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Winters Mild, Wild 04/03/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, forecast, fruit, Photography, urban agriculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Winter is over, even here near the center of North America. It wasn’t much of a winter, nothing much to report. (Meteorologists now tend to refer to the December-February period as winter: the coldest stretch of months.)

There were a few short stretches of below-zero weather, but overall the weather tended toward mild and dry: typical of an El Nino winter. (Statistically, it was the sixth mildest here, going back to 1895.)

Around here, the norm used to be that there was snow on the ground by mid-November, almost surely by Thanksgiving. This time, there were only brief periods when the ground was snow-covered, and the first day with a below-freezing high temperature was 17 December. That’s very late.

Only one notable snowstorm occurred, and it began on 2 February: the day I was leaving town.  A week later, most of the snow had melted away again.

This past week, I’ve been spending more time outside in the yard, most of it just looking around as I ponder what edibles to start where. And how much area to sow with nitrogen-fixing clover.  But also: checking on the two hazelnut saplings, wondering how much more they’ll grow this year: year three, the year of leaping. (“Sleep, creep, leap.”) 

And pruning the cherry tree — a rogue gust of wind broke a branch last summer. After sawing it off, I stood there a bit and imagined building and having a “fruit wall”  — I have a fair amount of urbanite (concrete pavement) on site, next to the garage: the parking spot, ruined by the roots of the now-gone silver maple tree that I foolishly let grow big, and the currently-useless triangular spot that I’ve had my eye on for years. I could use chunks of urbanite to build a protective wall. That would be another round of heavy labor, but if I do nothing that tree, in the space between two houses, will continue being buffeted.

A regular reader might wonder: Did I schedule my getaway astro-meteorologically? Well, of course, to a degree.

The dates for the photography workshop were not my doing, but I noted that the first few days would be during the waning Moon, with both Mercury (more unusually) and Venus (more commonly) far enough from the Sun’s rays to be visible. The crescent Moon, Mercury and Venus would make a tantalizing sight. (See photo included in previous post.) In fact, all the planets–Mercury through Saturn–would be visible, like beads on a long string arcing most of the way across the pre-dawn sky.

But I wanted to allow myself a full day there before the workshop began. That would make 2 February a travel day, a day during which Moon shifted from Scorpio to Sagittarius. Fiery-zoidion Sagittarius,  was at the bottom of the season chart — the key indicator for a mild season, even with cold Saturn exactly on the lower meridian.

The Moon approaching that point on 2 February, not reaching it until the 3rd, was a strong indication of a significant weather shift, toward a shot of cold. Prior to that, however, the Moon’s passage through water-zoidion Scorpio included contact with the place of moisture-indicator Venus in the season chart.

Thus, it was easy to anticipate a snowstorm — although not so easy to anticipate where it would impact most strongly.

And so, when I made my plans, I chose to avoid a scheduled departure until just after Moon entered Sagittarius. It was close: Departure was delayed for an hour, but we got away as the storm arrived and scores of flights were cancelled.

In the past week, Moon has come full circle again, but since the Capricorn ingress on 21 December 2015, Mars has crossed the place of Venus, while Venus has also continued moving ahead through the zodiacal belt. And so as Moon entered Scorpio on the 27th and began approaching Mars in late Scorpio, a notable brief (but unsurprising) warmup occurred; many new high-temperature records were set across the region on the 27th, though the weather was chillier and blustery the following day. By late on Leap Day, Moon’s entrance into Sagittarius and approach to Saturn brought below-average temperatures.

Nothing terribly problematic.

And with Mars (general signifier of warming) now (as of 5 March) in Sagittarius, a pronounced “mild bias” is indicated. In other words, an early spring.

Across the pond, however, it was a horrendous winter — particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland, a region close to a vortex of climate chaos. Pools of cold water near Greenland — probably the result of glacial ice melt — have been situated in proximity to areas of outrageously warm waters. Robert Scribbler has the story.

“10 degree Celsius above average sea surface temperatures off North America . . . are just insanely warm. Ocean surface anomalies used to rarely exceed 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average. These spikes off North America are an indication that the Gulf Stream is backing up and that overturning circulation off Greenland is slowing down.”

Wales and Scotland received the most rainfall ever recorded for a December-February period, with totals about two-and-one-half feet — even more than the previous record set only two years ago. At least one spot received three-and-one-half feet!

Even though the heavy rain pattern apparently started in November, the winter season’s deluge is clearly indicated astro-meteorologically. The lower meridian — the most potent zone, where events are most grounded — for Neptune, indicator for freakishly heavy rains and flooding, runs north-south through Wales, Scotland and westernmost England.


