A note from the Doc: The references to planets and constellations on this site are not astrological in nature, merely the clearest way to reference these positions and angles. For more, please read: Astrology or Astronomy »
In the literature of climatology there is often a phrase used when describing the recurrence of drought conditions. The phrase usually goes something like "The driest its been in eighteen years", or " its as dry as it was about nine or ten years ago". Whenever these two time frames are given regarding the emergence of drought conditions, they point to a significant lunar rhythm, the nodal cycle . The following is a brief description of this nodal cycle from an astronomical point of view. Some of the terms are a bit technical due to the specific nature of astronomy. Doc Weather has provided a glossary function to help you out but if you don't have any astronomy at all, a good book on naked eye astronomy might also help. (Movement and Rhythm of the Stars, Joachim Schultz; Floris Books) Studying celestial mechanics as an approach to the ideas in Doc Weather seems only to confuse people. Naked eye astronomy focuses on the movements of the planets rather than their positions.
The rotation of all of the planets on their axes is from west to east or counterclockwise. As a result the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west as an observer on the Earth would rotate from the west towards the rising Sun in the east, passing under it at noon, and then seeing it set in the west as they continued on in their journey to the east. The orbital motion of planets around the Sun is also is from west to east or counterclockwise. (fig 1) Seen from Earth the Moon moving day after day through its orbit would slowly pass from west to east by increments of 13° of arc each day. Seen from Earth the planet would be moving as if it were on the edge of a plane as it slowly progresses from west to east each night. This motion is experienced from the perspective of the earth as being relative to the fixed stars behind it. An observer on Earth would see the Moon moving as if it were on the edge of a great circular plane. This is the orbital plane of the Moon around the Earth.
If an observer extended the equator of the Earth towards the heavens it too would become a plane, the plane of the celestial equator. From the perspective of the Earth this equatorial celestial plane would divide the heavens into northern and southern hemispheres. From this perspective the stars and planets below this plane would be in the in the southern celestial hemisphere and the stars and planets above this plane would be in the northern celestial hemisphere. In the course of a year even the Sun appears to go above and below the plane of the celestial equator. The measurement of the Sun's position above or below the plane of the celestial equator is called declination (gr. decline/ below). Sometimes it is above the plane and sometimes it is below the plane or declined. When the Sun is below the celestial equatorial plane in a southern declination it is winter in the northern hemisphere and vice versa. The passing of the Sun in declination above and below the plane of the celestial equator is the source of the fluctuation of the seasons. (fig 2)
Astronomically we know that the planets are orbiting the Sun. However, when describing planetary motions we usually give the positions reckoned from the Earth, or geocentrically, in effect making the Earth the center and allowing the Sun to appear to have an "orbital" plane reckoned in degrees of declination. The "orbital" plane of the Sun is pitched at a declination angle of 23° to the plane of the celestial equator.
The planets orbiting the Sun also have specific orbital planes that have declinations that are also eccentric to the plane of the celestial equator. From this it follows that when planets orbit the Sun it appears from the Earth that they sometimes go above the plane of the celestial equator and sometimes below that plane. One of the most eccentric of the orbital planes is that of the Moon. (fig3) In the lunar eccentricity illustration we can see the plane of the celestial equator, the 23°eccentric declination of the orbital plane of the Sun, and the further eccentric orbital plane of the Moon. The orbital plane of the Sun crosses the plane of the celestial equator at two node in the year, one when the Sun crosses from north to south (the fall equinox) and the other when it crosses from south to north (the spring equinox). The path north and south that the Sun travels is called the ecliptic. It is called this because this line is where the orbital planes of the Sun and Moon cross and form eclipses.
Each month (Moon-th) the Moon mirrors the whole yearly orbital journey of the Sun by passing through all of the signs of the Zodiac. Each month as the Moon passes through the ecliptic it moves from the signs south of the ecliptic into the signs north of the ecliptic and back. This is known as reaching the ascending node. (fig 4) At the ascending node the Moon is passing across the solar "orbit" or ecliptic as the moon is moving eastward at a rate of 13° of longitude each day. At the ascending node it moves across the solar path and into the northern celestial hemisphere. For two weeks it is high in the night sky mirroring the path of the sun in the northern hemisphere summer. Two weeks later it crosses the ecliptic again, this time moving into the southern celestial hemisphere. For two weeks it mirrors the solar path during the northern hemisphere winter. Every six months through the immense mystery of orbital rhythms, the Moon crosses the ecliptic just as the Sun is at the same spot on the ecliptic.
When this happens the Moon can cast a shadow on the Earth and a solar eclipse occurs. (fig 5) Two weeks later the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun and the Earth casts a shadow on the Moon during a lunar eclipse. In order for an eclipse to happen the Earth and Sun and Moon must line up with each other on the ecliptic.
