My predictions column for the Citizens’ Voice for Oct. 7.
We get between 38 and 41 inches a rain a year in Luzerne County, depending on which source you believe.
We blew past that total by Sept 15, when a total of 42.12 inches of rain was measured at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
I knew it was wet when the peanut butter in the mousetraps in my basement were covered in gray mold in three days, not to mention the temporary duck ponds in my back yard.
It got me wondering how this endless deluge was going to affect the normal flaming fall foliage.
Commonsense seems to dictate that it should have a negative effect, perhaps causing leaves to drop early or damaging the delicate internal workings of the trees.
Well, as Will Rogers said, “Common sense ain’t common.”
Outdoor writer Marcus Schneck, writing on PennLive.com, says the rain isn’t as important as another factor.
“Declining daylength…is the most essential factor in signaling the trees to cease production of green chlorophyll, which spring through summer overshadows and cloaks the other colors,” he wrote, adding that “but all that moisture from summer, much of it still in the soil…likely won’t harm the autumn brilliance across vast tracts of Penns Woods.”
And a University of New Hampshire scientist is forecasting a splendid foliage season, despite the rain.
Heidi Asbjornsen, associate professor of natural resources at UNH, says “This year has been relatively wet,” she said, but in her opinion that won’t affect the annual fall show. “Leaves also have remained relatively healthy this year, due to a lack of widespread pest or pathogen outbreaks, which would tend to support more favorable fall foliage.”
Another university researcher agrees with her.
Dr. Karen Stahlheber teaches biology at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and says “Usually heavy rains will only affect fall color dramatically if they occur when the leaves are already changing…. this year I would expect that the heavy rain wouldn’t have too strong effects on the timing of the types of colors that we see.”
So don’t cancel those fall leaf-peeping plans.
But now it’s time to put on our flat earth hat and find out what two weird but well-known sources– The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the wooly bear caterpillar — are forecasting for this winter.
The OFA – which accurately predicted a cold and snowy season for the Commonwealth last year — says this year will be warm with less snow than usual.
“This winter, we expect to see above-normal temperatures almost everywhere in the United States…,” the almanac says.
The Almanac claims an 80 percent accuracy rate in its predictions. It doesn’t use satellite data but depends on a formula that combines things like sunspots, tidal action of the moon and position of the planets — so, astrology, sunspots and the moon. Hmm.
But no forecasting piece would be complete without the supposed wisdom of the woolly bear caterpillar. According to folklore, the wider the brown band, the milder the winter, the wider the black band, the harsher the winter.
So what’s the woolly guy saying? According to an article in the Paducah, Ky. Sun (hey, when you’re looking for commentary on the predictive prowess of a larva of a member of the order Lepidoptera you take what you can find.), “And, the first woolly bear caterpillar has been spotted – completely black.”
So the bear says frigid and Almanac says warm.
The question is, who you gonna believe, a book that uses astrology or the hues of an insect?
Well, we’ll see.
But a forecast from comic George Carlin is one I can believe in:
“Weather forecast for tonight: dark.”