Falling Into Winter

fall winter

It is weather folklore that says that autumn will arrive 90 days after the katydids start to sing. Based on my Paradelle observations, that made this past Tuesday (November 17) the arrival of autumn. That prediction is way off. Of course, maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention to the first katydid song. Maybe the insects in my neighborhood got a late start. Maybe weather lore is just weather lore.

It was looking autumnal last month and this week it has been feeling wintry. I needed to take in the garden hoses and liquids from the garage. I did my last lawn mowing and drained the mower’s gas. It was below freezing this morning. But I haven’t given in to getting the snowblower ready. I’m not jinxing November.

I posted earlier about what the scientists at NOAA think will be coming this winter but I honestly don’t know that I trust scientists or nature for long-term weather predictions. Still, I find myself looking for those predictions and writing about them as a kind of seasonal ritual. I’m not alone. My past weather posts always get an uptick in hits when the seasons are changing from people wondering.

Before we get to predicting the weather ahead, we need to decide how we are going to organize the year. You can use the astronomical calendar of equinoxes and solstices to mark changes in seasons. The meteorological calendar breaks the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar. Of course, your local conditions probably don’t really match either method’s breakdown of the year.

And then there is phenology, which is my favorite. This is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events in your area. That means the start of a season won’t follow either calendar. I like it because it requires you to observe nature – something people did quite seriously once upon a time and few people do today.  This means more than just saying “Oh look, the trees are changing colors” or “The crocuses look nice this year.” When did the trees start changing? Which species was first and when did it happen last year?”  I’ve been journaling my garden and plants around me for a lot of years and that first crocus bloom has become something I look forward to seeing and recording each spring. And it changes.

If you want to be a bit more of a “citizen scientist” you can join thousands of others in gathering environmental and climate change information from across the country in a program called Project BudBurst. But I do recommend some careful observation of your little corner of the world.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting for Thanksgiving  chilly conditions for most  zones with even some light snow forecast for the Rockies/Plains and points east and showery conditions for Texas, and most of Zone 5. (Check zones here)

I’m in Zone 1 on their map and that covers my New Jersey all the way up to Maine. Very different weather in there. For the 24th-27th (Thanksgiving time) it is supposed to be unsettled, with light snow/flurries but clearing in time for Thanksgiving.

Did you know that The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a different publication? That is the one my mom used to buy and I read as a kid, and I still buy a copy every year. It has a look and a style that has remained pretty much the same since 1792. It’s full of all kinds of crazy stuff.

As they say themselves, it has “fun facts, predictions, and feature items that have made it a cultural icon: traditionally 80 percent–accurate weather forecasts; notable astronomical events and time-honored astrological dates; horticultural, culinary, fashion, and other trends; historical hallmarks; best fishing days; time- and money-saving garden advice; recipes for refreshment; facts on folklore, farmers, home remedies, and husbandry; amusements and contests, plus too much more to mention.”

This almanac has me in a smaller Atlantic Corridor region which I’m thinking makes predictions more accurate? Both almanacs have websites that are free to use. I do like getting The Old Farmer’s Almanac free email newsletter with planting time suggestions and garden stuff and looking at this new-fangled World Wide Web thing at www.almanac.com. But I think for now I’ll just pour myself a neat one and settle down on the couch and read off some pages made from dead trees like God intended.

year end
Endings are often sad.

Autumn 2020

seasons

It was quite cool last night. Time to bring in my houseplants that have been vacationing outside. My wife put on the heat this morning to take out the chill in the air. Last week the air conditioning was on. We must be at the autumnal equinox.

For two moments each year the Sun is exactly above the Equator and day and night are of equal length. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox occurs on September 22 or 23. For 2020, it is Tuesday the 22nd. (In the Southern Hemisphere it was in March when we marked spring.)

No matter what the weather is in your corner of the world, a new season is beginning that will last until the next solstice in December.

The autumn tree foliage is brilliant and so is another autumn show. The aurora borealis, also called the Northern Lights, now are more likely to appear because geomagnetic storms are about twice as frequent as the annual average during the autumn.

 

October Weather Signals of the Winter Ahead

frosty pumpkins
Frost on the pumpkins might mean that the October Full Moon is also a frosty night.

My post about signs in nature of how intense the winter ahead will be always moves back up the stats list around the time of the autumnal equinox.