Two other moisture indicators are also present: the Venus-ascendant line (through Wales and England) and the Moon-descendant line (through Ireland and Scotland).

One could say the islands were in the cross-hairs. Have a look at the chart cast for Cardiff, Wales: Neptune at the bottom, with Venus and Moon across the horizon.


But let’s not overlook hapless Fiji, beset by a rising sea level, a leader in urging more serious responses to climate disruption, and lately devastated by tropical cyclone Winston. Fiji too has been marked this season by Neptune: The island nation is close by Neptune’s upper meridian line.


(Suva is the capital of Fiji.)


[Reading material: Look Homeward, America and Bye Bye Miss American Empire, Bill Kauffman. For an audio sample of his views, listen here.]


Cricket Crescendo 04/09/2015

Posted by zoidion in Climate, forecast, permaculture, urban agriculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: I don’t think it’s that my ears are suddenly more sensitive, and I don’t think it’s because the weather has turned warmer and more humid: I do think the crickets are making more noise these late-season nights. I think they sense that their time is running short: The average date of first frost is 8 October.
Along with notably shortening days (now two-and-a-half hours shorter than on the summer solstice), other changes are readily observable. The ferns, among the first plants to show life with their fiddle-heads, have turned almost completely brown, while most of the jack-in-the-pulpit leaves have turned yellow, their seed-clusters a brilliant red.
jack-pulpit0001The large clump of spiderwort out front, under the river birch, has done its annual flop.
Among the human-food plants, I note the extent of new growth on the two hazelnut bushes–respectable–and begin to anticipate next season’s year-three eruption; I’m quite fond of their fine-toothed, heart-shaped leaves.
I marvel once again at the excessive growth on the cherry tree: I’ll have to prune it again, to remove the downward-growing branches and some of the general tangle. How little remained after my pruning job last March.
Much of the yard was intolerably overgrown by July, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time and energy in the past month cutting back. It was hard to get up the steps to the deck, between the two elderberry bushes, so as soon as I’d harvested most of the berries I cut them back substantially. I’d already decided to take out one of them this fall–the one that’s been morning-shading an area that I’ve been working on bringing into production–and I’m glad that now a neighbor has expressed interest in adopting it.
I also dug out a clump of milkweed plants: There are plenty of other milkweeds nearby on which the monarch can feed and reproduce, and I’d found no chrysalis attached to any of “my” milkweed. I had pulled out several twisted plants that made it a challenge to walk the old concrete path through the backyard, and was impressed by how quickly new milkweed plants popped up to replace them. And so, when digging time came, there was an extensive horizontal root system just a couple of inches below the surface. That was a revelation. I figure that can be a spot to which to move the perennial vegetable Good King Henry that has done well enough the past two seasons, even though shaded by two black currant bushes. (I read, though, that GKH is difficult to re-establish after transplanting; I’d best choose the timing carefully: a waning Moon–for healthy roots–preferably in Taurus (as on 30 September and 1 October, or Moonday 5 October, with Moon waning in Moon-ruled Cancer.)
Also, there’s a New England aster to move: It’s so tall and wide that it’s throwing too much shade on some of the veggies.
Oh, in animal news, the–hopefully the, rather than a–woodchuck fell for the lure of peanut butter last week. This time, s/he got a second chance in other territory a couple of miles away. But on the journey I reflected on the absurdity and waste of fossil fuel involved in delivering the critter there.
And, at long last, I got a rocket stove–essentially a miniature chimney, requiring far less wood than an open fire–set up in the backyard. The idea is to have an auxiliary cooking arrangement, a non-fossil-fuel option, to use during the summer, to put less heat into the house. But I failed in my first several attempts to get a flame going in the small fire chamber, even using matches. That was humbling, especially when recollecting my onetime ability to generate fire with a bow and drill.
Overall, there’s markedly less to do in the garden now than in the spring, and that’s a welcome shift, bringing the luxury of more time and energy for other projects, and indulgences.
One of the latter is Nick Dagan Best’s “I Love Astrology” podcast: as might be expected of him, a tautly-paced romp. His episode three on censorship of astrologers touches on situations involving Evangeline Adams in the U.S., Alan Leo in the U.K, and Karl Ernst Krafft and Elsbeth Ebertin in Germany, among others. For folks with an interest in the history of astrology, it’s definitely worth a listen.
And one of these mornings–whenever we here are spared the smoke haze from the burning of the West–I’m sure I’ll see Venus and Mars rising before the Sun. (Both, you may recall, were visible in the evening sky after sunset during the past winter, spring and early summer.)

