Most remarkable of all is that Northern Scotland (57ºN latitude) was almost the last to be hit. Throughout November, temperatures remained a balmy 50ºF. Even (spring-flowering) gorse burst into bloom. It recalled an equally abnormal episode in April this year, where temperatures in the same corner of Scotland hit all-time highs.
Then Nature descended in spades. 160mph winds hit the Hebrides, mainland Glasgow, Clyde and central Belt, the Highlands; hurricane-force gales funneled east to hit everything not tied down — trees included. Nobody was spared.
This example of ‘freak’ weather coursing through the northern hemisphere may not be considered memorable, when the current solar cycle is through with us, but it is unusual, to say the least.
And, as we know, other consequences of seismic disturbance — earthquakes — such as the ongoing and terrible nuclear waste toxicity spreading through the Pacific ocean in the aftermath of Fukushima — are still fresh in our minds.The current concern is that the massive six-mile-wide crater of Katla caldera near Reykyavik will explode, melt its overhanging glacier and spew billions of icemelt over the eastern seaboard of Iceland and into the Atlantic ocean. By comparison, the ash cloud precipitated last year by Eyjafjallajokull which halted all air traffic over Europe and North America, would seem like a minor incident.
Traditionally it was thought there was no connection between solar storms and terrestrial seismic activity — earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and their tendency to precipitate hurricanes, tornadoes, and wind storms round the globe. But this received wisdom is changing. Looking at the past year alone, much seems to have occurred following the Sun’s elevated status to ‘active’ (NOAA sidebar two below, right) in line for solar maximum, 2012. Solar activity in the last two months shows increasing frequency of M- and X-class flares at an alarming rate.
“I hear hurricanes ablowin’
I know the end is comin’ soon
I hear rivers overflowin’
I hear the voice of rage and ruin”
— Credence Clearwater Revival, 1969
CROSSROADS IN TIME
One of the most insightful prophecies/predictions of the Maya elders for this time is the message of change.
4 Ahau: Food scarcities. Half the katun good, half bad. The return of Kukulkan
In the 20-year period (katun) which began in 1991 and will complete in 2012, they anticipated this katun would bring ‘scarcity and the arrival of great leaders’. It is also the katun of ‘remembering knowledge and writing it down’.
In their words, we are fully immersed in a time of ‘change and conflict’. Change comes externally from weather, elecromagnetic fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field, natural phenomena, celestial disturbance (solar flares) and trauma inflicted by others unable to stop themselves ‘exploding’ their own inner drama. Conflict stirs in the form of personal challenge, grief, bewilderment, depression, anxiety, and fear. Many are going through these experiences at this time.
The Maya (through indigenous ancestral transmission and present-day descendants) believe that it is not a time to fear. We are at a crossroads. “Now it is time to choose a new path, decide on a new Self and community direction, to venture into the unknown, to find our true identity of being”. While devotees are already flocking to this ethos in droves, others will choose to stay on the same path, console themselves with the familiar, and invest a great deal of effort in maintaining the status quo.The Electric Universe theory (Thunderbolts publications, lectures, symposia) explores the direct connection between the Sun’s storms — M-class solar flares, CMEs — and their effects on Earth systems: electrical, radio, television, power supplies. Certainly in 1859, the Carrington Event that produced world telegraph blackout and spontaneous fires, has provoked discussion ever since, particularly as a similar event now would create culture-wide chaos; but it is only in recent years that the solar electrical connection has extended outwards into the Universe to encompass plasma filaments, stellar explosions and the plasma tails of comets; and to explain that, contrary to former belief, the void is not empty, but teeming with electrical charge.
Richard Feynman explains most graphically:the Nature of Nature
We on planet Earth are also electrically-charged beings. The conduit which transmits charged particles from the Sun to humans is the same conduit which steers weather through the Earth’s electromagnetic field, and into the human electromagnetic field.
Solar activity is known to influence human consciousness (from the simplest seasonal affective disorder –SAD– to extreme summer joy and productivity) and, this logically extends to the effect photons have on our human DNA.
Radiation affects the central nervous system, brain function and balance, along with human behavior, and all psycho-physical response in between. So flaring from the same star can cause us to feel nervous, anxious, jittery, dizzy, irritable, lethargic, exhausted, and suffer short-term memory lapses. We can sometimes even feel nauseous, distracted, and suffer headaches.
