Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
My Christmas tree is still up, I planned on writing about ice fishing this week, I haven’t seen sunshine in over a week, and suddenly it’s February. This time of year is depressing to a lot of people. Some blame it on cabin fever, others blame it on light depravation, either or both can be troublesome. For people looking at the glass being half-empty, this isn’t the best time of the year. Those who see it half-full are looking toward spring. Those who see the glass as needing more water are a bit too practical for me. Regardless, this is the time of year when many are trying to figure out if we’re going to have six more weeks of winter or an early spring. Either way, it’s a moot question.
Of course, everyone is aware that February 2 is Groundhog Day and that if Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog, sees his shadow, we have to face six more weeks of winter. It was sunny here but cloudy in Pennsylvania and Phil didn’t see his shadow. That means an early spring. However, February 2 is the exact middle between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s the day when the amount of daylight and darkness are equal. It’s roughly six weeks until spring which means we have six more weeks of winter no matter what Phil says. Also, those who have any modicum of faith in Phil should remember that over the years his predictions have been less than 40% reliable.
A better source of weather predicting might be the famous Farmers Almanac. It was started in 1818 and boasts an 80% – 85% accuracy. Weather professionals question that number, but who’s counting. There’s a secret formula used to predict the weather that contains factors such as sunspot activity, tidal activity, and planet position. I think they’re calling for cold and wet weather the rest of this month with a major snow event during the third week.
Even better, check the Old Farmers Almanac. For a long time, I thought the Old Farmers Almanac was last year’s copy of the Farmers Almanac. Actually, the Old Farmer’s Almanac predates its competitor by 25 years or so. It was started in 1792 and developed its secret weather prognosticating formula by watching magnetic storms on the sun. I didn’t know science was that advanced in 1792. On the other hand, Ben Franklin was flying a kite in a thunderstorm 40 years earlier, so maybe someone back then did figure out a way to look directly into the sun without going blind. Regardless, the Old Farmers Almanac has also included weather patterns and atmospheric conditions into its secret formula. This year, I think the Old Farmers Almanac is calling for snow and cold temperatures through the first week of February and then rain, snow, and mild temperatures for the rest of the month. Take your pick.
Then, of course, there are those who happen to believe that our planet is getting warmer and that means six weeks more of harsh winter weather are not as likely as in previous years. Climate change in this country is a political nightmare. The divisiveness and intolerance that thrives in our political system is a disgrace. Climate change is science based and has no place in the political arena. Having said that, I never claimed to be a scientist, but I can read numbers and see patterns. If you look at the average temperatures, trends emerge. It’s getting warmer. Other than an occasional glitch, average temperatures for January, February, and March have been above the long-term average for years. Februarys have been consistently warmer than Januarys for roughly 30 years. Back in the day, there were years when February was colder than January. Then, there was January of 1977 when the average temperature was 9.3 degrees.
I guess what this all boils down to is that long-term predictions of the weather aren’t very accurate no matter what the source. Consequently, if you’re looking for a sign that spring is just around the corner and you just might survive another winter, they’re out there. Geese are pairing up, the days are getting longer, and Phil didn’t see his shadow. Also remember that while you might be looking forward to spring, there are countless ice fishermen who hope it stays below freezing until May so they can keep some of that special ice fishing gear from gathering dust. Finally, as my dad always said, “By the third week of February, winter is over,” and “The lake will be open by March 15.” That’s all you have to know, and I think he was right at least 80% of the time.