With Thanksgiving over, what’s next? Ready or not, winter season 2019-20 is upon us -- and so, too, are insect, animal, old farmer, old wife and human prognosticators. At least one predicts below-normal snowfall, while another says below-normal temperatures. I’m jumbled.
Then there’s the animal and insect-world perspective from ants, hornets, caterpillars and other creepy-crawlers. For example, if ant hills were high in July (I forgot to check) and if a hornet’s nest larger than usual (I refused to check), the coming winter will be hard. But if a cow had been standing with its tail to the west, it’s a different verdict: The weather will be fair. Ahh! Further input from the Wooly Bear Caterpillar (its stripes indicate weather trends) only befuddles me more.
Folklore and old wives’ tales have a say. Heavy fog in August means heavy snow in winter, and lightning in winter means snow to begin within 10 days. Or so they say. And don’t forget Punxsutawney Phil’s input.
Meanwhile, the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts winter temperatures here will be “much above” normal, with the coldest in mid- and late January as well as in early and late February. Precipitation will be above normal, it said, which must mean rain because snowfall will be “below normal.”
The avalanche of predictions from unscientific sources has me bemused and eager to hear from trained experts.
Here’s one: Warmer temperatures are forecast for much of the country this winter, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Wetter than average weather is most likely across the Northern Tier of the U.S. during winter, and neutral conditions are in place instead of the El Nino that influences the winter stuff.
That scenario sounds more likely than bad weather predictions based on the early migration of the Monarch butterfly, an increase in spiders weaving large webs, or honeybees going into their hives sooner than usual.
On my side in this winter-forecast show is John R. Wallace, a biology professor at Millersville University in Lancaster County and member of the Pennsylvania Entomological Society.
“I think the upshot here is that there is plenty of lore and paucity of data to assign any fragment of truth on these prognosticating ‘wanna-bees,’ pun intended,” he said.