The Thunderbolts project encourages inter-disciplinary knowledge and collaboration of astronomers, physicists, archaeologists, mythologists and biologists bringing together understanding of previously unrelated subjects. They plan to address some of their ideas during their multi-faceted Symposium next month, January 6-8, 2012 in Las Vegas: The Electric Universe: the Human Story.
According to the Electric Universe theory as proposed by Thunderbolts scientists, solar flares and photon waves are changing the fabric of our very reality and have a powerful effect on our cells, causing our cellular memories to awaken and clear.They are also convinced, like Maya experts, that “cultural archetypes of world mythology can now be understood through the sciences.”
‘Thunderbolts of the Gods’ David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill (2005)
“Photon energy is capable of resonating at much higher frequency than normal human emotion. It can calibrate the human system to this higher frequency, bringing consciousness into line, so that we begin to remember our soul’s purpose.”
Many believe that this speeding-up of consciousness — instant manifestation of the desired object or circumstances — is what has triggered such great interest worldwide in systems like the Law of Attraction, the Abraham-Hicks movement and the revival of New Age consciousness-raising techniques.
Photon energy connects instantly — at the speed of light — affecting all human electrical systems, most especially thought processes, so that with this new influence it is important to exercise discipline; that in expressing what we want, we practice care in not expressing what we don’t want. Or that will manifest instead. If one is in process of change and transformation, this energy works well. On the other hand, for those stuck in the past through victimization or anger, more of that will continue to manifest.
Philosopher, psychonaut and astral traveler, Terence McKenna, before he died in 2000, believed that we would become consistently and more purposefully attracted by the Eschaton — his anomalous state of ‘unknowing’, a ‘transcendental object at the End of Time’, which draws us into awareness of the ‘New’ — and that time would speed up to such an extent that in those End-days, we might be unable to experience the passage of time in the same way we did even one decade ago; indeed, compared with the concept of time of a generation, a century ago, we are already surpassing such reckoning monthly, weekly, daily. He believed this ‘Attractor’ will speed us up even more. Hence those of us aware that the phenomenon is happening are better equipped to handle the transition from ‘old human’ to New Human.
It has been suggested that, particularly during the winter months when we feel light deprivation and shortening daylight hours, we make the most of every opportunity to ‘breathe in’ available sunlight, in snatches throughout the day, in order to refuel the body’s resources. It is only twenty days until the turning of the year. Then, after solstice, the days will lengthen once more.
Before we know it 2012 will be here and with it the fulfilment of Maya prophecies: it is an exciting time to be alive — with more revelations in store.
©2011 Marian Youngblood
The second crop circle (January 25th) lies in the Bantul district of Yogyakarta, 6km south of the center (and the Kraton Palace) in a rural district which suffered severe structural damage and loss of life in May 27th 2006 when a 6.2 magnitude earthquake tore through the village. Bantul is known internationally as an important artist’s colony which produces posters using a technique called cukil, daren kidul and Dono Kerto Turi.Crop circle followers worldwide are struck by the synchronicity of the crop circle sightings — these are unique in Indonesia; the first time crop circles have appeared — with their closeness in date, design and proximity to Mount Merapi’s seismic field. Even local Indonesians are contemplating the coincidence of the two designs’ choice of location as a warning of further earth changes in this volatile region. Within days, thousands of visitors lined up to walk through the rice fields to experience the phenomenon first-hand.
Many had never heard of crop circles nor read of the phenomenon and several reports described the marks in the fields as the ‘imprint of landing UFOs‘.In a statement from the Yogyakarta Sultanate by Java’s spiritual counsellor, HRH Prince Karyonagoro (Kandjeng Pangeran) the Sultan’s family is ‘taking these appearances seriously’.
However the design of the circles has struck him as very interesting as it appears to replicate the form of the Javanese Muladhara, or the base chakra of the kundalini.
