© 2019 Terry Swails

SPIDERS, SQUIRRELS, NUTS, WOOLEY BEARS, AND WINTER...

September 23, 2017

Over the years I've made numerous mentions of a friend of mine by the name of Steve Gottschalk. Steve's been into weather since he was a kid and has been a cooperative observer for the NWS for more than 30 years. He's been documenting the weather in and around Lowden, Iowa for over 50 years.

Not long ago the National Weather Service presented Steve with their highest award given to volunteer weather observers, the Thomas Jefferson Award. I had the honor of writing his letter of recommendation to the NWS and as I said to them, no one is more committed or deserving of the award. 

 

Aside for being well-known for his detailed observations, Steve has also made a name for himself by making seasonal forecasts derived from weather folklore. Basically, that means he pays attention to insects, birds, cats, squirrels, mice, acorns, and a multitude of other organic objects and creatures considered clues or indicators.

By paying attention to the clues of nature and applying folklore handed down over generations (many that go back to Native Americans and early settlers) he can usually come up with a reliable outlook. Here's some of the things he's recently posted on his site which is An Old Country Almanac on Facebook. I love this stuff!

 

Some friends of mine told me that the some old-timers down by West Liberty said that there is a very large crop of hickory nuts this year and that the squirrels are busy picking them up. They said that the last time they saw this big of a crop was back in the fall of 1978. We all know remember what that winter was like? Our coldest and snowiest winter ever.
He also told me that the mice have been trying to come indoors a month earlier than usual and in record numbers. Is this a sign?

I went back and looked at the August's with just one 90 degree day that had 2 or more 90 degree days in September. I found 4 of them. Three of those 4 years had a cold winter and all 4 saw above normal snowfall.

 

I saw my first woolly bear caterpillar on Saturday. It was a small one and it was dead on the street. It was actually the first one that I have seen in the past 2 years. I didn't see any last season and used readers reports, emails and texts to make my forecast.
This woolly bear had 4 brown stripes which would normally predict a cold winter. I hope I see some more of the fuzzy fellers.

 

The small creek in the east end of town has dried up living to small pools by the culverts where there are small chubs and some minnows trying to stay alive. I suspect the pools will be dried up by the weekend?

As of today we have had our 2nd driest start to the month of September with 13 days. We will add to that stretch yet.
I was looking at some data to see what our snowfall for the winter will be like based on 5 other similar dry starts. Three of those 5 years had snowier than normal winters and the other 2 were around 3" below the normal.
I also looked to see what the December snowfall would be like and found 4 of the 5 had normal to above normal snowfall.

 

The old timers always talked about the Equinotical Storm. A time when a significant weather event took place within a day or two of the Autumnal Equinox. The storms the other evening could have been this?

I am still seeing a lot of spiders trying to get indoors. More than i have ever seen before. The larger Wandering and Wolf type of spiders are coming in now. Anywhere from the size of a half dollar to a silver dollar size. When you squish them it sounds like bones cracking, I kid you not.

 

There was a skunk seen in the downtown area yesterday just after the noon hour. Skunks usually aren't out during the daylight hours so I am thinking something must have been wrong with it.
Back when I was in high school I shot a a rabid skunk that was running around town with my bow.

 

Based on the cool and dry August we had, I am thinking that Fall (Sept.- Nov.) should see near normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.

I was checking out what our winter would be like following our cool and dry August. I found 7 similar Augusts and 5 of those following winters were colder and 6 of those 7 were wetter.

Based on the cool and dry August our first frost came around the 2nd or 3rd of October.

 

Based on a cool and dry summer, September should see near normal temperatures and below normal rainfall. October should be warmer and drier than normal. November should see cooler than normal temperatures and less than normal precipitation.

The month of September is off to a dry start with no rainfall for the first 8 days. I found 5 more Septembers just like it. 
1978 had no rain for the first 10 days.
1979 had no rainfall for the first 12 days.
2003 had no rain for the first 11 days.
2009 had just a trace of rain during the first 21 days.
2013 had just a trace of rain for the first 10 days.

There were 2 rainbows on Monday evening. The first one was at 6:20 which was a partial one coming out of the base of a large cumulus cloud in the N.E. sky which reminded me of a lightning bolt. The second one was much larger in the eastern sky around 7 o'clock. This bow was more than half complete and was pretty bright on the southern end.

There are sure a lot of blue jays and cardinals around this summer. Most of the robins are gone already and the grackles left a few weeks ago.

So far I have seen or heard 4 winter forecasts. One was for a warm winter, another was saying a cold winter, another was to be mild and snowy and the latest one I heard was for a colder ans snowy winter. Take your pick.

Just think if we had a winter storm stall out close to our area and dump heavy snow for 4 to 5 days. Could it happen?

It takes light one second to reach us from the moon. So if you had a friend on the moon, it would take one second for him to receive your phone call.
It takes sunlight 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach us. It would be the same if you were to call someone on the sun. Just think if the sun were somehow to magically disappear, we wouldn't realize it till 8 minutes and 20 seconds later.

 

After I read all this stuff it gets me fired up about winter so I decided to take a look at what the latest United States climate model is showing. This is by no means the gospel and just one models interpretation (no acorns or wooley bears involved). However, it does look promising if you are up for a good old fashioned winter.  Here's the individual temperature forecasts for November-March.

Combined the overall winter temperature forecast December-February looks like this.

Here's the winter precipitation departure outlook which is near to above normal over the central U.S. If the temperature forecasts are anywhere on target you have to assume much of this would be snow in the Midwest.

That should cool you down on a day when near or even record highs look possible in many parts of the Midwest. Roll weather and watch out for squirrels gathering nuts...TS

 

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