Predicting winter weather before we hired meteorologists

Published 12:29 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

Old Ways of the Dark Corner

Did you notice how many heavy fogs we had in August? At least two, with several thinner ones. That means we can expect a couple of snow-stick days and flurries this winter.

Perhaps you noticed a woolly bear caterpillar looking fuzzier than usual this fall. That’s a sure indication that we’re in for some cold weather after the holidays. Make sure there isn’t a narrow orange band in the middle of the fuzziness. That’s a sure warning of a heavy snow coming.

If you left some roasting ears of corn to mature in the garden to be used for fall decoration, you must have noticed that the shucks are thicker than normal. That could mean a colder than normal winter.

How about the skins of apples this year? Do they seem fuller by the mouthful or heavier in peeling? Could be an indication of colder than usual weather on the way.

The large acorns falling from the white oak trees don’t seem to be greater in number than normal this year, and squirrels aren’t scurrying about at a frantic pace to get them buried. This probably means that we will have a moderate winter.

One of the best natural indicators of winter forecasting is not so much today—the early migration of ducks, geese and monarch butterflies to temperate climates in Mexico.

The annual migration for all three has been declining in the past several years.

Research into the possible causes is ongoing but several early indications have been noted.

Ducks and geese migrate earlier because there are fewer fly-way stopover bodies of water for rest and food available to them. More and more new subdivisions are being built in rural areas. 

Even the Dark Corner’s rural spaces are under threat of annihilation from overzealous developers and planning commission aiders and abettors right now. A very active group called Save Greenville County’s vanishing Rural Communities! Is fighting to get designated rural zoning for open spaces while there is yet time to save them.

It is ironic that the most dreaded word to rural dwellers—zoning—could well turn out to be salvation for their way of life.

The plight of the monarch butterfly is even more critical.

A tremendous loss in milkweed, which is absolutely essential for monarch caterpillars to grow and develop, continues to worsen. Not only has overbuilding of homes been responsible for much of this loss, but other types of habitat conversion and bad land management have contributed.

The use of insecticides and herbicides to control insects and weeds has had unintended, yet chaotic, consequences for the butterflies.

Extreme drought conditions in California and other western states has decimated milkweed growth, particularly reducing the availability of it late in the summer. The loss of blooming flowers that provide nectar needed for strength to migrate is catastrophic.

Giant fires in the western states have also contributed to the loss of milkweed and to damage and loss of some overwintering trees.

A triple whammy hits the monarch migration with the loss of overwintering sites in Mexico due to illegal logging.

With over 100 species of milkweed native to North America, it would seem there should never be a shortage of it. But, like so many of the thousands of natural plants and conditions that we have been given to predict and to help our lives be better, “enlightened” man has somehow managed to reduce their effectiveness.

We tend to hire a specialist, who is only slightly more accurate in predictability.