“From the standpoint of ‘Merging with the One philosophy’, the appearance of the crop circle phenomenon in Sleman, Yogyakarta, in the form of Muladhara symbol means that there will be Nature’s selections in this country shortly, because the symbol is related to the genetical mapping when microcosm synergized with macrocosm waiting for a birth in the third dimensional place and time. I hope my brothers and sisters will be all right in welcoming this pending event. Stay alert!…”
HRH Prince Karyonagoro
Several spiritual groups in the city have indicated they believe the appearances are reminiscent of omens predicting an imminent natural disaster.Yogyakarta, once the capital of Indonesia during the National Revolution (1945-1949), is known for its strong Javanese traditions in art, culture, theater and the crafts of shadow puppetry, batik and sublime dance movement originating in the royal Court. Having gained independence in the 18th Century from the colonial Dutch, Yogyakarta has maintained historical architecture from both its colonial past and its Javanese heritage. It is home to Indonesia’s most prestigious state unversity, the Gadjah Mada University, as well as several other private universities which make their home in the region. Yogyakarta is the only province in the country with Special Administrative Region status (SAR) and is alone in being headed by a monarchy. The prince is also head of the spiritual welfare of the people and for this reason a statement on crop circles from the Sultanate is taken to be of great importance. The Bantul crop circle of January 25th (6km S of the city center) also appeared in rice, prompting a rash of local media and news reports linking the appearance to a massive 6.2 magnitude earthquake in the same district on May 27tth, 2006 when much of the village was destroyed and over 1000 people lost their lives.
Bantul is known to international art collectors as the home of an artists’ colony which produces unique poster designs called cukil, daren kidul and Dono Kerto Turi.
As much of the population in Yogyakarta are resident students attending universities in the city, the crop circle phenomenon has been a popular diversion, with much international discussion being generated and shared with the international crop circle community on Facebook and other social networks. The appearances in rice come at a time when the northern hemisphere — in the winter doldrums between the end of the 2010 (English) season and the beginning of the next, around April 2011 — did not expect to be surprised. The appearances in rice — along with similar anomalous layering of crop and gentle folding and tufting seen in Wiltshire crop circles — have triggered much interest worldwide.
Some suggest the timing and synchronous appearance of the designs as presaging seismic activity or earth changes within the next two weeks. Other fears suggest that it presages world shortages in the food supply, specifically rice.Given recent (European) seasonal pointers to sacred places and ancient pyramid structures, along with inter-faith meetings and ‘convergences’, it is tempting to connect the designs with the 8th/9thC Buddhist temple set on its 10-layer step pyramid at Borobudur, 40k NW of Yogyakarta on the other side of Mount Merapi. The temple’s magnificent ornately-carved 8thC structure was for centuries buried under (Merapi) volcanic ash and only rediscovered in 1814. From above, the pyramid takes the form of a Mandala symbolically depicting the path of the bodhisattva (novice aspiring to enlightenment) from samsara to nirvana. The ten steps of the pyramid signify ten levels of ascension. Compare this with the Sultanate’s statement likening the ‘mandala’ of the crop circles to Muladhara, the base, or primary of the seven chakras in Hindu Tantrism,
‘relating to the Earth, the densest of the seven grades of manifestation.’
The temple’s design is thought to be a recreation of Mount Meru, mythical home of the Hindu gods, called Sumeru i.e the “Great Meru” and a sacred mountain in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cosmology, considered to be the center of all physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. It is also the abode of Lord Brahma and the Demi-Gods (Devas).
“Crop Circles are telling you, in a universal language, of coming events, and we are speaking here not only of physical events, such as the pending pole shift, but spiritual as well. In the past, these simple but eloquent messages were left, with increasing frequency and urgency, leading up to the shift.”
A further —third crop circle— has appeared since this post in the Magelang district which draws the other two into geometric alignment not just with Mount Merapi, but also with Mount Tidar, the mountain known as the ‘Nail of Java’. According to myth, If the Nail does not hold, the Island will blow apart.*
These ideas are sparking a following on several continents.. We will be following volcanic activity in the vicinity of Mount Merapi, (Central Java) and Mount Bromo (East Java) which has also been threatening activity lately.
On the seismic and croppie scene, we shall keep you posted.
‘One swallow doth not a summer make’Swallows returned to their nesting sites in the chill temperatures of a shed in Northern Scotland on Monday last week. My heart rose to meet them. There were two of them. A third arrived yesterday. It seems like a very long time since I heard swallow song – that swooping, diving ‘weet-weet’ of recognition – in these cold north latitude skies. They left as a massing cloud on autumn equinox last September, fully three weeks early. And, as if on cue, winter started soon after and went on relentlessly until spring equinox. If you look at it from a swallow’s-eye-view, they’ve been gone fully six months. No wonder we celebrate the sight of the first swallow. They presage summer. They symbolize transcendant spirit over adversity, They are the original bluebird.
I’m not alone in my excitement at their return: in the balmy skies of southern California, they’ve made a study of local ‘swallows’ into a science and tourist attraction. At the eighteenth century Alta California mission of San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, they do special swallow tours and swallow welcome rituals, especially for the return of the winged beauties, Stelgidopteryx serripennis (there they’re actually martins, but who’s arguing?) on San Juan’s Feast Day, March 19th. That’s a month and a half ago. Lucky ducks.
