 26/03/2015

Posted by zoidion in Climate, forecast, Long Emergency.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It’s yet another cloudy, chilly, although so far not breezy, day. At least I got myself outside for the seven a.m. look at the precipitation gauge, and was rewarded with a glimpse of blue along the southern horizon.

As typical as it is, it’s been tiresome, especially after the unseasonable warmth and sun of two weeks ago. This time of year, these conditions are a trigger for illness, and with a cough making an appearance yesterday, I figured I’d better start the day with an elderberry tonic. It would be great to avoid a repeat of last year’s two-month spring crud.

The week has been fairly close to astro-meteorological expectations: Two snowfalls — just a little too cold for rain — and quick melting added 0.38 inch of welcome water to the ground.

Even so, nearly all of Minnesota is now officially in the first stage of drought. It’s not just California, Texas and Oklahoma.

Fortunately, the sky was clear at first light of the morning after the equinox. It was easy to spot Saturn, already past its zenith and arcing toward the west. But there was too much light pollution to spot Mercury, which is moving into the Sun’s beams again.

The main thing on this occasion was to be present for the start of the day and the season — to be outside in the frosty air with the element of fire, in a quasi-ritual manner: as much as can be managed in a semi-public urban setting.

You see, I’ve been stirred lately by a quote, which I refer to as “Back into Relation,” supposedly from David Herbert Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover.” It begins:

We must get back into relation, vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos and the universe. The way is through daily ritual, and the re-awakening. We must once more practice the ritual of dawn and noon and sunset, the ritual of the kindling fire and pouring water.

Thus, I had a tall, full watering can handy as I put a match to the tent of paper and twigs I’d assembled in the campfire pod. As the flames reached the brown foliage of Scotch pine left over from the 2013 Yule tree, I found myself doing a dance to stamp out the sparks in the short grass round about. (And I recalled the skill and wherewithal I had twenty years ago to generate fire from a bow and drill.)

As the fire caught on the small logs of silver maple, I began circling the back yard, to see what there was to see: above, the briefly pink bands of thin clouds to the east; below, a crushed seed pod from one of last year’s milkweed plants; scattered about, the brown pellets of fertilizer left by the feral rabbits. Yep, those critters give as well as take.

My mind was also swimming in images and words echoing from the previous evening, when I’d dropped in on the potluck dinner — contributing a bottle of my homemade elderberry wine (well-received) — and showing of the film “Symphony of the Soil” organized by the Transition Longfellow group, on the other side of town. 

Nearly a week later, I find so much of the information and imagery melding that it is a challenge to extract specific pieces. It is easy enough to recall the large-scale tragedies: the loss of soil to erosion, pollution and pavement. It is harder to recall such regenerative marvels as that performed on range land by dung beetles and the very deep-growing plant communities of the prairies.

Year of Soils

(The logo for the United Nations theme in this Year of Soils.)

And in the midst of it all, I can’t seem to shake out of my head the words of the not-so-old song by the Wilburys:

While you’re strolling down the fairway
Showing no remorse
Flowing from the poisons
They’ve sprayed on your golf course
While you’re busy sinking birdies
And keeping your scorecard
The devil’s been busy in your back yard

It seems that a lot of folks are wondering, what happened to that early spring? It was quite a temperature surge.

As Jeff Masters’s blog on Weather Underground described it:

The hottest late-winter airmass on record across the central Great Plains sent temperatures on Monday [16 March] to absurd values for mid-March. As a trough of low pressure strengthened over the northern Plains, westerly winds were driven downslope from the Colorado Rockies. Already very warm for the elevation and time of year, the air mass warmed even more as it descended toward lower elevations. Both Nebraska and Iowa saw the only 90°F temperatures known to have occurred before the spring equinox in more than a century of record-keeping at the states’ major reporting stations. The heat also persisted in California, where downtown Los Angeles endured its fourth 90°F day in a row–the first time any March has produced four 90°F days, consecutive or otherwise, in records going back to 1877.