My friend, Maria, told me that her Italian mother believed that if there is a bumper crop of acorns in the fall, it means that we will have a bad winter. That’s one of many weather proverbs or nuggets of weather lore. My mother told me as a child that if leaves hang on in the autumn and are slow to fall, we should prepare for a cold winter. The little scientist in me as a child wondered if it wasn’t just because the fall was gentle and we didn’t have the wind or rain to shake the leaves loose from branches. But then I suppose you could say that a gentle autumn means a tougher winter.

Several bits of weather lore look to October weather to predict the winter to come:  https://wp.me/piq5C-3Th

  • Much rain in October, means much wind in December.
  • Thunder in the fall is supposed to foretell a cold winter ahead.
  • A warm October means a cold February.
  • A Full Moon in October without any frost means a warmer month ahead.
  • In late autumn and up until the Winter Solstice, flowers still blooming is a pleasant surprise but is supposed to be a sure sign of a rough winter to follow.

The general rules seem to be that a gentle preceding season means a colder one to follow. For example, I have read weather lore that says that a mild winter means a cold spring to come.

Do keep in mind that with all this weather lore, your local observations might be an indication of the local weather ahead and not about the country or the world. I am not a believer in the “official” winter forecasts you often see in the media about the winter ahead. Though they may be “scientific” they are so broad that the microclimates we all live in often are quite different.

A Fall of Leaves

falling leaves

The words “autumn” and “fall” meaning the season that begins today in the Northern Hemisphere both originated in Britain, but one is more commonly used there while the other is more common in America. By the mid-1800s, “fall” was considered to be the  American season by lexicographers.

Autumn is the older word. It came into English in the 1300s from the Latin word autumnus.

At one time there was an intermediary season preceding our autumn that was called “harvest.” It seems that autumn came into usage to distinguish between the time when one harvests crops and the actual crop harvest itself.

Writers, especially poets, wrote about the seasonal colors of this time and the phrase “the fall of the leaves” came into more common usage. That phrase was shortened sometime in the 1600s to “fall.” This coincides with English moving across the ocean with explorers and settlers to the New World. But both words must have been used in the New World as they were in Britain because “fall” for the season doesn’t appear until 1755 when Samuel Johnson added it to his Dictionary of the English Language.

Fall is still occasionally used in countries where British English is spoken, but more likely in phrases, like “spring and fall.” American though I may be, I prefer autumn, since it is used to mark the Autumnal Equinox.

 

This post originally appeared on Why Name It That?

There Are Many Autumns

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost

Four Seasons - Longbridge Road

The equinox is on Monday, September 23 this year. In Paradelle, it will be at 3:50 AM. Autumnal equinox is one of two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator and day and night are of equal length. For the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox falls about September 22 or 23, and in the Southern Hemisphere the autumnal equinox occurs on March 20 or 21.

Following the astronomical definition of the seasons, the autumnal equinox also marks the beginning of autumn, which lasts until the winter solstice.

seasons diagram

A friend, knowing that I write here about the Full Moons, equinoxes, solstice and seasons, asked me if Native American tribes had names for the seasons as they did for the Full Moons. I had to admit that I did not know. And so I did some research.

Native and indigenous people in all ancient cultures around the planet were keen observers of the changes in the natural world around them and in the movement of the Sun, stars, and Moon.  Without telescopes and mathematical calculations (and in many cases without a written calendar as we know them), they still tracked the passage of seasons.

The Abenaki are a Native American tribe and First Nation. They are one of the Algonquian-speaking peoples of northeastern North America. The Abenaki originate in Quebec and the Maritimes of Canada and in the New England region of the United States. In their calendar, autumn is called tagwogo.

The Powhatan refers to any of the Indigenous Algonquian people that are traditionally from eastern Virginia. It is estimated that there were about 14,000–21,000 Powhatan people in eastern Virginia, when the English colonized Jamestown in 1607.  For the Powhatans there were five seasons. Early and mid-spring (cattapeuk); late in the spring until mid-summer (cohattayough); late summer (nepinough) was harvest time, and the autumn and early winter is called taquitock which was a time for feasts, religious rituals and time for communal hunts. The late winter and early spring is known as popanow.

The Cochimi had 6 seasons that pair with two of our months. Late summer is amadeapee which is approximately our September and October.

The Cree divided the year into 8 seasons. Late summer is megwan; early fall is tekwagun; late fall is migiskau.