In other parts of Britain they celebrate too. In Orkney and Shetland, the return of the ‘hirondelle‘ coincides with May Day, ancient Beltane, the festival that heralds summer. Meanwhile at Bretton Lake National Reserve in West Yorkshire their Hirundo rustica have been back nearly a month; that means they braved snow and hail to get here.
At least mine arrived on a warm wind. And a full moon.
When Britain was a naval power, the swallow was like a mascot, a bird of good fortune and luck. Swallows were invariably seen over the mainmast when a ship came within sight of land. They implied ‘safe return’ after a long voyage. In even earlier times, when tea clippers plied to and from the Orient, swallow tattoos were an oceangoing tradition, an unspoken language, if you like: one tattoo for crossing the equator one way; another when you came back. In vessels to farther seas, a mariner earned his swallow tattoo for going ’round the Horn’ – Cape Horn in Antarctic waters of South America, and the Horn of Africa between the south Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. In another tradition, a sailor had his chest tattooed after he’d sailed five thousand nautical miles (5750 miles). So a sailor with a couple of bluebird tattoos was experienced, trustworthy, one with the gods in his corner. He was first choice for a captain looking for crew. In legend, if the fates stepped in and he drowned, the birds would alight on his soul, lift it from the swirling waters and carry it to heaven.
The bird implied loyalty, faith, honor, love, hope and safe return.
In some cultures still, the first swallow of spring signifies an omen of financial success or a surprise windfall. Two swallows – popular as a tattoo in barrio culture – represent freedom.
In indigenous American culture the swallow or bluebird totem, as a herald of summer, brings warmth and protection to the home. She incorporates the spiritual principles of objectivity and perspective, as well as communication in a group environment.
Hollywood created the ‘bluebird of happiness’ for the song Zippedy doo-dah’ in Walt Disney’s 1946 movie ‘Song of the South’, and the cartoon was based on the totem principles of contentment and joy to be found in everyday life, in its suggestion that we dance and sing with every step. That we enjoy what is happening now, or what is about to happen in our lives.Perhaps it is this sense of anticipation I feel at the little bird’s return to the North – such a tiny creature, such a long journey. The European swallow weighs no more than three-quarters of an ounce, 20g. She has flown – from southern Africa to the shores of Britain – a total of 6000 miles.
So what are we anticipating? What surprises do this year’s aerial messengers bring?
Not crop circles. Not a single apparition. Not yet.
None so far in Wiltshire and Hampshire fields. But it’s still early days. The oil seed rape (canola) crop is only just reaching its flowering height. And it’s far too early for a resonating mandala to appear in barley or wheat.
In previous summers, swallow crop circles appearing in Cotswolds and Plains farms have been interpreted as presaging solar activity: eclipses, solar wind surges. electromagnetic disturbances.
While this video shows an interesting rendition of NASA’s SOHO transmission last week (April 25-30, 2010), its interpretation is better explained at the following link which cannot be converted to an image for ‘security reasons’. The commentator explains carefully and meticulously the presence of ‘two suns’ – an unknown very bright object within the orbit and corona of our own sun, which does not coincide with the orbits of any of the inner planets. I recommend viewing it at:
While the crop circle phenomenon has in past years delivered consciousness-changing designs or peace-inducing sonic mandalas, this year it looks as if we may be treated to the astral phenomenon first before the glyph appears as an embellishment in the crop.
It is not surprising that NASA has so far made no comment about the bright light-object. Nor am I surprised by my inability to transfer a link from the ‘Two Suns’ video to this page. I eagerly anticipate the first crop circle immediately following this SOHO object’s appearance.
Perhaps the swallows’ return three days early this year is a good sign: an indication that this summer will be hot, nay, blistering, and the hirondelle population may burgeon once more. It needs to. Despite British birders (‘twitchers’) considering their number as one which hovers in the ‘normal’ range for a migrant species, what they call a ‘species of least concern’, I worry about them.
I hope the summer they presage becomes one we can enjoy: not one where earth changes dominate. We have already experienced three earthquakes of major proportions over the winter, a volcano which is still erupting – themselves highlighting human dithering and unpreparedness; and the present oil-spill mop-up operation in the Gulf of Mexico will take every available human resource from two continents to avert a wildlife and environmental disaster. If the swallow totem signifies hope and happiness – if the bluebird hirondelle has its say and we are prepared to listen once more – we might learn a thing or two. We might rekindle our ability to focus: to concentrate on creating peace, joy and happiness for ourselves and in our world. After all, as my last guest blogger remarked: we create our own reality. And what we focus on increases.
