The Summer Solstice was only 5 days ago, but extreme weather patterns are scorching the planet, and it feels like the end of July here in Winston Salem, hot and muggy.
Heat Content in the Top 700 Meters of the World’s Oceans, 1955–2020,
Courtesy US Environmental Protection Agency
As we enter further into North American summer, a combination of unprecedented ocean heating, disruptions to the jet stream, and the advent of a strong El Nino weather pattern are set to generate dangerous heatwaves, mega-storms, Godzilla wildfires and Biblical floods around the world.
The worst uncontrollable wildfires in Canadian history, stretching from Quebec to British Columbia have burned 17.8 million acres already in the 2023 fire season. Canada's boreal forests burn from the ground up, thanks to the presence of dense plant life in the understory and the proliferation of peat bogs, which can burn for months or even years and are extremely difficult to extinguish.
The wind has shifted and air quality here was excellent, but today smoke is keeping people indoors again in a huge swath of the country from Minneapolis to Philadelphia, and here in Winston it's another hazy summer day. This is our new normal.
The extent of the Canadian fires and the smoke they generate cannot be overstated. Over the weekend, dense plumes of smoke from the Quebec wildfires traveled all the way across the Atlantic, eventually reaching Europe.
There is little to no chance the fires will be put out anytime soon.
"Most Canadian wildfire management agencies have fire zonation policies similar to Alaska," tweets a Canadian firefighter assigned to one boreal blaze consuming 600,000 acres of forest land.
"This means in large areas of their jurisdictions, especially in the northern part of the country, wildfires are left to run their natural course with little or no direct action or suppression. We’ll protect values at risk, ie. infrastructure, communities, critical habitat or culturally significant features on the landscape, we’ll map them and maybe try to burn them to natural barrier, fight one flank and let the rest roll (limited action) but we are not putting them out."
"On many of the fires we don’t even try. A number of these fires are huge boreal gobblers (I am currently assigned to a 250,000 hectare fire, well over 600,000 acres and you could fit the org. chart on one side of a beer can)."
"The only thing that is going to put out this fire out and many across the country is winter, 5 months from now. It’s going to be a long, smoky summer for everyone."
Interactive Map of Canadian Wildfires, June 26, 2023,
courtesy Canadian Wildland Fire Information System
Today, air quality in Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Lansing, which are located just south of Manitoba and Ontario, is some of the worst in the world. From day to day, areas engulfed with apocryphal levels of dense smoke will vary, depending on the configuration of the jet stream.
If this pernicious pattern persists into winter, there may not be sufficient snows to put out the fires. Canadian meteorologists are forecasting a warm and dry winter, so we have to hope they are wrong about that.
Meanwhile the jet stream anomalies that pulled Canadian wildfire smoke as far south as our home in North Carolina seem to have been created in part by two North American heat domes. One sits over Northeastern Canada, fueling the Quebec fires, and the other is located in Texas and Mexico, where heat indexes north of 110º have persisted for over a week, and look set to continue for the next several days, at a minimum.
"It’s worth mentioning that the extremes we are seeing is not just climate change," Berardelli continues. "Climate change is only one part of it. The shift from La Niña to El Niño is likely playing a role as is perhaps Hunga Tonga Volcano eruption injecting water vapor in the stratosphere."
The intensity of the heat and drought in Mexico, where the core of the heat dome is located, cannot be overstated. Will this climate emergency drive people northward toward the US border as the long hot summer unfolds before our eyes?
Crops in Mexico are certainly at extreme risk, and although the worst of the heat dome is in Mexico, it's so hot in the American Midwest that Kansas is importing wheat from Europe, according to NPR Kansas City reporter Frank Morris.
Parched grass and sky, Photo by Stephen Tafra on Unsplash
In the Canadian bread basket state of Alberta, wheat farmers are facing catastrophic losses during a once in 50 years drought under the northern heat dome engulfing much of the country.
“We are out a third of our crop as of today, for sure, and every single day it’s just nose diving. Every day now we are probably losing 5 per cent of our yields, so if we don’t get rain for another week, then half a crop, maybe, is in the cards,” Vandervalk said.As the Ukraine War continues to grind along, constricting global wheat supplies, crop failures in Alberta, Kansas and Oklahoma appear likely to justify continuing high prices for wheat and for baked goods worldwide.
