Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing.
As the snow continues to fall at the EastWing, it was mid morning today when I received an email asking if I wanted to change my prediction of 50% chance for a White Christmas. Yes I do. Based on new information from my weather forecasting system, I now call it a 100% chance of it NOT BEING A WHITE CHRISTMAS at the EastWing. We’ll see. Kinda sticking my neck out here with 6” of snow on the ground now, and still snowing.
One of the interesting things that happens frequently in the EastWing is when I write a story, someone comments or asks a question and that leads to a different story all together. And so it did last week.
A friend asked did I know that bird behavior can help predict the weather? Actually I did know that. I look at the birds often to help decide what up with the weather. Most every day on the way to my office, I watch for what the birds are doing. When you closely observe nature and look at the birds, you might be surprised by what you learn.
When birds and hawks are flying high in the sky it usually indicates fair weather. But when they fly low, prepare for a blow.
Birds tend to stop flying and take refuge if a storm is coming. They’ll also fly low to avoid the discomfort of the falling air pressure.
When seagulls fly inland, expect a storm. When chickens roost in daytime, expect rain.
Birds tend to get very quiet before a big storm. If you’ve ever been walking in the woods before a storm, the natural world is eerily silent! Birds also sing if the weather is improving.
Birds singing in the rain indicates fair weather approaching. Here are more bird proverbs and prognostics I’ve run across over the years. If crows fly in pairs, expect fine weather; a crow flying alone is a sign of foul weather.
The whiteness of a goose’s breastbone indicates the kind of winter. A red of dark-spotted bone means a cold and stormy winter, few or light-colored spots mean a mild winter. Partridges drumming in the fall means a mild and open winter. When domestic geese walk east and fly west, expect cold weather. If birds in the autumn grow tame, the winter will be too cold for game. When the rooster goes crowing to bed, he will rise with watery head. When the swallow’s nest is high, the summer is very dry. When the swallow buildeth low, you can safely reap and sow. Lots of weather stuff can be learned from the birds.
Have you noticed how dark it is at 4:30 PM this time of the year? These are our darkest afternoons. But, surprise surprise. For most of us, Thursday, December 8, brought the turnaround. It’s a major winter milestone that’s seldom talked or thought about. It’s the day of our earliest sunset. It’s not yet the shortest day of the year, just the earliest sunset.
This kinda puzzles people, but in fact it’s a reliable yearly sequence. First comes earliest sunset, last week. Then there’s the solstice half a month later, the day with the fewest minutes of daylight. Finally, another two weeks later, in early January, we get our murkiest morning. It’s the latest sunrise. Then It all uphill toward spring from that point forward as we can hardly wait to once again feel the sunshine.
So we’re now slam bang at the low point of afternoon sunshine. And since far more people are awake and aware of things at 4:30 PM than they are at 4:30 in the AM, in a very real sense you can forget about the solstice and the “official” shortest day of the year. So far as what most folks actually experience, NOW is the darkest time of the year.
Of course, the degree of darkness varies, depending on how far north you live. As for the time the clock reads at sunset—this also depends on how far east or west your home sits, relative to your standard time zone. For example, here at the EastWing, my weather station calculates the location as follows:
elevation 899 ft 41.19 °N, 86.70 °W in the central standard time zone. Those living east of the EastWing experience progressively earlier sunsets.
Drive just an hour east from where you are right now, and the Sun sets about ten minutes earlier. That’s because going east around the Earth’s curve makes your western horizon rise up to block the Sun sooner. Go a mere 35 miles east, and the sun sets five minutes earlier.
It all reflects the reality that tropical sunsets hardly vary throughout the year, while polar sunsets change wildly through the seasons. If you lived right smack on the equator, like in Quito, Ecuador, your minutes of daylight would never budge throughout the year, not even by one second. By contrast, our northern friends in Minnesota and especially Alaska experience the most radically short days in December.
But wherever you live, after December 8, before winter even starts, afternoons will start getting brighter as the sunsets start to get longer!
Another interesting little fact is by late January, even while it’s still the coldest part of the winter, all things indoors start to grow. Want to get an early start on your next years garden, plant tomato seeds in mid January. Set ‘em in the sunshine of a south window, water as needed. Tomatoes before you know it. It’s a sunshine thing.
Wow! Not yet the start of winter and all ready talking about growing tomatoes again in the EastWing south windows. No matter what or when, gotta have a plan.
From the EastWing, A Big Snow, No White Christmas For You, Bird Watching, Short Days Ending, Growing Stuff Again
I Wish You Well,