Well football season is in full swing, summer cookouts are beginning to wind down and trips to the lake are as well. That can only mean one thing – the 2008-2009 ski season is on the way.
For the past 12 winters yours truly has posted an early statement on what to expect from forthcoming winters. These reports have typically been followed a month or so later by more official forecasts by such notables as WCNC’s Brad Panovich, The Farmers Almanac, Intellicast, Ray Russell, The National Weather Service, and our trusty SkiSoutheast.com dartboard.
We’ll get with Brad and compile more official data as we get a bit closer to November, but it’s time to share the early diagnosis of what nature, the local farmers and what The Farmer’s Almanac is saying about what we should expect out of the Winter of 2008-2009 for our member ski areas from Wisp Resort in Upper Maryland, all the way down to Sapphire Valley in the southernmost portion of Western North Carolina. At the end of this "report" be sure to take a look at our humble summary of what we’re saying will happen…prior to getting all of the official data from real weather gurus!
First, lets have a look at what folklore tells us. If you follow folklore, the local farmers (a hearty bunch of oldtimers) say, "For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall during the subsequent winter."
The Amish say, "August fog blooms winter’s snow." To the English, "Each fog in August foretells one tracking snow."
Those old weather wives tales say for every foggy morning in August there will be a corresponding snowfall -the thicker that fog, the deeper the snow.
Being the ridiculous, over-the-top, snow lover that I am, I must admit that I meticulously counted August fogs for each of the last 10-12 years and all I can say is that the jury is still out on whether or not there’s really anything to that one. A few years ago we had 20+ foggy August mornings and we had a truly sub-par winter. However, a lot of times the results have been kind of close. So we’ll hang in there for a few more years and include that within our early season forecasting "models".
So what does this recently passed August have to say? I counted only perhaps seven foggy mornings and only three of them were heavy fogs. However I broached the subject with a couple of clients recently and they wondered where I’d been all August as they shared "Man August was one of the foggiest that I can remember." (I guess it depends on WHERE in the mountains you were making your observations from!)
A few friends in West Virginia reported nearly 20 foggy mornings; Ashe County residents shared that they counted 18 foggy mornings and Mary Kerchner of Blowing Rock wrote, "Mike, I thought I’d help you keep count of August fogs this year and I am happy to report that I observed 19 foggy mornings here in Blowing Rock with 12 of them being very heavy."
Two weekends ago my family enjoyed a recent trip to Watauga Lake with Len & Michelle Bauer and their kids. Len is Sugar Mountain’s Ski/Snowboard School Director. Len and Michelle’s 14 year old daughter, Dakota is a top ranked skier in the region and their two youngest (Lilly and Sam) are young snowboarding enthusiasts as well. At one point Len shared the statement, "From what I’m hearing from the local farmers that we had a LOT of August fogs so we should see a lot of snow this winter."
Okay, okay…I’ll play along. So m-a-y-b-e August fogs foretell that we’ll see 15-20 snow storms. Snow season begins around mid-November and last until mid-March. If you consider that is about 16 weeks – that should give us a snow storm of some measureable snow about once a week. That would be cool! If you only count winter as the official 12 weeks…then YooHOO!
Let’s look at other signs of nature…
<There IS a wealth of acorns on the trees and ground already!
Lots and lots of acorns. A few years ago I began receiving more and more emails from people telling me that farmers within our mountain areas have always used acorns to help them discern what kind of winter it would be. I have to admit that this particular bit of information was news to me until maybe five years ago. But heck, I’m game for ANY kind of barometer that will predict a cold and snowy winter. I know that last year I had a TON of acorns (a lot more than usual) in my yard and I was ready for a big, snowy winter. – it never materialized!
According to folklore an unusual abundance of acorns is nature’s way of taking care of animals that put them away for winter dining. If that is the case, there were some very fat squirrels roaming our forest last winter. There’s already a lot of huge acorns on the ground here in early September…so we have hope – yet again!
Two more of nature’s natural barometers that are new to me are spider’s and bees. About two years ago I began getting emails about how bees have been foretelling winter weather to farmers for years. (I never realized how much time farmers have to explore nature!) Anyway, bees are said to forecast colder, harsher winters when they build their nests high off the ground. I guess that there are people who go around measuring the height of bees nest??? I don’t know if I was looking at the right kind of bees, but three weeks ago I was cleaning around the paved area of my driveway and more than twenty bees flew up out of the landscape ties that were about two inches above the ground. Gosh I HOPE that doesn’t mean what I think it means!
Here’s another email that I received last month – "Hey SkiSoutheast, I have been told by my 93 year old grandmother that you can always tell what kind of winter it will be by the spiders in the area. Spiders spin larger than usual webs before colder and snowier winters. She also said that you’ll see more spiders entering your home prior to colder than normal winters. – Amy Kanady"
Okay, that one is totally new to me. I hate spiders and could really give an arachnophobic rat’s arse what a spider has to say, but according to another emailer (Tammy Cornell of Asheville), "Hey SkiNC, where’s your prediction for this season’s winter? According to the spiders we should see a bitter winter cuz I have noticed alot more spider webs all over when I am out walking, leaves are already changing colors, squirrels are gathering more food now…"
I’ve already covered the squirrels, and she’s right about the leaves already changing because I have noticed a lot of the Sugar Maples in the area that are already fully changed to beautiful fall colors. That DOES appear to be a lot earlier than normal.