Food insecurity is sure to spread in stressed ecosystems around the world.
June's extreme heat events were not limited to North America by any means.
After the hottest February in 122 years, millions in India also sweltered in June, during a historic heat wave that saw persistent scorching temperatures reach 114.8º. So it's no surprise that India's wheat harvest for 2023 is now forecast to be 10% or more below expectations.
"China experienced its worst heat wave and drought in decades during the summer of 2022, which caused widespread power shortages and disrupted food and industrial supply chains. This year, extreme heat has ravaged many parts of the country even earlier than last year," says CNN reporter Laura He.
In March a series of historic heat waves engulfed China, endangering crops and livestock. Five hundred and seventy eight weather stations located in different cities across China recorded their highest ever temperatures for the spring months, according to the China Meteorological Administration. As North America burned earlier this month, Beijing recorded its hottest June since historical records were first kept.
The escalating pace of climate change is linked to an increased incidence of extreme weather events around the world, along with noticeable changes in seasonal patterns of temperature and precipitation. The new normal in the 21st Century is very challenging for farmers and gardeners worldwide, to say the least. Yet global population continues to grow.
The World Food Programme estimates that this year 349 million people across 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity – up from 287 million in 2021.
"The climate crisis is one of the leading causes of the steep rise in global hunger," says the World Food Programme. Climate shocks destroy lives, crops and livelihoods, and undermines people’s ability to feed themselves. "
Prepare for more shocks dead ahead. The conventional wisdom has been that we can still limit global warming to 1.5º Centigrade, while maintaining our current lifestyles and enjoying continuous economic growth through deployment of new technologies. Yet we are already at 1.2º of warming, and even at this supposedly "safe" level of warming, entire ecosystems are being destabilized on every continent.
As we enter Northern hemisphere summer, large regions of the planet will experience all-time record heatwaves, fires, storms and flooding. These events will set records in intensity, duration and frequency.
For many years, international leaders negotiating various climate accords have pledged to keep rising temperatures to 1.5°C this century, to minimize extreme weather events, desertification and famine. In recent years, there has been acknowledgement that the global status quo will deliver much greater warming than that, much faster.
The planet’s overall temperature will spike to new highs for the modern era, with 1.5°C in sight for 2024.
"Global greenhouse gas emissions have reached a record high amid an unparalleled acceleration in global warming, according to a new study," as reported in Al Jazeera.
"The findings would appear to close the door on capping global warming under the Paris treaty’s more ambitious 1.5C target, long identified as a guard rail for a relatively climate-safe world, albeit one still roiled by severe impacts," the Al Jazeera report continues.
“Even though we are not yet at 1.5C warming, the carbon budget” – the amount of greenhouse gases humanity can emit without exceeding that limit – “will likely be exhausted in only a few years,” said lead author Piers Forster, a physics professor at the University of Leeds.
"We are heading towards 3 to 4°C of warming across this century, an absolute climate catastrophe for all species including our own. And all we are doing so far is giving rhetoric and optimism and greenwash," explains climate scientist Kevin Anderson.
"We are locking in very high levels of sea level rise, maybe 7-8 meters. We are changing weather and rainfall patterns as well as insect pollination of our crops. All of this plays out one disaster after another. We’re talking about society collapse here," Anderson continues.
"Countries make various promises about what they are going to do against climate change. These promises are a disaster and still overly optimistic because they only rely on future generations, our children and grandchildren to develop technologies that we don’t have today," Anderson concludes.
"It is no longer possible to achieve [an] orderly transition [to a post hydrocarbon civilization], to combine action at the scale and speed we need with a smooth transition and a minimum of disruption [...]," says climatologist and futurist Alex Steffen.
"We are not now capable of designing a future that works in continuity with our existing systems and practices while producing emissions reductions and sustainability gains fast enough to avoid truly dire ecological harm. This is an option that no longer exists," Steffen concludes.
The risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft assesses that "there is ‘no longer any realistic chance’ for an orderly transition for global financial markets because political leaders will be forced to rely on ‘handbrake’ policy interventions to cut emissions.”
Readers of this newsletter know we have long predicted a 3º to 4º warming world by 2100, which would mean 1/3 or more of the planet becoming unsuitable for human life, and several billion climate refugees fleeing their homes.