When the point of the eclipse occurs where the Moon is moving from south to north the eclipse point is called the ascending node or dragon tail. When the Moon crosses the ecliptic going south this is called the descending node. The ascending node is an important point in the seasonal year, it is also known as the spring point or vernal point. In many cultures it symbolized the renewal of spring and was often considered to be full of import about the qualities of the following year. The spring point itself and the ascending node which is associated with it are not fixed points but also move retrograde, that is, from east to west in an orbit with a period of approximately 18.6 years. (fig 6) An explanation of this important rhythm is beyond the scope of this article. Please refer to an astronomy text for this explanation. The east to west retrograde motion of the nodes means that a regular progression of the eclipse points is constantly migrating backwards through the zodiac in periods of 9.3 to 18.6 years. There is even climatic evidence of a 4 year pattern in the nodal passage.
In the planetary flux model much importance is placed on the eclipse nodal points because over the years it has been observed that the position of these points was very influential on climatic patterning. One significant area in which this can be clearly seen is in a rhythmic re-occurring of severe drought on the west coast of the United States. In the past century there have been several long periods of severe drought with very interesting rhythms with regards to the spring point and the motion of the lunar nodes. These rhythms are in periods of 18 .6 years and are known as the nodal year.
In the planetary flux system each eclipse point generates an eclipse line that can be observed to remain as an active weather modifying influence until the next eclipse changes the position of the line. The predominant line from an eclipse is the eclipse / reflex line or eclipse line for short, which is drawn from the eclipse point to the opposite longitude, 180° on the other side of the Earth. The same type of line is drawn for both the solar and lunar eclipses. The eclipse line is the central line in a whole series of harmonic lines radiating out from the eclipse point. In this paper the other lines will not be used.
THE PLANETARY FLUX CHART AND DROUGHT.
In the language of astronomy a planet moving to a new degree of longitude is said to be moving in arc . The Moon, moves about 13 degrees in arc each day. Jupiter moves one degree in arc in an average of five days. During two decades of observation, planetary motion-in-arc events have consistently proven to have a significant and predictable influence on the weather and climate. The constant fluxing of planets moving in arc is the fundamental principle of the planetary flux model.
For instance, a planet moving into a new degree of celestial longitude can often stimulate an observable climatic response in a particular terrestrial longitude. In effect the position in celestial longitude of the planet can be projected down onto the earth. This can be easily seen when, for instance, high-pressure cells commonly develop in the longitudes of opposing planets as the two planets move in arc into opposition to each other. A planet is in opposition to another planet when they are found in positions that are 180° from each other.
This concept can be illustrated with a case study from the very dry year for the west coast of 1971. In (fig. 7) the chart shows that Saturn in Taurus over Africa was roughly opposite to Neptune and Jupiter in Scorpio over Hawaii in that year. To project these positions onto the earth the placement of the prime meridian at the longitude of Greenwich allows the whole sky to be projected onto earth. Phenomenologically, this can be supported by observing that during 1971 a persistent high-pressure cell oscillated in the area between Hawaii and the west coast as Saturn slowly moved opposite to Neptune (gray line) and Neptune was crossed by Jupiter. Such events are rare and can offer a clear insight into motion in arc events in general.
However, the vague nature of these opposition phenomena makes them rather unreliable as precise predictors even though they do illustrate the concept of planetary flux. To actually form a system in which these ideas can be made reliable it has proven useful to project the positions of eclipses onto the earth. Eclipse positions are the other significant planetary flux variable considered when forming predictions about long-term climatic phenomena such as decadal patterns in drought.
A commercially available chart used to model planet flux events is a daily difax weather chart of the northern hemisphere at the 500 MB (i.e. about half way up) level in the atmosphere. This very useful upper air chart can be found on the internet at "500mb northern hemisphere":
To illustrate this basic concept, this article studies significant decadal drought patterns on the West Coast of the US. These decade-long drought cycles appear to be predictably influenced by the historic positions of eclipse points in the mid Pacific.
For each eclipse point a line of 180° is drawn across the chart from the longitude of the eclipse reckoned on a sidereal ephemeris. In (fig 8) the eclipse point is found at 8° Capricorn over Central America. The eclipse line runs north and south through the Gulf of Mexico. The blocking high that could result from this placement is pictured over the southeast United States. The 180° eclipse line is considered to be the primary line of an eclipse grid. The 180° line from an eclipse point resembles, in action, the opposition line between Saturn and Jupiter seen in figure 7. The difference is that an eclipse line is drawn from an eclipse point to the opposite position in longitude. During an eclipse it is possible to observe a deepening of weather features in the longitude of the 180°eclipse line. Watching this projection line often reveals unusual insights into future weather patterns for many months after the eclipse itself. When other planets transit eclipse lines the lines are stimulated in such a remarkably predictable way that it is possible to observe a reoccurrence of similar weather patterns as the eclipse points rotate backwards through the zodiac in 9.3 and 18.6 year rhythms.
However, besides the 180° eclipse line, an important set of harmonic curves can also be drawn from each eclipse point. These curves have proved to be the most reliable elements of the system, capable of giving information about jet stream placement in decades-long time frames.
