As soon as the colors fade and the leaves are gone folks start to ask about the upcoming winter. The TV weather prophets have already made their forecasts, and like Christmas, everybody seems to be in a rush for the best shopping deals and just what winter will look like.

People are talking about acorns, furry animals and, of course, the wholly bear caterpillars. A few days ago, while napping on my porch, I noticed several caterpillars making a bee line for entry into our home. One was almost completely black, which is supposed to foretell of a cold and snowy winter. The other had a bit of black in two places and lots of brown which is forecasting alternating spells of mild and rainy weather along with periods of cold and snow. I even saw an all white caterpillar and this is throwing a bit of confusion into the forecast.

We did have a great fall season with plenty of sunny mild days. The chilly weather of the past week and the forecast of more below average temperatures over the next two weeks reminds us it‘s time to start thinking about winter, which officially is still some six weeks away.

I do have it from a good source that the colors of our caterpillars have a lot to do with their age and not much to do with their ability to forecast the weather. My source also advises that animals are always furrier as the cold settles in and the abundant or lack of acorns has more to do with last spring’s frost and cold weather.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting a colder and wetter that normal winter. This publication has been around since the days of Ben Franklin who was an early weather prognosticator and pretty good at it using just a barometer, thermometer and his famous kite. There are a number of these publications around and the original comes with the famous yellow cover.

Since I come from a scientific weather background, I like to look at all the different forecasts, but my money is usually on the scientists at the Climate Prediction Center, which is part of NOAA and has the responsibility of determining if we are in an El Nino or La Nina weather pattern. The folks at the center are advising that we are in a neutral pattern which favors neither of the above.

El Nino and La Nina usually produce strong winter patterns, and with a neutral pattern, we are more likely to get a bit of everything. Cold and snowy followed by mild and rainy. Overall a bit above average temperatures, but still a visit or two from a polar vortex along with a winter retreat and some nice mild temperatures.

Precipitation is likely to be above normal, especially in the northern states and with storms following the jet stream, we could have a few good snows if the storms follow a more southern track. In summary, temperatures and precipitation should be a bit above average. Winter temperatures in our area average 40 degrees for the high and 20 for the low, and on any given day can be 20 degrees higher or lower than these averages. Like every winter, we will probably see a few mornings below zero and perhaps a few days near 70.

Lastly, don’t forget to make ready for winter weather. Are your car tires and battery ready for winter driving? Have you stocked up on needed fuel to keep your home cozy on the cold days of winter? Is your home winterized and do you have an alternative heat supply should a winter storm knock out power? When all of this is done you will be ready to make peace with winter and enjoy the beauty of the season.

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