As we near critical tipping points, as ecosystems unravel, and as food and water become increasingly difficult to provide for the world's growing population, world leaders will have to choose between shutting down the global economic growth machine to cut emissions or accepting the slow collapse of civilization.
Degrowth is no longer a last resort, but is now the most likely future we can imagine. If governments don't simply use monetary and fiscal policy to reduce global living standards and thus global carbon emissions, it's likely that climate change induced crop failures, water shortages, extreme weather events, and sea level rise will shock the global economy sufficiently to induce degrowth by default in the decades to come.
Full Super Moon in Capricorn, Cancer Solar Festival Cosmic Weather Forecast
The last week or two, Jane and I have been on our balcony at night, peering into the Northwest, where Venus and Mars are both visible, not too far above the horizon, shining bright in Leo.
When these Cosmic Lovers conjoin, on Monday, July 3, at 7:39 AM, the Moon will be full at 11º 18' Capricorn, and we celebrate the Cancer Solar Festival.
With Mars conjunct Venus in Leo, romance is in the air! Life force energy radiates from flowering plants displaying their summer colors. Sensuous pleasures become totally attractive. Creativity and imagination generate the seeds of new art, music and poetry. A balance is momentarily struck in our dynamic world between the twin polarities of male and female energies that underpin the structure of the human psyche.
Needless to say, this is a great Full Moon week for all rituals and spiritual practices, meditation and healing work.
Jupiter Photo by Webb Telescope, courtesy NASA
Jupiter in Taurus amplifies the positive vibrations at this Full Capricorn Super Moon as it trines the Capricorn Moon and sextiles the Sun in Cancer.
We may experience renewed enjoyment in the simple things of life that we often take for granted. We may be given opportunities for enhanced family togetherness.
Now is the time to take the initiative in a spirit of open-hearted friendship and extend a hand to your neighbors and those in need.
Most of all, we hope you enjoy this beneficent Cancer Full Super Moon! We've had a series of challenging, worrisome, and depressing outer planet aspects to deal with for the last fifteen years or so, and it's refreshing when we have a chance to simply enjoy life and our loved ones!
Saturn Image Created with Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS)
courtesy NASA, 1998
On July 13, another of those challenging outer planet aspects begins to form. Saturn in Pisces moves opposite Mars in Virgo, and reaches a point of perfect opposition on July 20, but the effects of that opposition could extend through the end of the month.
Mars in Virgo wants to be in control and to maintain orderly management of its always lengthy to do list. Tasks must be done completely, efficiently, on time, according to specification.
Unfortunately, Saturn in Pisces engulfs achievement oriented Mars in Virgo in a heavy toxic fog of sticky, clinging niggling details that create enough friction to derail our schedules completely. Then, of course, negative emotions can arise.
One possible outcome is that unexpected and seemingly inexplicable problems arise one after another, confounding our plans and thwarting our desires. Pressure builds until we release that energy one way or another. We may lash out at family, friends or business associates or we may blame ourselves.
We may simply feel depressed and/or lost in the fog, unable to move forward or back, unsure what to do next.
This aspect denotes a heavy, leaden energy, a repressive, depressing Saturnine emotional atmosphere. I connect that energy's reflection in our consciousness with the Sisyphus Myth.
Sisyphus was a kind of Ancient Greek trickster figure. Stories of his absurd exploits abound.
The 20th Century French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus wrote a book entitled The Sisyphus Myth.
In one story, Sisyphus banishes Death, and no human being dies until the gods release Death from his prison. Free at last, Death immediately kills the nearest person, Sisyphus.
Sisyphus had told his wife not to perform his burial rites when he died. So when Sisyphus arrived in the Underworld, he complained to Pluto that his wife had failed in her duties and it was his right to return to Earth to compel her to do the will of the gods by completing his funeral rites. Then he could feel free to return to Hades, unburdened by this sin.
Pluto agreed, but once Sisyphus was back home, he simply thumbed his nose at Pluto's messengers and refused to leave.
Sisyphus, by Titian , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
When he died of old age after a happy life, and arrived in Pluto's realm a second time, the gods punished him by telling him to roll a giant boulder up a mountain and leave it at the summit.
The top of the mountain was so steep that as soon as the rock reached the summit, it would roll back down the mountain. Sisyphus would have to go back down and do it all again. Eternally.
