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The Year Without Summer 29/12/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, Hellenistic, History, homesteading, Uncategorized, urban agriculture, Weather.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



New lunar crescent and Venus, January 2014

Twin Cities ephemera: There’s not much to look at out there, what with the yard blanketed by what remains after a foot-and-a-half of snow meets with an inch of rain. The weather was so wild on the twenty-fifth that after “sundown,” a single flash of lightning lit the sky, and thunder seemed to roll across the flats near the Mississippi River and up and over this small ridge and upland.

Oh, there is a bit to note: rabbit trails, for instance, and the evidence of their munching on what was left of broccoli and kale leaves, and the fertilizer the rabbits leave behind. (Their little pellets of poop are strewn all along their trails, leaving me to wonder if they eject them as they run? They certainly don’t stand stock still when I surprise one, as they don’t blend into the landscape now. I think they munch and run, back to wherever they’re safe.)

The black currant bushes under one of the pear trees serve to remind me to take some cuttings come February. I cleared out some of the black raspberries out front: space to install some more currants, once they’ve had a couple of months to start roots indoors.

A big tree rat (aka “squirrel”) nest came splattering down on the ground, under the river birch, in the course of that big storm. A few small birch branches too.

But we were lucky: Very little rain froze on the branches, and after the rain, a howling wind dried the pavements before the temperature dropped below freezing.

In the morning, Luna in waning crescent phase winked several times through holes in the clouds, before dancing lines of snow flurries began snaking down the streets.

Thank the gods of earth and storms that there was no repeat of the terrible winter of 1996, when a January thaw brought at least as much rain that was followed by a temperature plunge to minus-thirty. (“Up north”: as low as minus-sixty.) Everything was ice-coated until March. I remember sitting in my former house — the one with the big old asbestos-wrapped octopus furnace — that night as the temperature dropped, hearing the wood in the studs pop-pop-popping. A chilling sound.

2016 ought not pass away without reference to what occurred two hundred years ago: “the year without summer” in Europe and northeastern North America.

In the latter, the mild winter of 1815-16 fueled renewed debate over whether there was a trend in that direction: The “Dalton Minimum” era of low sunspot activity, which began in 1790, was the subject of  much discussion in scientific circles.

But few scientists knew about a great volcanic eruption in the East Indies, and fewer realized what an effect it would evidently have the following year on the far side of the globe. The ever-astute Benjamin Franklin, however, was among those who had noted the coincidence of the eruption of Laki (Iceland) in 1783 and the strange, dangerous weather that followed.

Excessive rainfall, frost, even snow through what should have been summer 1816 plagued the regions mentioned, and produced food shortages and riots, famine, religious revivals, epidemics and migrations: Many New Englanders gave up on their rocky farms and set out for the Midwest. (That is why there is a band of territory from New England to Minnesota that falls within Colin Woodard’s identified cultural region of Yankeedom. See his book American Nations.)

As detailed in William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman in The Year Without Summer, chaos and calamity followed the eruption at Tambora in what is now Indonesia in April 1815. Some examples:

On Monday July 8, frost struck crops from Maine to Virginia . . . The morning of July 9 brought even colder temperatures and hard frosts . . . From Sweden to northern Italy, and Switzerland to Spain, great rain-bearing clouds seemed to darken the skies every day . . . As reports of the damage to grain and vineyards poured into Paris—where the Seine rose eight feet over several days—priests directed their flocks to pray for an end to the deluge.

Some blamed the recent resurgence in sunspots. In Italy, where the winter had been very severe (including historically unprecedented snowfalls), the situation was so dire that an astronomer in Bologna predicted that life on Earth would come to an end on 18 July—until government officials had him put in jail. (Perhaps that particular date was identified because of the prior conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn—the primary reference point for economic and political matters—on 18 July 1802.)

But recent compilations of anecdotal and scientific evidence, the Klingamans’ among them, point toward Tambora as the major factor.

