Welcome to Meteorological Winter

December 1 began meteorological winter, which is different from astronomical winter.

Meteorological winter is based on the three coldest months–December, January and February. Astronomical winter is based on the solstice, which this year happens on December 21.

So, since we’re in meteorological winter now, I thought I would see what my squirrels were thinking. For newer readers, what I am relying on is the time tested (sort of) tradition that squirrels build their nests based on their foreknowledge of winter cold. The higher up in a tree a squirrel builds its nest, the colder the winter will be.

I ask you, does this make any sense? No. But it has seemed to hold true for almost every winter that I have consulted the nests. So let’s look up at some nests.

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This is the squirrel’s nest on my property. It’s a little hard to see because it’s almost at the top of this oak. Clearly, my squirrels are thinking “cold winter.”

And I wouldn’t disagree with them. November ran well below average, except in snowfall and rainfall.

But that’s not the whole story.

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There are two nests in this tree (again, if you can’t see them, my apologies. This time of year, we’re all still cleaning up leaves, and I couldn’t get near anything because of leaf piles–which is still better than snowdrifts!)

These trees are on my neighbor’s property, directly across from my house and my oak. In the tree on the left–the one nearest their house–there are 2 nests. One is on the lowest branch and another just slightly higher. So their squirrels are thinking different things than mine.

So perhaps the “split decision” this winter means exactly that: periods of very cold weather followed by not so cold. I’ll take that!

4 thoughts on “Welcome to Meteorological Winter

  1. tonytomeo December 3, 2018 / 10:21 am

    Is meteorological winter relevant to climate as well as weather. For example, if our winter weather starts later than it does elsewhere, does that mean that our meteorological winter starts later too? Those who are not from this region might say that we have only two seasons; summer, and a few hours each year of something that is not summer. (We really do get winter by the way.) I believe that our seasons are more meteorological anyway, just because that is how I always learned them. Winter is the cool and rainy season between December 31 and January 6 or so. Okay, our winter is about December, January and February. I did not even know what solstices or equinoxes were until high school.

  2. gardendaze December 3, 2018 / 10:52 am

    As far as I know, the meteorologists, who made up this distinction, aren’t changing the designation based on climate changes yet–but they were late to get on the”climate change” bus to begin with, so there’s that.

    As for places with no real seasons (and places with only brief interludes of another season)–wow.

    I am not sure what to do with that.

    Karla

  3. The Chatsworth Lady December 3, 2018 / 11:29 am

    How fascinating about the squirrels’ nest theory! I’d honestly never heard that, and since my property is ringed with neighboring oaks I took a gander out the window and saw … nary a nest in sight. And we certainly do have winters. And Eastern gray squirrels aplenty. But where they have been nesting, I have no clue. Perhaps there’s a giant squirrel condo somewhere and they commute? LOL

  4. gardendaze December 3, 2018 / 11:40 am

    Hmm. I know they also use my maples and on occasion (much rarer occasion) have been known to nest in my hated eastern white pines.

    Maybe your construction has put the fear of something into them? I have been known to bird or squirrels nest hunt as I drive around (only on residential streets, if course–not at highway speeds!)

    Of course, if I see something good, I still usually keep driving. It’s not as if I can pull over and leap out to take a photo. I would worry about the consequences of that these days.

    But try discreetly checking your neighbors trees. There must be a nest up there somewhere.

    Karla

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