Predicting the Future



As we all know, weather can be fickle week to week or month to month, even if over the long term it shows some sort of climatic regularity. This known, we can consider predicting the weather a fool’s game or a wise man’s game; experience certainly shows that to be the case.

This truism holds true weather whether [sic] you are a trained meteorologist — with all the latest data and technology — or (just) an experienced outdoors person attuned to the turn of a leaf or the pelt of a Woolly Bear.
The editor of this magazine came to me a few months ago, knowing I had not yet put in the wood with which I heat my shack, and mentioned that she had heard it was going to be a cold, wet winter. As you might imagine, I asked where she heard that.

“I just heard the Woolly Bear bands were thin this fall and that means a hard winter,” she said.

“But who told you?” I asked, numbering among our mutual acquaintances many people who might or might not have the basis for such a prediction.

“I don’t remember,” she said.

So I checked around. It turns out that this woolly prediction method (examining the alternate color segments of the coat on the moth larva of the species Pyrrharctia isabella) has a significant basis in folklore and perhaps some basis in fact, although not completely what we might expect.

For eight years starting in the late 1940s, Dr. H. C. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, collected Woolly Bears each fall from nearby Bear Mountain State Park and measured the width of the brown bands of bristles that encircle them. Apparently, he found an almost 80% correlation, although he was quick to point out that his sample was way too small to have any kind of scientific certainty.

In fact, one of the few scientists who did entertain the idea of a correlation between Woolly Bear bands and the severity of the winter was an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Michael Peters.

As reported in the 2013 – 2014 Old Farmers Almanac, his analysis took a slightly different tack: “The number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar — in other words, how late it got going in the spring. The [band] does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. The only thing is… it’s telling you about the previous year.”

The various almanacs published in the United States over the past two hundred-plus years have been a fount of weather prediction, using a number of different methods, usually related until recently with “cosmic” forces like sunspot or Saros (eclipse) cycles that are thought to have large-scale effects on land and ocean systems, and thus trigger atmospheric changes (i.e., weather).

More recently, some U.S. almanacs have incorporated more “scientific” cycles, like the El Niño and La Niña water temperature cycles in the Pacific Ocean (there are many others as well), which are predicated on Earth-based, empirical data collected by government agency satellites, balloons and many other sources rather than mathematically derived (though still observational) cycles.

There is always some art in the so-called science of prediction, though, as well as a certain art of expression that ties forecasting back to its agrarian or pastoral sources.

“No worries: It’s only flurries. Mild and beamy, then the opposite. A thaw feels dreamy. Rain (just a drop of it). Snow bursts, at worst. Drip, drip, mixed precip. Bright, bracing for toboggan racing.”

The interline poetic rendition of January 2014 weather from page 125 of The Old Farmers Almanac

Even the most modern, scientific expressions maintain their own specific vocabulary that is unique, as in this forecast (below) for December 8, 2013, from the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Predicting the weather is also big business, even outside the ads we see in almanacs selling home health cures. Any mail-order nursery that can afford it hires a weather service to predict temperature and precipitation at the customer’s home around shipping time so they can ensure the plants arrive at the optimum time for planting. Pizza delivery companies use weather reports to predict when they may have increased demand (people stay home during storms) so they can buy extra supplies and schedule more drivers.

That may be a good cash flow for the data provider, but it’s insignificant compared to larger internet plays. The same kind of weather data that feeds into product delivery businesses also provides strategic guidance for such diverse industries as electric utilities (where should we station our crews as a storm approaches?) and global investment firms (especially insurance and re-insurance firms) whose future profitability depends on accurate predictions of future weather at given locations.

In all of this, “data provider” means just that, and in a very limited way. Historical and real-time temperature and humidity and barometric pressure information that any of these services (this includes Fox TV weather forecasts) depends on data from government sources. Cut the funding for this data acquisition and all these data-driven services (and sources of morning commuting information) go away. They serve not only the gardener, but the farmer, the processor, the shipper and the consumer.

Fact is, it seems that most of us would rather have a solid prediction about the future (even if wrong) than to stick with the daily ambiguity that would otherwise be our lot.

I am guessing that my local report of hard winter weather (and thus why I should get to work on my firewood) was based on a “Morning Edition” radio story that aired back on October 15th about the annual Woolly Worm Festival in Lewisburg, PA. After all, who is a better friend to the desk-bound editor than National Public Radio, another source of government-supported data?