One swallow may not make a summer. But three? There’s hope.
It was a dark and stormy night – oh, no – wrong genre – start again.
And amass it did.
In this neck of the woods, a white Christmas has become something of a rarity over the last score years: an event you remembered from childhood, when lampposts were short and dogs were tall; when traffic was a report you heard on the radio; when the wind blew from the North and old men predicted the white stuff. In these last few years, it feels as if the Earth is turning on the screws and testing us countryfolk to see if we’re made of the right stuff.
There’s a link there somewhere.
All summer long – I blogged about the weather, because there was nothing I could do to change it – winds brought cloud and rain from the west: dragged it kicking and screaming across the Grampian Mountains – that famous Roman chain that spawned Mons Graupius, which usually blocks precipitation – and dumped it on Aberdeenshire.For those of you unaccustomed to our spectacular micro-climatic conditions in the Northeast triangle of Scotland, the Grampian county of Aberdeen has paleo-historically been blessed with low-level Pleistocene marine sands and gravels on its eastern coast, Devonian red sandstone on the North coast and intrusive muti-colour granites – also Devonian – in the middle. They’re the ones that usually soak up leftover raindrops.
The Cairngorms form a natural divide between East and West. These stately peaks – though only in the minds of Scots, as they rise to a maximum of 4,000 feet – are geographically closer to the Atlantic Ocean than they are to the North Sea; yet their granite bloc is a block for precipitation, most years dumped unceremoniously on the long-suffering, midge-ridden West.
For every mile east you go you can expect one inch less rainfall. It’s an old Scots maxim that made some sense in Grandfather’s time.
The charmed population of Aberdeenshire has historically experienced early springs, punctual return of swallows, balmy if slightly dry summers and mild falls. Winter, since the storms of 1981-2, was a gleam in the weatherman’s eye.
Summer was a non-starter. A brilliant flash in late June – like a forgotten dream: one week after solstice, a few days into early July seemed like a world of childhood fantasy; running barefoot through meadow flowers, gathering domestic strawberries, wild raspberries; thinking of lush promised fruits to come: plums and pears and apples.
Then the drought (so-called ‘heat-wave’) vanished and the rains came. And with them the winds.In the Bahamas and the Florida Keys they used to say a hurricane rhyme:
‘June: too soon,
July: stand by,
August: come it must,
October: all over.’
It applied last year to eastern Scotland, to a scary degree.
June and July were the calm before the storm. August – a month when surprise ‘spates’ arrive and inundate fields of ripening grain, sweeping all before them into overflowing ditches, burns and rivers – brought two downpours. Central riverine communities sandbagged doors, secured and taped windows. And still it came. September there were three more floods; this time the river Don burst its banks in several places: in Kintore a farmer died in his tractor, caught out and drowned, unable to extract himself from floodwaters.
A mile of Don’s worth two of Dee
Except for fish and stone and tree
Equinox came and went and still it rained. Still the winds blew. It was as if the hurricane season of Florida had not only exported its rhyme, but all of its storms:
After Ana, Bill and Claudette, the twisting tail headed north, skirted Bermuda and aimed straight for the north Atlantic, round the Pentland Firth and down through the Moray Firth to blast Aberdeenshire.
That’s right. Not only were these storms of gale-force strength (in high summer a wind over 60mph is unusual, to say the least), but they came from the North. Poor battered plants in struggling northern gardens usually basking in an exquisite micro-climate of Icelandic and Scandinavian temperatures, were being blown to bits.
I digress only momentarily to explain that our countryman, Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort is responsible for giving us the scale of wind speeds that we currently use. It really hasn’t changed much since he standardized it in 1806. There’s been no need. Wind, from a gentle summer breeze that cools the romantic brow (3 to 6 knots, Beaufort 2) right through to a full hurricane-force gale greater than 73mph (64 knots, Beaufort 12) has a way of letting you know it’s there.Danny, Erika, Fred and Grace brought similar reminders: storm-force conditions injurious to plant, beast and Man. I even found a toad sheltering from the blast in a quiet niche. There seemed no let-up; no sign of a reprieve. Those of us who believed that the Earth was just playing a game, having us on, it would be Okay in another week… were in for a big surprise.
