Wordless Wednesday–the Old “Foggy Morning” Weather Lore

Foggy Morning

It’s a little too early to be looking for squirrels’ nests to try to figure out what the winter might be like (besides, after last winter’s disappointing prediction, it’s just a miracle we have any squirrels left! I would have thought they would have all frozen to death for having gotten it so wrong!)

So this year I’ll try the old “for every foggy morning in August and September there will be a snowstorm” routine.

Last year, I didn’t even want to think about that. I lost count of the foggy mornings!

This year there have only been a handful which is going against most of the dire predictions of a terrible winter for the northeast. We’ll see if this little bit of “weather lore” holds up!

By the way, notice the nice green grass in this photo? It’s that same lawn that my neighbor was killing off at Labor Day. Now he’s putting in a new driveway. It’s always something.

Wordless Wednesday–Where’s The Water?

SHouldn't there be water there?

My more astute readers may remember that occasionally I’ll show a lake across the street from my house, or make reference to living across from one.

Several times in September, I got in my car, and saw the above scene–or lack of one, really. It was a bit surreal as I looked down my driveway and saw, well, nothing where there should have been water.

Lake or no lake?

Weather lore says that for every foggy morning in August, there will be a snowy day in the winter. I sure hope that “lore” doesn’t extend to September as well!

Is Anyone Awake/Up Out There Yet?

I’ve filed this under “Weather Lore” but it really doesn’t quite fit into that category.  Daylight Savings Time fits into a category all its own, one designed to both delight and flummox us at the same time.

As gardeners, we’re delighted to have the extra hour of daylight at the end of the day to get outside and do some work in the yard–and most of our yards, especially where the winter was severe, need all the help they can get this year!

But adjusting to that extra hour of less sleep somehow makes one feel as if one’s just stepped off a plane a few time zones east of the one one’s actually in–at least it makes me feel that way.  And it only gets worse the older I get (and I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t know anyone getting any younger.  If you do, please have them get in touch with me!)

They’re just now beginning to do research on this “spring ahead, fall back” stuff.  They have known for years that there were more accidents on the day after we changed the clocks.  But suddenly they’re finding out that there are more heart attacks too–especially with the spring time change.

And they’re finding out that high schoolers, a group who is already notoriously sleep deprived anyway, have a drop in their SAT scores if the tests are given around the time of the time change.  They expected to see a drop in the scores of about 3-5 points.  They found a 16 point drop.  Not good!  All of this and more was in an on-line version of a story in my local paper, the Hartford Courant.

So it was amusing to read this op-ed piece in the New York Times about another time when a great time shift caused upheaval to the general populace: when the railroads suddenly decreed that times had to conform to “railroad” time and some places had to adjust their time by as much as 28 minutes! Oh, the nerve of them!

Interestingly enough, the piece also makes reference to the long tradition of Connecticut clock-making and how it took over the west.  It’s worth a read.

As a side note, when the Spoiler got in the car and looked at the clock last night, I remarked upon the time to him and he said, “Yeah but is that the real time or some approximation of it?”  I told him it was the real time because I had an atomic clock.”  Naturally be thought the clock in the car was the atomic clock so I had to explain that no, one of the clocks in the house was an atomic clock, so I used that clock to set my watch by, and then I went around and re-set all the other clocks using my watch so they were all fairly well calibrated.  But it was an interesting observation of that “all time is approximate” theory in action.”

A New Kind of Snow-meiser

An interesting post from the Farmer’s Almanac appeared via Twitter last week.  It talked about the myth of the snow woman.  This was fascinating to me for two reasons: the first was that I had never heard of this myth, and second, I was fascinated because in mythology in general and weather mythology in particular most of the lore is masculine.  So to hear of a female snow  person was intriguing to say the least.

She is known as a yuki-onna or yukionna, depending on which source you consult.  I finally went to a web site whose sub-title was “everything Japanese.”  If that isn’t an authority, then I’m not sure what would be.

In any event,  as with most mythology or folklore, a yukionna is a spirit or ghost who appears to those stranded in snowstorms.  She is dressed all in white, and she sometimes has no feet, or, alternatively, leaves no footprints in the snow.  She is depicted as having wild dark hair and dark red lips.  Sometimes she is seen carrying a child.

