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The Last Time 17/02/2017

Posted by zoidion in History, Photography, Weather.
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img_7487

Twin Cities ephemera: Only in the shady places do any remnants of December’s snows persist, as the air temperature reached sixty degrees.

As I walked about my errand-route, wearing a cap for shade rather than a hat for warmth, I found myself breaking into a sweat: I was wearing one too many layers under my light jacket. 

The physical sensation is accompanied by a peculiar mental one, since the solar arc remains rather low, and daylight is still fairly short. Hard to believe is that this day is only two months since the winter solstice.

In the back yard, several whorls of mullein look as if they are about to don their furry green coats and begin photosynthesis for their second (seed-producing) season. Birds are more active and noisy, chattering and fussing as they perch, hidden, within cedar hedges.

New high-temperature records for the date have been set across southern Minnesota, and the techno-weather forecasters say that more will follow over the next several days.

How rare is this? Well, this is only the fifth time that temperatures have reached sixty degrees here in February, going back to 1873.

The last time there was an extended warm spell here in February, the year was 1981, when six consecutive days registered temperatures of fifty or higher. That period began in the week that included the Full Moon, and as Sol crossed the horizon of the season chart: the axis that relates to latitude.

caping1980_1qfeb1981

Notice that in the outer ring (the first quarter Moon chart) Sol is with the upper meridian symbol (the circle with vertical line). That is a signal for a significant shift in temperature, especially as Luna approached opposition: Indeed, the first record-setting day that year was 16 February, as Luna moved into warm/dry Leo, the zoidion opposite Sol in Aquarius.

Also, Mars — a reliable indicator of warmer and drier conditions — had also recently crossed the horizon.

Not only was the upper meridian for the lunation in the place of the ascendant (shown as the circle with horizontal line) in the season chart, but there was another reversal: the horizon for the lunation opposite the upper meridian for the season. Hence a reversal of seasonal expectations.

And now? The Full Moon chart (the outer ring below) has a similar reversal in relation to the season chart: its upper meridian opposite the season’s ascendant, and the ascendant conjunct the season’s upper meridian.

caping2016_fmfeb2017

This time the warmth has arrived as Luna arrives at the ascendant of the season chart, and as Mars crosses the midpoint between lower meridian and horizon.

Watch for even greater temperature anomalies as Mars closes the distance from Uranus, and opposes Jupiter, in the days around the solar eclipse on 26 February. And watch for greater outbursts in the heating-up political realm as well. (Brazil is a particular hotspot in this period.)

-<zoidion>-

Stars and Bucks 11/09/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, History, Photography, Weather.
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Glacial Lakes ephemera: After a run of not-quite-hot but very muggy days, the weather regime shifted just in time for a planned several days out of town. We headed west and a bit north to the Minnewaska area, about one hundred and twenty miles from home, as the crow flies.

There’s a good-size lake by that name there: the name made, by early settlers, from two Dakota words, minne (“water”) and washta or waska (“good”). For a while it was called by an Indian name meaning “Dish Lake,” because it lies in a basin. At other times it was called White Bear Lake, apparently because a Chief White Bear was buried in a high hill on the north shore; and Lake Whipple, after Bishop Henry Whipple, by many accounts a fair-minded man who courageously advocated for peace with the Dakotas when the bulk of the white population wanted to exterminate or at least deport all of them following the horrors of the Dakota Uprising of 1862. (The town of Mankato on the Minnesota River still holds the dubious distinction of having been the site of the largest mass execution ever in the United States of America, when thirty-eight Dakotas were simultaneously hanged on the day after Christmas that year. Many more sentences were commuted by President Abraham Lincoln.)

The view of and approach to the lake from the south is a dramatic prospect, since it is a long and finally steep slope after traversing part of the 120-mile-long and ten-to-nineteen-mile-wide band of territory known as the glacial lakes. While nearly all of Minnesota (not the southeast corner) was subject to glaciation, this area got special treatment that left behind a landscape characterized by hills, ridges and lakes that seem to belong . . .  somewhere else. 

Here’s one view within Glacial Lakes State Park:

GLSP_bowl

And another:

GLSP_bowl-closeup

The experience afforded by a bit of time atop this kame — hah! the computer’s dictionary doesn’t list the word, but the hefty paper one does: “a short ridge or mound of sand and gravel deposited during the melting of glacial ice” — was a rare and welcome one. The only sounds came from the unusually gentle breeze, grasshoppers, frogs (maybe) in the woods below, a few birds passing through the valley: nothing mechanical. And the quality of light shifted from moment to moment.

The day had begun, in the nearby no-stoplight town of Starbuck, with a full rainbow and a partial double spectrum of colors, which heralded half a day of overcast and showery conditions. By noon, the sky was clearing, and by early evening a local pileup of clouds was flashing lightning nearly every second and hurling hail at the ground. I wondered if I could have stood the times of tedium to witness, and photograph, such a remarkable variety of clouds and light on the land.

The following morning was quite clear, presenting an excellent view of the fading Moon along with Venus and Mars. (Mars is a tiny dot to the left, or north, of the Moon’s crescent.) Pretty good for a camera perched on a stack of magazines, looking out a dirty second-story-porch window. (It would be a long story.)

Mars_Moon_Venus-dawn

Below is the chart for the same moment: the time as recorded by my camera. Jupiter was about to rise over the horizon, though still too close to the Sun to be seen. But the chart shows graphically that excellent planetary viewing will be possible, clear weather permitting, over the next couple of weeks. The Sun lengthens the distance from Jupiter, and Venus and Mars close the distance from the latter.

Mars_Moon_Venus

How easy and glorious it would be to see the planets and stars if so many millions of lives weren’t based in urban centers like the overbuilt Twin Cities, with its excess of shade and decorative trees and its plethora of light pollution sources. Viewing across a prairie landscape like the Sedan Brook Prairie would be both simple and hypnotic.

Sedan_Prairie

But except for a few mostly small remnants, the prairies are gone. What is left, in small towns dependent on spillover money from Big Agriculture — where every stop sign or bend in the road represents an opportunity for a disastrous spill from a tank truck loaded with anhydrous ammonia — are rueful reminders of what once, and for eons, was.

Starbuck_ATM

-<zoidion>-

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