82 Comments on “Predicting the Future

  1. 274600 636267I like this internet site its a master peace ! Glad I identified this on google . 839728

  2. 190138 697158It is a shame you dont have a donate button! Id without a doubt donate to this brilliant weblog! I suppose for now ill settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this weblog with my Facebook group. Chat soon! 540235

  3. 403004 869802Hi. Thank you for producing this web site . I m working on betting online niche and have found this web site employing search on bing . Will be positive to appear much more of your content . Gracias , see ya. :S 606407

  4. 217472 150597Fantastic post, I believe web site owners should acquire a good deal from this web site its very user pleasant. 836112

  5. 17038 832981This web site is my inhalation, genuinely fantastic layout and Perfect written content material. 257758

  6. 538633 525818In todays news reporting clever journalists function their very own slant into a story. Bloggers use it promote their works and several just use it for enjoyable or to stay in touch with pals far away. 905247

  7. 158648 331012Hi there! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice information youve correct here on this post. I shall be coming again to your blog for extra soon. 749668

  8. 622157 760114Merely wanna state that this really is very beneficial , Thanks for taking your time to write this. 680062

  9. 235712 332237This web site is genuinely a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about it and didnt know who to question. Glimpse here, and youll surely discover it. 77294

  10. 551317 906171hey there i stumbled upon your internet site looking about the web. I wanted to tell you I enjoy the look of things about here. Maintain it up will bookmark for confident. 15286

  11. 233948 492676This design is wicked! You certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool! 207121

  12. 444878 553563This internet page may possibly be a walk-through like the data you wanted concerning this and didnt know who want to. Glimpse here, and youll surely discover it. 529804

  13. 925131 973594Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone! 842085

  14. 219752 847767Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your web site? My blog is in the exact identical location of interest as yours and my visitors would truly benefit from some with the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks! 792278

  15. 105035 8653Hi there, I found your blog via Google although looking for first aid for a heart attack and your post looks very interesting for me. 543080

  16. 246397 501849That is the very first time I frequented your web page and to thispoint? I amazed with the research you made to make this particular post incredible. 566379

  17. 178000 664700This web-site can be a walk-through rather than the information you wished about it and didnt know who need to. Glimpse here, and youll surely discover it. 229017

  18. 39100 917242You may be websites successful individuals, it comes effortlessly, therefore you also earn you see, the jealousy of all of the ones a lot of journeymen surrounding you could have challenges within this challenge. motor movers 763090

  19. 43080 584349Some truly great content material on this web internet site , thankyou for contribution. 546753

  20. 188166 611612Your blog has exactly the same post as another author but i like your better.~:; 286155

  21. 880006 485962I undoubtedly didnt recognize that. Learnt some thing new nowadays! Thanks for that. 740462

  22. 890164 187404Thank you a whole lot for sharing this with all people you actually recognize what youre speaking about! Bookmarked. Please moreover speak over with my internet internet site =). We could have a hyperlink alternate arrangement among us! 996288

  23. 197228 994528I discovered your weblog post internet site on the search engines and appearance several of your early posts. Always sustain the top notch operate. I additional the Feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading much far more on your part down the line! 43685

  24. 72959 697515Hello. fantastic job. I did not expect this. This really is a great story. Thanks! You made certain fine points there. I did a search on the topic matter and located the majority of folks will have the same opinion with your blog. 865149

  25. After study a few of the blog posts in your web site now, and I actually like your manner of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark web site record and might be checking back soon. Pls try my web page as properly and let me know what you think.

  26. Aw, this was a very nice post. In idea I wish to put in writing like this moreover ?taking time and actual effort to make a very good article?but what can I say?I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.

  27. I was very pleased to search out this web-site.I wished to thanks on your time for this glorious learn!! I undoubtedly having fun with every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to take a look at new stuff you blog post.

  28. After research a number of of the weblog posts on your web site now, and I truly like your method of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and shall be checking again soon. Pls check out my website online as effectively and let me know what you think.

  29. You made some respectable factors there. I regarded on the web for the issue and found most people will go together with along with your website.

  30. After examine a few of the weblog posts on your web site now, and I really like your manner of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website record and might be checking back soon. Pls try my web page as well and let me know what you think.

  31. That is the proper weblog for anybody who wants to find out about this topic. You understand so much its virtually hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want匟aHa). You undoubtedly put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  32. A powerful share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little bit evaluation on this. And he actually bought me breakfast as a result of I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the deal with! However yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying more on this topic. If potential, as you grow to be expertise, would you thoughts updating your weblog with extra details? It’s highly useful for me. Big thumb up for this blog put up!

  33. I’m typically to running a blog and i really appreciate your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new information.

  34. I discovered your weblog website on google and verify a couple of of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the excellent operate. I just extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Searching for forward to studying more from you in a while!?

  35. Hiya! I just want to give a huge thumbs up for the nice info you have right here on this post. I will likely be coming again to your weblog for more soon.

  36. This web site can be a walk-through for all the info you wanted about this and didn抰 know who to ask. Glimpse here, and also you抣l definitely discover it.

  37. I discovered your blog website on google and test a number of of your early posts. Proceed to keep up the very good operate. I just extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. In search of forward to reading more from you later on!?

  38. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So nice to find any person with some authentic ideas on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this web site is one thing that is needed on the net, somebody with just a little originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the internet!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.