If you’ve never plunked down to peruse a Farmer’s Almanac, you haven’t lived. It wasn’t that long ago that rural Americans consulted this compact volume of folk wisdom on all manner of things. Prognosticating the weather was always a favorite topic around the cracker barrel at the corner grocery store.
Sooner or later, somebody was bound to whip out their pocket-worn copy of the yellow-covered almanac for a quick consultation or to prove a point. The Farmer’s Almanac continues its time-honored tradition of advising when to plant by the phases of the moon and how to prepare for whatever Mother Nature plans to whip up in the seasons of the year ahead.
These days, people can find the Farmer’s Almanac online. According to the extended forecast for the winter of 2019-2020, Americans can expect a “Polar Coaster” ride of thrills, chills, ups and downs on the old thermometer.
Farmer’s Almanac Editor Peter Geiger has gone on record with the bitter truth:
“Our extended forecast is calling for yet another freezing, frigid, and frosty winter for two-thirds of the country.”
Where does the staff at the Farmer’s Almanac get all their inside information, you might well ask. A forecaster appropriately pseudonymed Caleb Weatherbee uses a proprietary formula that dates back to 1818. Sunspot activity, tidal action of the moon, the position of the planets, and other relevant factors all contribute to a sneak peek at winter’s worst.
Areas “east of the Rockies all the way to the Appalachians” can expect to bear the brunt of winter’s icy hand. The northern Plains states into the Great Lakes are likely to see the most pronounced drops in freezing temperatures. Residents in the Northeast, including the “populated corridor running from Washington to Boston,” should bundle up against temperatures that are colder than normal.
Nearly normal weather is predicted in only the western third of the country.
Specific dates to note if you live in the eastern half of the United States are January 4–7 and 12–15. Depending on where you live, you might get to enjoy “copious amounts of snow, rain, sleet, and ice.” Folks who dwell northeast of the Texas Panhandle to the western Great Lakes should sharpen their snow shovels because the third week of January might dump a lot of snow on the Great Plains.
The late January cold front will plunge temperatures as the coldest Arctic air gets pulled down from Canada to sweep across the rest of the eastern U.S. right on into February.
Expect a late spring in the Midwest, Great Lakes, Northeast, and New England with wet snows possible through April.
Want to get the inside skinny on what’s coming to your neck of the woods? Check out the regional map provided by the Farmer’s Almanac.
Yes, before you know it, the weather will turn cold and frosty – if it hasn’t already. (Snow has fallen in Denver, Colorado and Rhinelander, Wisconsin as of this writing.) Following are some time-honored pearls of folk wisdom, all signs that a harsh winter lies ahead:
- Thicker-than-normal corn husks
- Woodpeckers sharing a tree
- The early arrival of the Snowy owl
- The early departure of geese and ducks
- The early migration of the Monarch butterfly
- Thick hair on the nape of a cow’s neck
- Heavy and numerous fogs during August
- Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands
- Mice chewing furiously to get into your home
- The early arrival of crickets on the hearth
- Spiders spinning larger-than-usual webs and entering the house in great numbers
- Pigs gathering sticks
- Ants marching in a line rather than meandering
- Early seclusion of bees within the hive
- Unusual abundance of acorns
- Muskrats burrowing holes high on the riverbank
- Squirrels gathering nuts early to fortify against a hard winter
- Frequent halos or rings around the Sun or Moon forecast numerous snowfalls
- “See how high the hornet’s nest, ’twill tell how high the snow will rest.”
Folklore also says that the size of the orange band on the if the Woollybear (or Woollyworm) Caterpillar’s orange band is narrow, it will be a snowy winter. The opposite is also true: a wide orange band indicates that the upcoming winter will be a mild one. Woollybear caterpillars that are fuzzier than normal point toward a very cold winter.
Keep in mind that no results are guaranteed where folk wisdom is concerned. Best to expect the best and prepare for the worst – so sharpen those shovels and wax up the skis!