MARTHA SEZ: ‘More folklore from the ‘Old Farmer’s Almanac’ includes …’

Supermoon, blue moon. If the cloudy skies hold off, we’re in for a celestial treat. August’s second blue moon, the biggest full moon of 2023, rises Aug. 30, and the full-moon effect will persist for a night or two. It’s difficult to detect its gradual wax and wane with the naked eye. Even gibbous, this moon will be a sight to behold.

The term supermoon was first used by an astrologer, not an astronomer, and refers to a full moon seen when closest to Earth in its orbit — at perigee.

This moon will also be a blue moon, the term for one of two full moons seen in the same month. While 25% of full moons are supermoons, a blue moon occurs only once in every two to three years, according to NASA — hence the term once in a blue moon. On average super blue moons occur once in a decade, but could occur 20 years apart.

A full moon at perigee exaggerates ocean tides, because the moon and sun are in a straight line and combine their tide-dragging forces. High tide will be higher and low tide will be lower for several days before and after the supermoon.

The “Old Farmer’s Almanac” has recently released predictions for 2023-2024 winter conditions.

According to the Almanac, “Winter weather is making a comeback. … Our extended weather forecast, which is based on a proprietary mathematical and astronomical formula, calls for below-average temperatures and lots of snowstorms, sleet, ice, and rain for much of the Great Lakes and Midwest areas of the country, as well as central and northern New England, especially in January and February. (Brrr…)”

While many of our friends and relations swear by the Almanac’s long-range weather forecasts, meteorologists may not. According to a report released Aug. 17 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center (NOAA CPC), for example, El Nino has a greater than 95% chance to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter. During El Nino, average winter temperatures are warmer than normal across the northern tier of most of the U.S. and colder than normal over most of the Southern states.

The NOAA CPC September-October-November 2023 temperature outlook favors above-normal seasonal mean temperatures across a majority of the United States. NOAA CPC’s updated outlook for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season shows a 60% chance for above-normal hurricane activity.

Oh, all right, but a friend just told me that he and a group of several other people just spotted a banded woollybear caterpillar in Elizabethtown, and there was some discussion about how to read its stripes in order to forecast the severity of the winter ahead. Who can we turn to except the Almanac to find out?

According to folklore, the Almanac advises, if the woollybear’s central orange band is narrow, the winter will be snowy. A wide orange band means a mild winter. Bristlier-than-normal woollybears signal a frigid winter. Some people think that solid-color bristly caterpillars are woollybears, but not so, according to the Almanac.

The Woollybear caterpillar will morph into the Isabella tiger moth in the spring. You can recognize these moths by their yellowy-orange coloration, black legs and small black spots on wings and thorax.

More folklore from the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” includes the following 20 signs foretell what our winter will be:

1. Thicker than normal onion skins or corn husks from a local garden.

2. Woodpeckers sharing a tree

3. Early sighting of the snowy owl

4. Geese and ducks flying South early

5. Early migration of the monarch butterfly

6. Thick hair on the back of a cow’s neck 7.

A foggy August means a snowy winter.

8. Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands

9. Large numbers of mice perpetrating home invasion

10. The early advent of crickets into the home

11. Spiders spinning giant orb webs and coming inside

12. Pigs gathering sticks

13. Ants marching single file

14. Bees retiring into their hive early

15. Unusual abundance of acorns

16. Squirrels avidly gathering and hoarding nuts to prepare for a hard winter

17. Frequent halos or rings around the sun or moon are signs there will be numerous snowfalls.

18. Muskrat holes high on the riverbank

19. “See how high the hornet’s nest, t’will tell how high the snow will rest.”

20. And, as stated, a narrow orange band on a woollybear caterpillar presages a snowy winter.

Meanwhile, how’s the fall foliage going to be this year? Any predictions?

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)

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