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Rain Bombs Away 04/08/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, herbalism, homesteading, Long Emergency, Photography.
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IMG_6170

Twin City ephemera: The first rumbles of distant thunder, as darkness yielded to gray, stirred me from an uneasy muggy night.

Another day — actually, another hour or so — another two inches plus of rain. Frankly, I was amazed — it didn’t seem to be coming down quite that hard and fast. And I didn’t notice any ponding along the border between lawn-land next door and garden-land over here, as I did during and after the bigger 5 July storm.

But more and more often, rainfalls — at least in this part of the world, and even more in this country’s northeast quadrant — happen as deluges.

Anyway, relief is already in the air: relief from tropical-style dew points.

Yesterday, first thing, I was smart enough to get going on this year’s batch of immunity-boosting tonic. It’s elderberry season just now, and the first related project was drying a quart of berries in the dehydrator, for tea through the rest of the year. (I’m still using last year’s.) 

Making the tonic is a bit more involving: shopping for the other ingredients at an herb shop, simmering everything for an hour-and-a-half (what I recall from the workshop I went to), letting it sit for a while through an extended chat with my astro-buddy, straining out the liquid and decanting into several quart-size jars, adding just a bit of honey.

The ingredients: twelve cups water, three cups elderberries, one cup astragalus, one-quarter cup ginger, one cup echinacea, one cup lycii (goji) berries. (This time, I omitted the half-cup of burdock root.)

I would have preferred to do that cooking outside, on the rocket stove, but I couldn’t get it going. No doubt it didn’t help that there was a little pile of wet ashes in the firing chamber, left over from last time I used it. Guess I better find a way to keep it better covered.

Through much of the process of picking the elderberries, a medium-sized gray bird — species unknown — served as overseer. It would perch on one of the inner branches, keeping quite still as I clipped the sagging, deep-purple clusters of berries. Often it would repeatedly open and close its beak, making a slight exhalation sound. Sometimes it would be on the ground, hopping along, endangered by the cat that occasionally prowls here.

Was it sick? During one of those very muggy days, I found it in the half-full water can, seemingly fully bathed but unable to get out. A bit later and it would have been exhausted and drowned. I poured the bird out onto the ground.

One more backyard drama — less entertaining, no doubt, than the sight and sound of me discovering, squeezing and pounding the Japanese beetles. They seem to find the leaves of the raspberry and fireweed plants, and one of the hazelnut bushes, especially tasty and nutritious.

When I checked the transits — the positions of Sun, Moon and planets — for the time (just about seven a.m.) that this latest downpour arrived, in relation to the chart for the season, well, it’s a classic.  It doesn’t always happen quite so neatly, but it does illustrate a basic rule of astrometeorology: When the Moon crosses the horizon or meridian of the season chart, a significant change in the weather is indicated.

In this case, the Moon at that moment was exactly crossing the upper meridian, moving through the zodiac in counter-clockwise direction.

CN-ing-2016_040816

See the crescent-Moon symbol in the outer ring: the transit ring? It’s in exactly the same degree as the circle-with-the-vertical-line symbol, indicating the upper meridian, in the inner ring: the season chart.

Bingo.

The Moon’s having passed Venus in the previous hours showed plenty of moisture available as the frontal boundary of a different air mass passed this way.

The lower meridian of the season chart is the prime indicator for relative moisture: With the zoidion Pisces and planet Neptune there, an overall wet summer marked by likely deluges was the expectation.

The season chart for Ellicott City, Maryland — sixteen degrees of longitude to the east — also shows Pisces and Neptune at the lower meridian, but with Saturn (indicating greater storminess) close to the Ascendant.

CN-ing-30072016_EllCy

There, less than a week ago, a small, historic valley town was devastated by a “rain bomb” storm: a “thousand-year” flood for the second time in this decade.

Meteorologists these days refer to “training”: intense rain-producing storms that form one after another and move, analogous to a series of railroad cars, across the same small area, in a timeframe of several or more hours. They produce impressive rainfall totals and often catastrophic flash floods.

Here’s one scene of the aftermath in Ellicott City.

EllicottCity_postflood

(Photo from Washington Post.)

Robert Scribbler has one story. And the Baltimore Sun has another.

One distinction to make re: astrometeorology: At the time of the storm, the Moon was not crossing horizon or meridian in Ellicott City’s season chart, reflecting the fact that the meteorological situation was not that of a front separating air masses passing through.

It was an atmospheric situation fed by summer heat and vast amounts of moisture coming off super-heated offshore waters.

Still, there was a combination of clear warning signs for that region in the lunation chart cast for the fourth-quarter Moon: the Moon (a tide of atmospheric moisture) one degree from the lower meridian, and Pluto (catastrophic destruction) on the horizon.

4Q_Jul2016_EllicottCy.jpg

Ellicott City, pretty and historic as it is, is in a vulnerable location, in an era when rain bombs are becoming more frequent. There is discussion about making valley buildings more flood-resilient, some of them with basements retrofitted to allow flood waters to flow through them rather than accumulate. Another idea: parking-ramp-size tanks to capture flood waters for gradual release later.

It will be interesting and revealing to follow the course of Ellicott City’s adaptation in the years to come. How much can be preserved? How much must be abandoned?

-<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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