I planted a giant sunflower out of its (greenhouse seeded) pot in May, thinking how lovely the vision that, in a summer like 2005, 2004, 2001 or 1998 (‘Global warming’ years) it might set seed to feed finches by autumn.
By equinox it still hadn’t flowered.
It was so statuesque, so tall, so strong – its stem larger than the area I could encompass with my two hands. It was full of moisture and had responded with phenomenal growth. But no yellow petals.
October arrived. Swallows had long departed – they’d decided for the first time in twenty years that enough was enough. They’d lingered in Ultima Thule only long enough to hatch a single clutch. They left on a singular warm wind three weeks early. I should have known then we were in for more.
I thought things would change after the ‘equinoctial gales’. It is traditionally a time when, if summer has been a little less than kind, the burgeoning vines, the bending limbs, the fully laden branches of fruit and Nature’s bounty make up for all the hard work, lost sleep, missed opportunities: the promise is fulfilled, Mother Earth comes through in spades, the sun shines and all is forgiven. The warm earth brings forth ripened plums, pears and apples in abundance, even a choice late cherry or two.
Not last year.True, there were Granny Smiths and Cox’s Orange Pippins lying waiting on apple boughs pruned close to a sheltering wall larger than any I have ever seen. Artichokes as big as squash; squash as big as pumpkin. But I had to bring them inside to ripen or they would have moulded in the wet. Green tomatoes so abundant they were going out of style. Zucchini had been under plastic all summer, keeping out the rain. A summer too wet even for zucchini to grow! that gives you an idea of how sodden the ground was. Victoria plums which love a moist year were hanging in abundance, but they were still green, and a few delicate pears – it is a little too northerly for pears here at the best of times – looked like shrunken castanets. There was a lot of green: lettuce, cabbage, parsley and spinach to die for, but not a lot of ripening. I am not usually an ungrateful person. But my expectation was bordering on exasperation.
Then suddenly, as if the weather elves had been napping and awoke in a frantic state of guilt at not having done their usual earth tending, October turned mild.
Roses bloomed, butterflies emerged from wall crevices, a dry shed, and sought out the late blossom of buddleia to stock up for overwintering. California poppies that thought they’d come to an alien planet, flowered and raised their faces to the sun.
And, lo and behold, my sunflower popped her first petal.
But the stratosphere wasn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. She’d started, so she was going to finish.
I mentioned earlier that the Grampian mountain chain forms a barrier that usually holds back rain from the West. And last year, its barricading powers failed miserably. Not only did rain follow wind and wind follow rain, but the midges, the West’s most unmentionable tourist nightmare, followed piggy-back along the trail.
The swallows, great feeders of the heavens, had already gone; so nobody was scooping great mouthfuls of the little monsters in massive numbers. Wrens, robins and a few finches that weren’t busy feeding on grain, demolished a few, but the air was alive with them. Wind seems not to perturb these tiny insects: they hide under trees and reappear the minute it drops.So, calm evenings in the late Northeast autumn were midge-rampant; not pleasant. No window of opportunity for a leisurely stroll in the balmy, breathless air. The blackbirds had it all to themselves.
Thing is, there was no evening birdsong. Most of the summer visitors had departed. And those that were still around were looking for winter habitat. Wrens can bundle together in numbers up to twenty-two in one disused nest. Body heat is the only thing that keeps out the cold. Wrens were doing a big business in re-roofing spring nests – for future reference.
There were other signs. I should have known.
round here have become permanent residents. They like the mild winters, so I’ve heard. They top up and home in on a familiar sheltered waterhole; they feed to stuffing point in leftover barley and wheat in open, harvested fields and then head out a little north of here to overwinter. In previous winters, winters without snow, there have been geese still tucking in in open fields in early December. This last fall, all the grain had gone by late October. Greylag geese
And the geese were gone too.
In late October my drenched sunflower was looking a little the worse for wear, but she was still hanging in there. Her strong stem was sturdy enough to support loads of hungry finches, tits, songbirds.They used her as a stopping-off point between hedge and feeder-table. As if they hoped her yellow bedraggled petals would somehow unfold to present them with a miracle in fat black and white stripey seeds. It was not to be.
The rain succeeded. Not in taming her, but when her petals closed in late October – usually a (midsummer) sign that the head is transfiguring, metamorphosing, setting seed – they chose not to reopen. She bowed her head and became silent. She’d had enough.
November raged and birds were blown about. Humans and animals prepared for what was to come. Early December brought some sunny days, but there was a chill in the air that nobody could really pretend was unfamiliar.