The webs we’ve seen are NOT from spiders, but from "fall web worms">
As per the wealth of spider webs, I am going to call "bull" on that one. What I’m seeing is a lot of those pesky fall webworms that have taken over a lot of trees during each of the last couple of late summers and early autumns. There have been an abundance of these leaf-eating worms of late. I mistakenly thought these things were killing a cherry tree in my yard. They had my cherry tree decorated in full halloween decor a few weeks back.
So spider webs??? I don’t know about that one. However, if there are spider lovers out there who want to credit the spider as predicting a cold and snowy winter – we’ll play along.
THE FARMERS ALMANAC IS CALLING FOR A COLDER AND SNOWIER WINTER THAN NORMAL
…for all of the entire country EXCEPT for the Southeast!
People worried about the high cost of keeping warm this winter will draw little comfort from the Farmers’ Almanac, which predicts below-average temperatures for most of the U.S.
"Numb’s the word," says the 192-year-old publication, which claims an accuracy rate of 80 to 85 percent for its forecasts that are prepared two years in advance.
The almanac’s 2009 edition, which went on sale a couple of weeks ago, says at least two-thirds of the country can expect colder-than-average temperatures this winter, with only the Far West and Southeast in line for near-normal readings.
STOP THE PRESSES!!!
Let me see if I have this correct. Two thirds of the country will be colder and get more snow than normal. Of course Colorado and the mountain west region will get icy temps and decent snows all winter; Kentucky, Ohio and the midwest will be "Frigid, Wet, Wild and Snowy", the northeast areas of Vermont down to Pennsylvania will be "Numbingly cold and Snowy" but WE ARE NOT EXPECTED TO GET A TON OF SNOW!!!???!!!
To be perfectly clear, the Farmers Almanac says that the Southeast (which they classify as "region 3" in their predictions) will be "Brisk and Wet" and they DO say that the region which includes North Carolina and Tennessee will see near normal cold and snow. They further detail the areas into Virginia and West Virginia should be "Cool, Average with average rain and snow".
We’ve watched this mapping for 12 years and we’ll share our take on this with you. The mountains of North Carolina are more into the southern "region 1" area (which they are calling for average cold and snow) and Snowshoe, Timberline, Winterplace and Wisp are more into the "Numbingly cold – upper regions of "region 1".
While we’d love to see colder and snowier than normal – we’ll take 60-80" of snow that Sugar and Beech usually see each winter – and I will guarantee you that Snowshoe and all of the WV resorts would LOVE to see more than the 180" that they average each season. If The Farmers Almanac is correct the upper tier of Southeastern ski areas should have a great winter.
<Autumn colors ARE already turning many trees and there’s a lot of leaves already on the ground at high elevations! Photo is from Sept 6th in Banner Elk! (Photo by Carrigan Doble)
It’s too early to bring in the resident woolly worm experts as those little critters have yet to appear. We’re hoping for a lot of dark brown to black worms with very little in the way of light brown this year. That would bode well for snow enthusiasts.
We’ll see all of the official weather guru data for a little later as the National Weather Service and our meteorologists have never shared their prognostications with us as yet. However THERE IS some news that The Farmers Almanac is at odds with the National Weather Service, whose trends-based outlook calls for warmer than normal weather this winter over much of the country, including Alaska, said Ed O’Lenic, chief of the operations branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. The almanac and the weather service are in sync, however, in pointing to a chance of a drier winter in the Northwest. I don’t about the rest of your Southeast and Mid Atlantic snow fans but I could care less about the Northwest right now!
We’ll save the official forecasts for about a month from now…
Deanna Letterman of Richmond, Virginia wrote me last week, "Guys, if you really want to get into even fancier weather predicting and maybe do something like higher math, then keep up with heavy fogs that come in before nightfall and linger until 11 p.m. on any of the first 10 days of January because that means winter will be worse than anticipated."
THAT IS ANOTHER ONE THAT I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE. However, Deanna assures me that last January correctly predicted the rest of the winter.
I HAVE A HEADACHE!!!
Here are some other bits of folklore that was sent my way:
“If the first week in August is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long.”
Here’s the data for August of 2008:
Aug 1st-7th has an average temp of 68.7°. The temps were in the mid to upper 70s all that week.
OUR TAKE ON WHAT NATURE IS TRYING TO TELL US
It depends on whether you want to listen to your brain or your heart. My brain tells me that weather lore is more whimsical that wise. However it is a fact that farmers had to rely on signals that nature sent them as an aid to what might be happening right around the corner – weatherwise. So we won’t dismiss ALL weather lore as pure bunk.
As for the Farmers Almanac, while they don’t seem to always be on the same page with the National Weather Service – NEITHER do they forcast the weather for two years ahead by counting acorns and fogs. According to their experts they have a mathematical and astronomical formula that has proven to be quite accurate.
So regardless of what the NWS comes out with, we’re going to go with nature and the Almanac guys and say, "Please, save some fuel oil #2 for me. It’s going to be a cold winter."
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