These curves were found by observing again and again that a planet transiting an eclipse point will most often create jet stream trough and ridge potentials at fixed arcs of 45°and 72° from the eclipse point. These arcs often describe the mean position for the polar jet stream during the period that the eclipse point occupies a particular position in longitude. In (figure 9) two jet curves from an eclipse point are depicted on a projection map of the northern hemisphere. The eclipse point at 10° Libra is generating two angles along the arc of the equator. One is 45° of arc and the other is 72° of arc from the eclipse point. In practice these two angles and their resultant projection curves have proven to be very effective in predicting the position of the polar and tropical jet streams in a given time frame. These two projection curves are known as jet curves and they can be used as a significant indicator of the activity of the jet stream in a given year or a given decade.
Over many years it has been observed that in a given winter the polar jet tends to track along these curves when forming blocks, which are stable high-pressure ridges of air. As a result, the position of the eclipse point in a particular year can give indications of where blocks of high pressure are most likely to form in the prevailing westerlies. If you can identify the position and duration of the blocking episodes the door to understanding and predicting climate shift is opened. Blocking ridges in the prevailing westerlies are the most important factor in drought patterns and the ability to model them is the key to understanding and predicting drought patterns.
In (figure 10) a chart for the years 2003 and 2004 shows projections of 45° jet curves from the eclipse points in those years. These two jet curves arise against the West Coast when, in a given year, the eclipse point is found between Hawaii and the dateline. It can be seen in the chart that the placement of the eclipse point in the western Pacific puts the jet curves in a position to block against the west coast. The dark curve in the illustration is a depiction of the mean position of the jet stream during those years. This situation can lead to drought cycles when slow moving planets approach the eclipse point stimulating high pressure. A slow approach of a planet towards an eclipse point is a signal , in this model, for sustained high pressure. Such patterns involving slow moving planets can very often be found in the timing of pernicious drought cycles. By contrast a retrograde motion directly on an eclipse point is usually a signal for anomalous flooding in the area between the jet curves.
A survey of the deepest drought cycles for the west coast of the United States reveals an interesting patterning involving the placement of the eclipse points in the Pacific, near to the dateline. (Fig 11) If the most severe droughts for the west coast are placed in chronological order decadal patterns emerge, 1911 to 1913; 1919 to1920; 1929 to 1930 (actually 1927 to 1931); 1958 to 1960; 1975 to1977; and 1986 to 1987. The interim year (1950) in which severe drought did not occur was characterized as a dry period but not major drought period. The missing drought period in the rhythm (1940) was preceded by a prolonged four- year drought from 1927 to 1931. Placing the jet curves from these years, simultaneously on the chart, depicts this sequence. The resulting image is a graphic example of the blocking potentials of the jet curves when set against the West Coast.
In the planetary flux model, the decadal, or ten year, rhythm of many climate patterns is indicative of the motion in arc of the nodal position where eclipses occur. It takes 9.3 years for the eclipse position to travel 180 degrees through the zodiac or 18.6 years for it to travel through the whole Zodiac back to where it began. These patterns place a given eclipse point in the general longitude of a previous eclipse point in an approximate decadal or inter-decadal rhythm. This pattern follows the rhythm of drought cycles on the West Coast of California. The significance of this is that when catastrophic drought has occurred the eclipse points and their lines of projection have gone through the area just to the west of Hawaii causing the Hawaii high to connect to the continental high and stream up into the Pacific Northwest. Situated there. it blocks the jet from dropping down and bringing storms into the coast.
On the West Coast, in both 2000 and 2001, the eclipse lines were in a similar position to the drought pattern. During both of those years, the fall and early winter were very dry followed by brief but very intense wet periods. in Jan 2000 the wet period was a very rare and serendipitous alignment of the planets . The rains were highly irregular and came in spurts of torrential downpours and then drought patterns resumed.
In Jan /Feb 2000, in Sacramento, 10.42" of rain fell in just nine days. These nine days made the water year that year. During the rest of January and February, only three inches more came down. So while the yearly total charts showed above average rains for the late winter 2000, Those 9 days in Jan / Feb were the saving grace for the water year. The rain burst was coincident to a strong eclipse pattern that was coincident with a strong aspect between Pluto and Saturn in January 2000. Prior to the eclipse the total rainfall for the winter of 1999/ 2000 was about 20 percent of normal. Things were very dry. After the nine day rain burst the drought pattern continued in the same vigorous mode that dominated the early winter except for an unusual record torrent one day in April.
Similarly, in 2003, see (figure 10) the prevailing climatic pattern was lack of significant rains over the whole winter with rain events happening in strong anomalous clusters. Rainfall at the end of 2003 was 20% below normal even though this was an El Nino year.
In the distant future the next return of the eclipse point into the area near the dateline will take place in the year 2013/14. At that time Pluto will have crossed over the West Coast of the United States and be tracking into Central America. After Pluto crosses the coast, there will be no outer planets between Hawaii and the West Coast until Jupiter crosses Hawaii in 2017. If past patterns can be relied upon the intervening years should be tending towards the dry side for the western states below Mt. Shasta. We can probably look as a centerpiece for the extended pattern to a very dry January in the Great Basin in 2014 as Jupiter moves into opposition to Pluto over the Great Basin.