And then, one week before Christmas, the snowflakes arrived. And they fell in great soft plops of Inuit 32-linguistic varieties. And they didn’t stop falling until every last man, woman, child, blackbird, wren, robin, chicken, fox, wildcat, deer, rabbit and stoat had felt every possible chill factor they were capable of bringing.
* * *
There isn’t much point in going into the blow-by-blow of how difficult it’s been. But it might be interesting to look at the overview.
Scotland isn’t traditionally a snowy place. I’ve explained why. It sits on the northern edge of the Atlantic Ocean in a latitude akin to Alaska, but with temperatures more normal for the 42nd parallel of the Pacific Northwest. Yes, there are storms which come and go in the three months of so-called Winter, and local government services are never ready for them; it’s a standing joke. They complain before it comes, don’t deliver enough salt or grit enough or clear enough if it does and then blame central Government afterwards for not warning them or providing enough funding in the first place. As if the weather were not God’s fault, but the Labor Government’s.
People in Northeast Scotland have over time grown weary of bureaucratic bickering, complaining and infighting. In country districts in particular, they just get out and get on with it: fend for themselves. Farmers with snow-ploughs attached to tractors clear country roads which large council ploughs can no longer access.
This last winter saw more hardship, more strenuous community togetherness, more help-thy-neighbor-like-thy-life-depended-on-it gestures to make up for every snowless winter or heat-blistered summer of the new millennium.
To backtrack a little: we’ve all heard of, or been made aware of the ways of El Niño.
Spanish for ‘male child’, colloq. the Christmas Child, El Niño was the anthropomorphic name given by Peruvian sailors around 1892 to a warm northerly Pacific current in winter time. It is produced by a weather anomaly combined with atmospheric pressure: Indonesia usually experiences huge amounts of rainfall in winter under low atmospheric pressure, while high pressure hovers over the dry coast of Peru. This cycle produces a westward flow of tropical trade winds.
When the pressures weaken, the trades do too and a period of warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures arise in the east-tropical Pacific Ocean around December, blown along the surface against weakening trade winds which churn its billowing mass into a lingering ‘entity’; the length of its stay can influence weather conditions across much of the globe.
In an El Niño year, warm surface water encouraged by lessening trades migrates east from Indonesia across the central Pacific to the coast of Peru and Ecuador, bringing tropical rains which would otherwise fall on Jakarta, Bali and Papua New Guinea. Not only does the warm water linger, but with weakened winds, it forms a dense mass of warm ocean that does not sustain plankton (which prefer cooler waters) and consequently the larger fish that feed on this resource. In an El Niño year, the high desert, the Altiplano can experience huge rainstorms, while Australia and India suffer from drought.
Recent meteorological interest has been piqued by the growing frequency of El Niño years and the apparent resultant extremes in temperature worldwide which occur the following summer. El Niños since 1982 have occurred so regularly that world attention has been focused, not only on their effect on mean summer temperature but on the fact that they may contribute to ‘global warming’.
Recent El Niños happened in 1986-1987, 1991-1992, 1993-1994, 1997-1998; and in 2002-2003, 2004-2005, 2006-2007 and 2009-2010.
For comparison, using mean world temperature data, the hottest years on record are, in order of maximum extreme temperature:
1 2005, hottest on record since 1880
These freak hot summers all happened within the last two decades. And nineteen of the hottest 20 years have occurred since 1980.
Notably, and possibly related to the gap of non-El Niño years since 2007, 2009 is not one of them!
What may be happening is that, with an erratic move away from climatic norm, weather patterns become reversed, unpredictable. Bottom line, for the weather man, a nightmare.
So back to the point. The year 2009 already marked the end of the hottest decade in history – or at least since they started measuring annual mean temperature. We are, of course eliminating Northern Scotland as a candidate here.
The winter of 2009-2010 will also go down in the history books, I suspect. Not just because Scotland was cut off from the rest of the world for virtually three months, but weather conditions everywhere were, shall we say, a little out of the ordinary.They had frozen citrus groves in Florida in January, snow in Georgia in February; and a big freeze in northern Virginia at New Year’s. Dickey Ridge (three miles south of Dickey Holler!) had an icestorm, windchill, winds of 50mph (Beaufort 9) which took the temperature down to 8ºF – that, for the Celsius Euros among us is minus 14ºC; and that’s the Deep Saw-uth.