Camus thought that if Sisyphus could achieve a moment of conscious self-surrender to the absurd tragedy of his existence at that precise moment that the boulder began to fall back down the mountain, then he would be able to transcend his sorrow and misery and achieve true Self-consciousness.
Of course, that's easy for Camus to say and almost impossible for any of us to do. Fortunately, we are not Sisyphus, caught in an eternal doom loop. It's just that sometimes it can feel like that.
If the Saturn-Mars opposition later in July finds you thwarted, befuddled, angry, or merely irritated, and if you find yourself feeling that all your best efforts to achieve your spiritual and material goals have ultimately failed to bring you peace of mind or a happy heart, remind yourself that this could be a mere reflection of a transitory emotion or thought form manifesting in the collective consciousness coincidentally with this stellar aspect.
It's merely an impermanent condition, in other words. Morning fog is followed by sunny skies. But it may take until the end of July for us to begin to feel satisfied with our ability to accomplish our objectives.
As the Mars-Saturn opposition ripens, on July 21st, Sun in Cancer opposes Pluto in Capricorn. Plutonic events are, by definition, beyond the control of the individual, larger than life, permanent as death, unknowable and unforeseeable as the course of a journey to the Underworld.
This aspect is potentially volatile both for individuals and for the collective consciousness.
Existing and burgeoning confrontations in our lives may suddenly take on the character of existential threats. Be careful of self-sabotage, avoid exaggerating potential threats, and take some long deep Ocean breaths before giving in to feelings of paranoia or sudden desires to lash out at others.
This is also the energy signature of natural disasters, so we should all be aware of the potential for an escalation of extreme weather events in July and throughout the dangerous summer months.
This planetary alignment indicates the need for careful diplomacy in the international political arena, if diplomats are to avoid impulsive, explosive escalation of existing military conflicts, like the Ukraine War.
Hades abducting Persephone, wall painting
in the small royal tomb at Vergina, Macedonia, Greece, courtesy Wikimedia
Finally, let's not forget that the energy of the US Pluto Return is not yet over. Now that retrograde Pluto has seemingly traveled back into Capricorn, we are all invited to revisit the dramatic political conflicts between Blue and Red Americans that have erupted from coast to coast over the last couple of years.
Aspects like July's opposition between Sun in Cancer and Pluto in Capricorn reactivate the energy signature of the US Pluto return, which has coincided with a period of fear, anxiety, anger and aggression on the part of those who control the commanding heights of the deteriorating Global American Hydrocarbon Empire.
Politically, we are very much on the way to a culminating moment in America's Pluto Return -- the 2024 Presidential elections. The new President will take office on January 20th, 2025, and the influence of the US Pluto Return will still be strong at that time.
Astrologers point out that it could take several years for the decisions being made during the final days of Pluto in Capricorn in early 2024 to manifest in the outer world.
In many ways, the new President will embody the issues revealed during America's Saturn Return, and his term of office will most likely involve dramatic restructuring of the American Empire in response to perceived threats and internal weaknesses.
After these heavy outer planet dramas during the last half of July, we will all want to lighten up! Positive planetary aspects will help with that!
On August 1, on the day of the next Full Moon in Aquarius, Mars in Virgo enters into a beneficent trine with Jupiter in Taurus, providing us with some solid ground and a clear view of our path forward.
Jupiter will energize our inner Virgo perfectionist and enable us to finally start crossing backlogged items off our to-do list.
During this August transit, we may want to upgrade our own personal infosphere. The Universe may bring us opportunities to access new sources of information and new material resources we have needed to help us reach our spiritual and material goals in life.
Jane and I affirm that we all continue to receive the grace and guidance we require to navigate the troubled waters rising worldwide with ease and grace. We offer you all love and light during this season of increasing heat and light and life.
Jane and Curtis Selfie, Reynolda Gardens, Wakeforest University, Winston Salem, NC
Meditation Moment: The Astronomer, by Kahlil Gibran
In the shadow of the temple my friend and I saw a blind man sitting alone. And my friend said, “Behold the wisest man of our land.”
Then I left my friend and approached the blind man and greeted him. And we conversed.
After a while I said, “Forgive my question; but since when has thou been blind?”
“From my birth,” he answered.
Said I, “And what path of wisdom followest thou?”
Said he, “I am an astronomer.”
Then he placed his hand upon his breast saying, “I watch all these suns and moons and stars.”