In all cases, contact with the yukionna is deadly–the victim freezes to death.

The Farmer’s Almanac site posits that the spirit was devised to explain the concept of freezing to death and how a woman who has frozen to death might appear.  It’s an interesting theory and could of course have some basis in fact.

A little closer to home, the Penobscot and Abenaki tribes had a spirit god called Pomola that was in the shape of a bird.  It resided on Mount Katahdin (Maine) and was strong enough to carry off a moose.  Pomola was not just a god of snow, but also of wind, storms and rain.  Needless to say, the tribes avoided Mt. Katahdin altogether.

The Norse too have some gods and goddesses associated with their mythology.  It was difficult for me to get a handle on who the actual gods or goddesses might be since their mythology is rather unusual.  The names most often mentioned in the ski resort literature were Ullr, the “step-son” of Thor and Skadi, a goddess, who on some sites was called the “goddess of snow-shoeing.”  Hmm.  Sounds far more benign than it probably was in the twelfth century!

In any event, nowhere in all this literature did it tell me who to pray tostop all this snow–but I suspect we already know that.  We don’t need anyone special for that!

Weather Prognostications–Part 2

Picking up where we left off yesterday with the weather lore:

Of course there are the “sky” predictions.  The one I’ve grown up with is “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning,” but there are almost as many variations on that theme as there are months in the year I was surprised to find.  Almost every language has its own version too–Wikipedia cites French, Italian, and Norse variations on this saying, as well as quotes from literature and the Bible.

Not surprisingly this weather proverb has to do with observing atmospheric conditions and translating them into an easy to remember saying.  And while it doesn’t always hold true of course–what is always true about the weather–there is probably more truth to this than there is to any of the other lore.

If you want to try to figure out what’s going to happen this winter, this is what I watch.  The long range patterns generally start to settle in sometime in November.  They have to do with a flow called the North Atlantic Oscillation.  It can be in a positive phase, in which case we in the Northeast have a warmer winter, or a negative phase, in which case we have a colder winter.  You will hear the meteorolgists talking about this occasionally even on your local news, but you will definitely see it on weather sites and on the Weather Channel.

So if you’re really curious to know what kind of winter it’s going to be, keep your ear tuned for words about the NAO-positive or negative phase.

And I always know when a storm is coming–the goldfinch flock to my bird feeders in record numbers!

Weather Prognostications

I actually got the idea for this post from a story I heard on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” about natural phenomena that folks use to predict the weather–you know, things like squirrels gathering up an unusual number of acorns or the width of the black stripe on the woolly bear caterpillar.

See full size image (Image courtesy of Google).

Now where I come from, the Woolly Bear (the larva of the Isabella Tiger moth, by the way) has its black stripe in the middle.  And the wider that black stripe, so the lore goes, the harsher the winter.

For amusement (since I am a trained amateur meteorogist) I did track the woolly bears for a few years–there really is no corrolation.  And science will tell you that the stripe is an indication of the maturity of the caterpillar, not the harshness of the winter.  But it’s a fun story.

A lot of folks swear by the  Old Farmer’s Almanac, which as been making weather predictions (or so it claims), since 1792.  Hindsight being 20/20, last year for the date of “Snowmageddon,” up and down the East Coast, it predicted rain and warmer than normal, and then sunny.   But of course, everyone can have an off year or two.

Just for the record, this year, for the same reason, it is predicting bitterly cold, but “average” precipitation overall.  For my region that still means almost 4′.  We’ll see.

And then there are the squirrels.  They’ve been having a field day with the acorns, which have been prolific this year!  So that would at least support the “bitterly cold” part of the prediction.  And at least one Accuweather meteorologist is going with this as well, but he is going for above record snowfall, at least for his part of the world, which is central Pennsylvania.

Finally there are a lot of “spider” predictions.  If spiders build their webs on shrubs and grass, we are  in for a spell of fine weather.  If they make tight webs, the weather is going to worsen.  This is all new to me so I’ll have to observe to see if there’s any truth to it.

I do know that the Farmer’s Almanac message board was full of early winter predictions in July and August because folks were seeing spiders coming into their homes.  Apparently folks don’t know much about spider behavior–spiders always come into the home in summer and fall.

But enough about this for one day–more tomorrow.