This winter, Belgium had weather like Estonia; Estonia a brief snowfall like Guernsey. Scotland is the land of the deep freeze, British Columbia hasn’t had enough snow to support the Winter Olympics. Torrential rainfall in Sacramento, Monterey and Orange County exceeded seasonal maximum; Las Vegas had more rain in two days than in the entire previous year.⁃ Dare one touch on other phenomena, either closely or remotely related to earth changes? After the January 12th and 13th Richter 6.5 and 7.0 earthquakes of Eureka, California and Haiti respectively, probably not; save to mention that Etna is alive again, spewing out volcanic cloud and ash, Kamchatka’s twin volcanoes are active, as are the Chilean twins of Llaima and Pichillaima in the Temuco Lake District, despite an unseasonal cap of snow! And in the Windward Island chain, the Saint Vincent volcano, La Soufrière, the Sulfurer, collapsed last week.
We’re not experiencing anything out of the ordinary.
We’re just in the middle of a shakedown while Mother Earth gets herself ready for spring in the Northern Hemisphere. After all, we, her children, haven’t been behaving all that well these last two decades. So she’s entitled to shake her feathers like a tousled sea eagle and take a look round to see what else she can do to get us to pay attention. Weather is, after all, one of her mechanisms for that.
We decimate tropical rain forests, she sends less rain. We rape the desert for subterranean oil, she sends dust storms and African drought. We create huge whirlpools of plastic waste in the North Pacific Gyre trapping and killing earth’s most evolved sea mammals: it seems fitting that she should turn around and send us an oceanic anomaly to make us scratch our scientific heads in vain.
What’s in store for 2010?
If the Niño camp are right, and the winter of 2009-2010 is one of the ‘strongest’ El Niño seasons yet, then the summer which follows could outstrip all previous chart-topping statistics.Let’s look on the bright side. Vancouver may not have had any snow to speak of, but Iowa and Idaho, Kentucky and Montana have had their fill. As has (Scotland and) the whole of the Eastern Seaboard from Virginia to Vermont: snow so deep and penetrating that the earth is going to be busy soaking it up, getting ready for new spring growth, filling riverbeds and lakes, dams and reservoirs.
Snow melts down at about a 10 to 1 ratio, meaning 10 inches of snow equals about one inch of water. One thing’s for sure: we’ll have water in abundance to get us ready for the growing season.
Perhaps that’s what Mother Earth has in store. If the summer of 2010 turns out to be another like those twenty hottest years on record, maybe she’s filling up her tanks; mustering inner reserves; getting ready to take us through some punishing temperatures.
I mentioned animal signs. We humans may have lost our ability to intuit what lies ahead, but the birds, wild animals, flora and fauna know a thing or two.Swallows left early last fall, as if they knew what was coming. The autumn bird chorus was minimal, to say the least. My few chickens stopped laying in the first week of December and, apart from one jewel of an egg that miraculously appeared (probably by accident) on Christmas Day, the little group of eight didn’t produce a single egg between them until last week. Even then, I think it was only the bright sunshine that shone warm during the day that got them motivated. They’re still pretty quick to get back inside their henhouse before five o’clock sunset. Temperatures outside right now are maintaining a solid two or three below zero.
I mentioned Kamchatka. In the darkest days of solstice – and even in subsequent weeks when January turned to February and the light began to return – temperatures in this part of Scotland were, as I said, more appropriate for Siberia than for an island on the Atlantic seaboard. In the second of three storms, four blackbirds fell off their tree limbs in the night and died. I found the body of a fifth frozen under one of the vehicles, as if she hadn’t had the strength to fly for cover. A greenfinch died in my hands from sheer exhaustion and inability to get enough seed in her crop before nightfall.
As I see it, the winter of 2009/2010 has brought out the best and the worst. At the height of the storms, kind neighbors with 4×4 vehicles ferried immobile snowbound waifs to shop for emergency groceries. Birds died, but hens are laying again and there is birdsong. It’s a signal spring is on the way. The pheasant population, usually set by surrounding farmers as fodder for guns in the Spring Shoot are feeding by day with my chickens, roosting by night in my frozen trees. Safety not only in numbers, but also in the non-shooting enclave.
Aconite petals are gleaming with frost, but their yellow is trying to shine.
They remind me of my sunflower. Beaten but unbowed, she made it through some of the harshest conditions ever to greet one of the girosol family. She stood all winter, too. She stands there still. No flower, no seed, but her stem as strong as a sapling.
If she can make it through, I guess some of the rest of us will, too.
©2010 Marian Youngblood