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Does Mercury drop the mercury?


(First written in November 2009)

If you see a tiny spot moving across the face of the Sun chances are it isn't some newly discovered weird roving sunspot. It is probably Earth's sister planet Mercury in a totally predictable transit in front of the Sun. Mercury is the innermost and smallest planet in the solar system, orbiting the Sun once every 88 days. Of all the planets in the solar system, only Mercury and Venus, which orbit closer to the Sun than Earth, can be seen passing across the face of the Sun.

Astronomers watch for when this happens, and it becomes media news. The next proper transit won't occur until 2016 because Mercury's orbit is inclined by 7° to the plane of Earth's orbit (the ecliptic), and the only transits of Mercury that seem to excite astronomers are those that go straight across the face of the Sun which can only occur when the planet is crossing the plane of the ecliptic at the time it lies between the Earth and the Sun. This occurs about every seven years on average.


On February 24 2007 Mercury passed in front of the Sun, but not exactly across the middle, and on June 30, 2007, Mercury slid at the edge of the Sun's corona. Mercury does cross the Sun's brightly lit area every three or four months and at the same level as the Sun, and exactly between times, as witnessed from Earth, Mercury, again parallel, dives around the back of the Sun. Why should this concern the farmer?


There are many reasons for temperatures changes on Earth, just as there are many things that will make a child cry. A summer Full moon day can bring extra heat, a winter aphelion(Sun furthest away) may diminish warmth and a southerly change in winter will herald snow in the southern hemisphere. In the old astrology various planets had specific characteristics, depending on their aspects or positions. Mars brings heat and in 2003 the closest approach to Earth Mars made for 36,000 years gave Europe their hottest summer for 500 years. Mercury is known for wind. It tends to either blow bad weather in or blow clouds away. But for a few years now I have been carefully watching this little planet Mercury. I have found that conjuncting(crossing) the Sun it invariably does bring sharp, whipping winds and an increase in the depth of high and low pressure systems but its chief influence is cold.


For instance, on November 9th, when Mercury passed in front of the Sun, Wellington's barometric reading hit 989mbs, the lowest for the year. So did Sydney’s. The moon was furthest north for 27 days and 37 dolphins stranded at Ruakaka. We are far from explanations of most meteorological phenomena. We don't even have a good explanation for gravity. But in ancient times it was sufficient to observe and use repeated observation for future prediction. A Mercury-conjunct-Sun in winter will herald a blizzard or fast-moving cold wave. 

I have picked five random consecutive years, 1979-1984, of observational data for temperatures in both the southern NZ towns of Ashburton and Gore as collected by the NZ Metservice, and I have matched Mercury's sun-crossing conjunction times to this historical data. The results are rather consistent. It would be a huge fluke if these randomly-picked years were the only exceptions to a rule spanning every single year, and of course that would be nonsense.  



On May 27-June 2, Mercury crossed parallel behind the Sun and on May 23, both Gore and Ashburton received some of the heaviest frosts of that year's winter, with -3.5C in Ashburton and in Gore reaching -5.3C on May 27.



On August 27, Mercury passed parallel behind the Sun. In the middle of a run of warm NWs, Gore dropped 4 deg to 2C, and Ashburton dropped 5 deg to 0.9C. On November 3rd, Mercury crossed parallel in front of the Sun and Ashburton received its last frost of  the year. From 10C the day before, the town dived on November 2nd to 0C, and Gore dropped 4 deg to 1.5C.



On 28th April, Mercury crossed parallel behind the Sun for the first time that year, also the day of the first frost of the year in Ashburton. From 7.4C on 27th, minimums plunged to 0.4C. 17mm of rain that day prevented any frost in Gore. When Mercury went parallel behind the Sun on Aug 11, rain prevented frost in both towns, but when Ashburton fined up on the 12th, minimums plunged from 6C on the 11th to -3C on both the 13th and 14th. Mercury crossed parallel to the Sun again on Oct 17th-20th as Gore dropped to 0.2C on the 17th, and Ashburton dropped to 1C on the 18th.



April 12th saw Mercury crossing parallel behind the Sun. The first frost for the year in Ashburton was April 9th and frost came to Gore on the 11th. On June 1st, Mercury crossed parallel in front of the Sun, remaining there until 5th, and this coincided with a run of frosts in Ashburton and Gore, with Gore reaching -3C on the 5th. On July 23rd-28th Mercury was again parallel and behind the Sun and Ashburton had a 5-day run of frosts from 21st-28th, the coldest day of that winter being -4.7C on 25th, while Gore had frosts from 20th-30th. The minimum of the 24th reached -3.4C. Ahead now to Oct 3rd and 4th, when Mercury again crossed parallel in front of the Sun, and Ashburton, which had not had a frost for 17 days received a heavy one that day, but would have to wait 15 days until the next. Gore dropped from 6C(on the 1st) to -0.4C on the 3rd, rising to 5C again by the 6th.