Well, from an astro-meteorological perspective, there are two indicators. First, the timing of the surge is related to the conjunction of Mars and Uranus in fire sign Aries, which was exact on 11 March. (Mars signifies rising temperature, drying conditions and violent energetic shifts, while Uranus indicates short sharp shocks and record-breaking situations.)

Around here, the 10th was the first of the bizarrely warm days, the temperature zooming up once the thin snow cover was gone. After the 16th, temperatures slid back to average or below-average.

Second, a new seasonal regime came into effect with the equinox. The key astro-meteorological factor in the spring chart is fire sign Sagittarius on the lower meridian, but with Saturn — indicating cooler, cloudier conditions — added to the mix. Thus, dramatically unseasonable periods are so  . . . two weeks ago.

Relatively cool temperatures will largely hold through the spring, with lowered temperature gradients — meaning less north-south temperature differences and less atmospheric fuel for tornadic activity. Long story short: a relatively quiet primary tornado season. That’s good news for much of the center of the USA.

The bad news is an expanding drought zone: further battering of the industrial agriculture system, more pain for food shoppers, more demand at food shelves.

Okay, so there has been another round of warm-weather record-setting. But there have been just as many, if not more, cold-weather records, including historic snowfalls in New England and late-winter cold and ice storms in the South.

The climate situation is complicated: “Warming” is far too simplistic, inaccurate and deceptive. In this regard, Ben Davidson, the public face of Suspicious Observers, provides a very worthwhile summary, entitled “The Top Six Climate Change Problems.”


Davidson supports his major points, which challenge much of climate change orthodoxy. (But where are the links to reports and investigations cited in the video?)

(1) Climate is changing unexpectedly (e.g., more cold than heat records), and pollution is a major factor.

(2) It is difficult to trust what we are told: More than mere mistakes in climate modeling, much data has been altered; integrity is in question.

(3) The future is uncertain, whether the long-term trend is to be warmer or cooler.

(4) The entire solar system is changing: e.g., Venus’ slower rotation, Jupiter’s radio emissions, Saturn’s cyclical storm coming earlier, Uranus’ auroras and storms.

(5) The Sun — which energizes Earth’s atmosphere and influences earthquake activity — may dictate Earth’s future; the recent decline in solar activity can precipitate long-overdue cooling on Earth.

(6) Humans are interfering with the weather — through weather modification and geo-engineering — and hundreds of patents in this field have already been issued.

(See/hear also the podcast — featuring Jennifer Francis on how the Arctic drives weird weather, and Daniel Brooks on advance of parasites with climate change — with copious program notes on Radio Ecoshock.)

Thus, amid climatic challenges and overall economic decline, the race to influence rainfall and “steer” weather systems is an area of burgeoning growth. What strange times . . .



Pruning Season 16/03/2015

Posted by zoidion in Long Emergency, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Astronomical winter is still with us, for a few more days, while meteorological spring has definitely arrived. The temperature hit seventy degrees F here yesterday with a hazy sun, for the first time this year, capping a remarkable weather week that began with temperatures much below average. 

The thin snow cover melted quickly, enabling temperatures to soar and giving way to a few days of ground puddles before the ground was sufficiently thawed to absorb the scanty moisture. So little snow was on the garage roof that the runoff was insufficient to fill either of the barrels placed at two corners.

Just as the thaw started, I had a younger man climb up in the big river birch tree in the front of the house, and take down the trunk (one of four) that was leaning over the northwestern corner of the house. He and his helper on the ground piled the small branches into his pickup truck bed, but they obligingly carried the trunk and big branches to the back yard and cut them into manageable sections. The next day I busied myself in getting them off the ground and covered–in case I get motivated enough to try inoculating some with oyster mushroom spawn. (One takeaway from the seminar I attended last week at Mother Earth Gardens is that birch wood is not particularly recommended for growing mushrooms.)