The astrological evidence is also instructive, using the Aries solar ingress for 1815 as a base map. Again, as with astro-weather maps, the lower meridian and the bottom of the chart (representing what is on or under the Earth) contains appropriate symbols for a potential upheaval. It is Mars, planetary lord of Aries, “exalted” (maximally strengthened and effective) in Capricorn close to the point of the prior solar eclipse (at nineteen degrees Capricorn, not shown in the chart below, the inner ring showing the Aries ingress configuration). Adding to Mars’ potency was its closeness in declination—angular distance from the ecliptic—to Uranus and Neptune, those two large planets a few years away from conjunction.


Another placement of note is Venus setting on the western horizon while placed in Aries, opposite its/her domicile in the ascendant, Libra. That, together with the square angle to Mars, is a strong indication of trouble. (Astrologers using the Hellenistic system of delineation would likely emphasize Mars—the “malefic,” the troublemaker, the cutter—as the force “overcoming” the more peaceable Venus because of Mars’ placement “before” Venus.)

Trouble came quickly, with a major eruption on 5 April and an even greater one on 10 April, the one referenced here. It occurred close to local sundown, on the day of a New Moon in close alignment with that prior Venus position. Bear in mind that at New Moon, Luna is between Earth and Sol: a time of high gravitational force upon Earth.

And interestingly, Mercury (the messenger)—in apparent retrograde motion at the time of the Aries ingress—had caught up with Pluto (the god of the underworld) at the time of the catastrophic second eruption of Tambora.

By the time of the Aries ingress of 1816, there was another dire portent, unseen and unremarked: an exact square (ninety-degree angle) between the yet-to-be-discovered bodies, Neptune and Pluto.

That year came the deluge of destruction.

Alas, Gaia is no more pacific now . . . not when provoked.


[ See also earlier post, “Planets and Civilizations.”]


Freeze-Thaw Cycle 16/12/2016

Posted by zoidion in forecast, Weather.
Tags: , , , ,


Twin Cities ephemera: Pulling aside the drapes and raising the insulating blinds covering the windows this morning, I could see that the first smattering of the forecast snow had already fallen. It’s not welcome: Getting around has become distinctly more challenging since snow came to stay.

At least it brings a respite from the severe cold that moved in for the week.

The techno-weather forecasts are largely in agreement: Eight inches of snow can be expected in the metro area, with upwards of a foot falling to the south, accompanied by much wind to blow it around, followed by plunging temperatures to levels not seen hereabouts in several years — at least. A blast from the past.

But within a few more days — by the solstice — temperatures are likely to rebound close to or even above the freezing mark, thanks to a shift to airflow from the Pacific Ocean.

That’s an impressive oscillation.

That’s also an impressive expression of the indications contained in the relevant astro-meteorological charts.

Even though meteorological winter arrived with the calendar turn to December, astro-meteorological autumn is in effect until the solstice on the morning of the twenty-first. And the autumn chart promised a spate of below-average temperatures — eventually. (The prime indication was the zoidion Aquarius, whose lord is Saturn, on the lower meridian of the chart.)

Those arrived, on schedule, as Sun caught up with Saturn, and at this point there have been nine consecutive days with below-average temperatures.

It’s worth noting that meteorologists are referring to the imminent deep-freeze as the “coldest temperatures of the season.”

But first: more snow, timed to the passage of Luna across the upper meridian, following Full Moon in alignment with Luna in the season chart.

As mentioned in the previous discussion of the winter chart, the position of Mars at the lower meridian promises a warmup at and immediately following the solstice, and a relatively wet winter season: signified by Neptune and Pisces on the lower meridian.

Pretty much what the techno-meteorologists have been saying for this region. It’s almost as if they’re reading this very blog.

Curious, isn’t it?


[Currently reading: Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota, Gwen Westerman & Bruce White, 2012; Green Earth, Kim Stanley Robinson, 2015]

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