Thought provoking exchanges on Taoism, Chinese Astrology, Mathematics, Education, GAIA -- our planet, and of course, Sillyness.

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Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Where's Winter? -- Lunar Leap Year Delayed It

(Yes Virginia, we will get snow -- heaps and heaps of the stuff!!)

Gather round kiddies and Mammy Tammy'll tell you why we haven't seen winter yet. Yes, there's global warming -- it's not a myth as W says -- but this year, it's the Chinese lunar calendar to blame for the lack of winter weather. But don't despair -- when it gets here, mid February, it'll arrive like a Wild Boar -- for we will begin the Year of the Fire Pig -- and everything will be extreme.

See, this lunar year -- the Year of the Dog (4704 in the Chinese Lunar Calendar) -- is a leap year -- and a LUNAR LEAP YEAR lasts 13 months instead of 12, adding an extra month in order to catch up with its solar cousin. This year -- which ends February 17th, the latest possible end date for a Chinese Year -- the added month is the month of the Rat -- and since Rat's Western equivalent is Sagittarius -- we get an extra month of autumn. We're seeing autumn weather patterns -- chilly, rainy sometimes, but when it's clear, the sky is that gorgeous, fragile blue and your lungs thank you when you go for your after dinner walk. Once the Fire Pig arrives on February 18th, watch what happens. Tell the skiers and the ski hill operators not to despair. They will have abundant snow right to the end of April or later. We'll just have to hope people can get to the hills through all that snow.

Here's what happened in 1995, the last "end of Dog beginning of Pig" year. At the time, I lived in Sept-Iles -- above the 50th parallel -- abundant early snow usually. Chinese New Year fell on January 31st in 1995. At the time, there was 2 centimeters of snow on the ground. Christmas eve had been 2 degrees and foggy -- no snow at all. I expected we'd see Alfred Hitchcock rather than Santa under those conditions. During my Chinese New Year broadcasts on CBC, both English and French radio services, I was asked about the weather for the upcoming year. I replied, "Just watch the extremes. Once it starts doing something, it won't stop quickly. If it starts to snow, it'll snow for days on end."

My birthday is February 7th -- exactly one week after my prediction. I spent it with my students and our shovels LOOKING FOR MY CAR that I'd parked in the driveway 4 days earlier. It was now under the 160 centimeters of snow that had fallen since then. At one point I yelled at the heavens: "If you're going to give us this much snow, you have to build us a mezzanine so we have some place to put it!!" With the 10 foot high snow banks, the cabbies and pizza delivery guys complained they could no longer see the houses, never mind the addresses.
Everyone in town kept saying "We haven't had this much snow since 1983." Makes sense to me. That was the previous year of the Pig. The record snowfall in Montreal stands at somewhere around 30 INCHES -- when did that happen? On March 4th 1971 -- another year of the Pig.

The 1995 Piggy summer was amazing. The local newspaper, Le Nord-Est, did a play on words and declared it l'été en corbeau -- since each day, everyone looked out their window and said: "Il fait encore beau." I spent 9 years in Sept-Iles. Only once, in August of 1995, did I have to sleep in the basement bedroom because it was too hot to sleep upstairs. At midnight it was still 24 degrees Celcius. Unheard of up there. Generally, once the sun went down, even during the best of summers, you'd need a sweater when you took your evening walk down at the Vieux Quai. In the summer of 1995, we walked on the Quai in our shorts, T-shirts and sandals. It was so hot that I actually swam in the usually frigid waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in the Moisie river.

Pig Year arrives on February 18th. Get ready. You've been warned.

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