But what about El Nino, the subject of so much weather buzz of late, and whether or not rainstorms will be able to break through the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge?
Well, El Nino, as most weather watchers know by now, is a disruption–particularly evident through fall and winter months in Earth’s northern hemisphere–of usual weather patterns that is related to an unusual warming of equatorial waters in the eastern Pacific ocean. (The most recent very strong El Nino–in 1997-98–brought very heavy rains to California: more than twice the average at San Francisco, and the most since 1862, when vast areas of northern California flooded.)
The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge is in the way of such rains reaching parched lands. The RRR is a persistent region of atmospheric high pressure that has been “in place” off the Pacific coasts of the U.S. and Canada since December 2012. (Hmmm . . . — What did those astronomically-minded Mayans have to say about climate?) The RRR, related to a large region of high oceanic water temperatures off the West Coast of North America, has been effectively blocking the usual storm systems from coming onshore, resulting in severe and exceptional drought and conditions conducive to the exceptional 2015 summer season of wildfires in the American and Canadian West.
Many people are hoping, praying, assuming that the current extremely warm waters of the eastern Pacific will provide relief from the extreme drought. Um, it might, and it might not. On the one hand, El Nino is no guarantee of exceptional rains along the West Coast, or a mild and rather snow-free winter here in the upper Mississippi valley.
On the other, a fall and winter marked by perhaps record-breaking rains could go a long way toward filling those many empty and nearly-empty reservoirs, and perhaps arresting the collapse of California’s Big Ag corridor. But on still another, those downpours, hitting slopes dotted with drought-dead trees or cleared by wildfires, would just as likely cause widespread mudslides and floods.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
It’s a time of one peculiar and worrisome phenomenon after another–craters, big ones (likely caused by methane eruptions), appearing in Siberia; vast regions burned over, others blanketed with a smoky haze; toxic red blooms of bacteria generating oceanic dead zones; purple waves washing Oregon’s shores; Caribbean beaches choked with seaweed blooms; a “real and imminent” thaw of Earth’s permafrost zone; signs of a slowdown of the Gulf Stream. And have I mentioned Greenland and Antarctica?

But the question of the moment: Will an El Nino deliver rains in quantity to the Pacific coast of North America?
Related to that, a most unusual succession of Pacific typhoons has formed lately, most moving typically west. But one did something strange: After brushing Japan, it kept going northeast, punching through the Bering Strait and delivering a jolt of heat to the Arctic Ocean–similar to what the “weather bomb” of Typhoon Nuri did in 2014, “kickstarting” winter.
And in the past few days, the eastern Pacific has sported a most unusual collection of four typhoons at once.
earth.nullschool.04092015Source: Earth.nullschool.net — wind pattern on 4 September 2015

Such peculiarities reflect the rare Jupiter-Saturn-Neptune configuration that is currently shaping up. And note that the typhoon lineup, more pronounced a few days ago, formed in the days following the Full Moon during which Sun was conjunct Jupiter and Moon was conjunct Neptune. This likely heralds a shift in the prevailing pattern.
However, the typhoons don’t often head north before reaching Asian shores, but one storm system (not a typhoon) in mid-May 2015 did break through the RRR and deliver unusual flooding rains to San Diego. (The relevant lunation chart showed water sign Cancer on the crucial lower meridian, along with Venus–also signifying moisture–in Cancer.)
That’s the sort of thing needed to break through the RRR, and begin to break the drought.
And there’s an indication of a coming shift: the movement of Mercury, symbol of wind. Mercury crossed the zero-degrees-Libra point–the Sun’s place on the northern autumn equinox (23 September)–on 27 August. But on the equinox Mercury will be in apparent retrograde motion (beginning 17 September), until 9 October: when it will sit in the first degree of Libra. That will in all likelihood be when the pattern will start to alter.
That doesn’t mean rain will begin falling that day on the most parched areas. After all, the Sun in astro-meteorology represents dry and warm conditions. Of course.
But significantly, in the equinox astro-map, the Sun-on-the-lower-meridian line runs off the the U.S. West Coast, and through Vancouver Island and western British Columbia. The Sun-Mercury combination suggests movement or dissipation of the notorious Ridge.

Lib-ing-2015Sun line: dashed red. Mercury line: dashed yellow.

How much of a shift is a subject for further investigation. Stay tuned.


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