Mercury went parallel and behind the Sun on March 28th-30th and the first frosts of that year occurred for Ashburton on 30th and 31st. The next parallel crossing in front of the Sun was 11th-14th May, and on May 11th Gore went below zero for only the second time that winter. On May 13th, after no subzero temperatures for 42 days, Ashburton plunged to -1.4C, but did not go below zero again for another 11 days. In July, from the 7th-11th Mercury was exactly parallel and behind the Sun. Ashburton had a run of subzero minimums between 4th-8th, and Gore between 5th-7th. In September, the day Mercury crossed parallel to the Sun was the 17th and the only subzero temperature in Ashburton that month, a -2Cmin, was on the 16th. From Oct 27-Nov 6, Mercury went parallel behind the Sun and minimums in Gore dipped briefly to 3C on 2nd and in Ashburton to 5degC, but constant rain in both towns kept away frost.



June 20th-21st saw Mercury cross parallel behind the Sun and the coldest day of that winter for Ashburton was 24 June, when minimums dropped to -4.1C. It was also Gore's coldest winter's day, a freezing -4.7C.


I have barely scratched the surface with a sample 5-year record. Mercury/Sun crossings every year tell a cold story, yet meteorologists either haven't noticed or simply don't wish to, perhaps lest the potential influence of planets on weather opens up a Pandora's box. There is, of course, more. Mercury was passing parallel in front of Sun on 10th-12th October 1988, and on Oct 9th, Gore suddenly dropped to 1.9C and Ashburton down to 2C. 

On Nov 27th-Dec 8th Mercury again slowly crossed parallel in front of the Sun and on the 27th after 82 days without a subzero min, Gore woke up to  -0.7C. Ashburton dropped to 2C on the 28th, the lowest minimum temp for 35 days. In 1999 on Nov 14th-18th Mercury was parallel in front of the Sun, and on the 13th Ashburton had dropped to 3.4C, Gore dropping to 2C on the 19th. 

In year 2000 on 9th May, Mercury crossed parallel behind the Sun and Gore's first frost of the year arrived on May 8th, falling from 7C on 7th to minus 1.3C. On the 9th Ashburton also received first frost of the year, dropping to 0.7C. On Aug 22nd Mercury again crossed parallel in front of the Sun bringing another heavy minus 2.3C frost to Gore. Ashburton temperatures went from 2C on 22nd to -2C on 23rd, and stayed at that level for three days.


A quick look using Google shows the rest of the world exhibiting similar phenomena. The last official White Christmas in London was December 25th 1970 (Merc/Sun on 28th). The lowest temperature ever recorded in the UK was minus 27.2C on 10th Jan 1990 at Braemar, Grampians (Merc/Sun on 8th-11th)  The highest wind speed ever recorded in the British Isles was on 20th March 1986 - a gust of 173mph in the Cairngorms(Merc/Sun 14th-21st) The most deadly natural disaster in the USA was the Galveston Hurricane of 8th September 1900, thought to have killed between 10,000 and 12,000 people. The full moon in perigee crossed the equator that same day and Mercury crossed parallel to the Sun between 10th-18th. 

The lowest temperature recorded in the world was on a Full moon day in Vostok in Antarctica on the 21 July 1983, of -89C(Mercury was parallel to the Sun for almost a month, from June 25th to July 24th). The coldest on record for California was the Full moon time of 23 December 2002 (Merc/Sun 23-25). The coldest day of the 2003 winter in Britain was -20C on 7 January, and Merc/Sun was 11th-14th. The coldest recorded temperature in NZ of -20°C was at Ophir in Central Otago on 2nd July 1943, the day of New moon, Northern Declination and Merc parallel to Sun for another whole month (June 30th – July 30th).


Colder days seem to come either at the time or within a couple of days, of Mercury being parallel to and/or crossing the Sun, either in front of or behind as viewed from Earth.


So what of 2006? On May 22nd Mercury was behind the Sun and Ashburton got frosts from 20th-21st whilst from 23rd-25th Gore experienced its only frosts that month. From June 11th-27th Merc was parallel to the Sun, bringing extreme cold to Ashburton throughout that period. From Aug 29th -Sept 9th, Mercury was parallel and behind the Sun bringing intense cold to Ashburton until Sept 7. On Nov 8th-12th Mercury was again parallel in front of the Sun and these were much colder days, and not just in NZ. The diving temperatures also struck Australian States, with snow reaching S Queensland, and Argentina reported unseasonable cold.


In 2007 Mercury was parallel behind the Sun from Jan 2nd-13th with the parallel extending to the 26th. Mercury was then parallel in front of the Sun on Feb 25th-28th, parallel behind the Sun on May 1st-8th, parallel June 6-17, crossing the Sun between June 29th-July 1st, parallel to the Sun between July 17th-27th, crossing parallel behind the Sun from Aug 14th-22nd, parallel Oct 24th-27th, behind the Sun between Dec 11th-25th being parallel Dec 2nd-Jan 12th 2008. These dates brought temperature swings.


The Predict Weather almanacs list these swing periods as gray sections on the page in the appendix entitled Moon At A Glance. They are utterly predictable and can explain some temperature swings. Then there are other planets, in particular Saturn and Pluto, which can, at certain times, also bring cold-causing conditions.  These are factors that meteorologists know nothing about, yet they will swear they understand weather. What that means, is that for high tax-funded salaries, they can tell you a lot about what's happening now. That's as useful as tits on a bull to the farmer.

©  Ken Ring 

Predict Weather 2009 ©