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Indexing Weather 11/01/2017

Posted by zoidion in forecast, History, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The past several days have brought several Alberta clippers — several-hour-long snowfalls riding the winds out of Alberta —totaling about eight inches of snow. Fairly typical for January in these parts. Definitely a nuisance and a danger for commuting.

As the weather pattern passes and the sky clears, the temperature will likely drop below zero again: typical, in my experience, when there’s a full moon in Cancer.

At least these conditions are fairly normal. Unlike heavy rain in the Sierra Nevadas and heavy snow and severe cold in southern Europe.

As you may be aware, weather geeks are continually coming up with new terms for timeless phenomena. (The practice, presumably, helps justify funding and continued employment.)

Since this meteorological winter — which started at the beginning of December — is nearly at its halfway point, it’s time for the geeks to refer to the Weather Misery Index, applicable to either winter or summer.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the winter WMI is reckoned thus: “The WMI assigns single points for daily counts of maximum temperatures 10 degrees F or colder, and daily minimums of 0 degrees F or colder. If the minimum temperature drops to -20 degrees or colder greater, eight points are attributed to that day. Snowfall totals of one inch or greater in a day receive one point. Four-inch snowfalls generate four points for the day, an eight-inch snowfall receives a whopping 16 points. The duration of a winter is quantified using the number of days the snow depth is 12 inches or greater.”

As of January 10, 2017 the WMI for the 2016-17 winter is at 41 points: 19 points for cold, 22 points for snow. This is enough for this winter to be in the “mild” category. Fourteen more points are needed for this winter to be categorized as “moderate.” The WMI for the winter of 2015-16 finished with 47 points, enough for 2014-15 to be categorized as a “mild” winter. The WMI points for the 2015-2016 winter were 18 for cold and 29 snow: 46 points. The winter of 2016-17 should easily pass last winter in points. The WMI for the winter of 2013-14 in Twin Cities was 207 points, or in the high end of the “severe winter” category.  This was the ninth most severe winter on record based on WMI points. The lowest WMI score was the winter of 2011-2012 with 16 points. The most severe winter is 1916-1917 with 305 WMI points. Note, this could also be called the “Winter Fun Index” depending on your perspective!

I have some vivid memories of that winter of 2013-14. Some are white-knuckle: driving round-trip solo to Detroit to help a friend in an emergency, negotiating snowstorms both ways. Some more peaceful and contemplative: walking, morning and evening, from late January to early March, a labyrinth I stamped out in the deep backyard snow.

That winter, in my experience, deservedly ranks high, obviously for a lot of snow. But that winter of a century ago: I don’t regret missing that.

According to available records, here in the Twin Cities there was at least six inches of snow on the ground from 24 December 1916 to 24 March 1917 — uh, that’s three full months — with a peak of thirty-one inches on 16 March. (It sure took a while for that higher sun angle to eat away at the snowpack.) Seventy-four inches of snow fell altogether: double the local average.

The temperature side of the index was also nasty: fourteen minimum temperatures below zero in December, fifteen in January, nineteen in February, and seven minima of twenty below or lower.

Okay, what are the astro-meteorological indications?

The main ones pop right out: Luna and Venus in the crucial lower meridian position at the time of the Capricorn solar ingress.


Those are reliable indicators of abundant moisture, especially when both are in a zoidion (aka “sign”) of the watery triplicity, in this case Scorpio. This is a special case, though: Both Luna and Venus are “problematic” (in the system of planetary “dignities”) in that zoidion noted for extreme conditions and situations, and in relation to winter temperature, definitely cold.

Eclipses also marked the first month of the season: a partial solar eclipse on 24 December, a total lunar eclipse on 8 January, and a second partial solar eclipse on 23 January. That’s a bit of information to add to the bucket, in view of a pattern of mild weather into early December, later than usual (back then).

Also, testing the full-moon-in-Cancer observation: The full moon / lunar eclipse was followed, two days later, by the start of a week of below-zero weather.

Notably, the most bitter weather came in the first week of February, following the first-quarter-moon, at which time the meridian and horizon matched those in the season chart.


For folks around here that year, as temperatures at last reached the forties, the spring equinox just may have been celebrated with dancing in the streets.




1. Mary Louise Turner - 12/01/2017

I love your photo of the Moon! It captures the essence of the Moon’s mysteriousness and intrigue. I’m curious of what sign it was in when you took the photo. It feels like a Scorpion Moon. I also enjoyed your tale and insights of the winter of 1916-1917. I love astrology especially when it’s showing us in obvious ways the outcomes. As always, thanks for sharing.
Mary Louise 🙂

2. zoidion - 13/01/2017

Thanks! The photo is a fresh one of Luna in Cancer, about ten hours before Full.

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