It was time also, I judged, to prune the cherry tree (variety Mesabi) that’s been on-site for three years. It really should have been pruned at the nursery, if not the retail store. After three growing seasons, it was a wild and crazy-looking thang. I searched and searched in vain for the pamphlet that came with the hardy-kiwi vine plants — I’m sure it included information on care and maintenance for a wide variety of fruiting bushes and trees. So I reluctantly turned to that wild and crazy information source: the Internet.

I watched a couple of how-to-prune videos, and more than one garden-advice site was quite clear that cherry pruning should only take place in the summer, but in the end I decided to trust the guidelines of the University of Minnesota Extension Service: Prune soon before “bud-break.” (Maybe mid-March is still too early, but I didn’t want to be trampling the early-awakening sorrel and comfrey plants.)

So I kept the various principles in mind as I circled the tree — several times — with clippers and hand-saw, eventually removing about two-thirds of the branches and creating two impressive piles on the ground. (I spent some time — and wore out my wrists — the next day in chopping, with a hatchet, the twigs and small branches into small bits. They’ll go back under the tree as mulch.) And I was impressed with cherry wood’s hardness: No wonder it’s valued for fine furniture.

The big weather story is Tropical Cyclone Pam’s devastation of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu (beginning late on 12 March), after hitting the nearby Solomon Islands and Kiribati. As of today, at least twenty-four people are confirmed dead, and over three thousand homeless. In the capital, Port Vila — which took a direct hit from the storm — the Oxfam Australia relief organization reported that up to ninety percent of housing has been damaged, including vital supplies of food and water. Port Vila’s hospital was evacuated because of structural damage. In addition: “Severe storm surge flooding has occurred in vulnerable coastal areas. The extreme winds destroyed poorly-constructed structures and damaged others. Torrential rainfall triggered flash flooding and may trigger landslides.”

I had to look up the place in the trusty Merriam-Webster’s Geographical Dictionary (1997), learning it’s the former New Hebrides island chain northeast of Australia and and north-northwest of New Zealand, and independent of Great Britain since 1980.

The larger islands are volcanic in origin, with three active volcanoes and a major earthquake fault line, and less than ten percent of the land is conducive to agriculture. Even so, more than 78,000 hectares of land have been used of late for major crops including coconut, palm oil (a major ecological impact through the Indonesian archipelago), taro and vanilla. It seems reasonable to expect that the storm has devastated those croplands and, based on reports, triggered severe erosion and many landslides.

Ironically, or significantly, Vanuatu’s president was attending an United Nations disaster conference in Japan when the cyclone struck. As well he ought: Port Vila was recently rated the world’s most exposed city to natural disasters, especially storm surges from events such as Pam.

The susceptibility of Vanuatu in this season is shown by the Neptune Ascendant line passing through the region in the astromap for the Capricorn ingress 2014 (in effect until Aries ingress 2015).


And the situation was repeated for the relevant fourth quarter Moon astromap for 14 March, with the added significance of Saturn now closer to the upper meridian of the season chart and making a very close ninety-degree angle to Neptune in the season chart. (Neptune / Poseidon represents the overwhelming force of tides and storm surges.) Plus Mercury (wind) closing in on the Ascendant of the season chart, and other astrological factors, especially Sun and Moon on the horizon and meridian for the lunation.


Bingo: The vulnerable state of Vanuatu, economically hostage to world commodities markets and tourism, has “won” a game the people likely didn’t want to play.

It seems unlikely that much of what has been destroyed will be rebuilt, regardless of what International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde said in an email statement: “We are prepared to assist Vanuatu with quick, unbureaucratic steps in dealing with the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe and rebuilding the economy over the coming months.”

Ah, but the IMF, unlike Oxfam, is not in the relief or charity business. Welcome to long-term austerity, Vanuatu. The Long Emergency has arrived.


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