Predicting Winter Weather

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
September 26th, 2008

The second official day of fall brought a first look at winter through the Rossland Range as the freezing level dropped below 1500 meters, bringing a light blanket of snow to the hills around town.

Rossland awoke enveloped in fog Tuesday morning, but anyone up early enough to head towards Nancy Green Pass got above the valley fog and saw some spectacular sunrise views of the snow-covered mountains. The snow reached road level through the Nancy Greene and Paulson summits, prompting thoughts of the winter ahead.

About this time of year the first signs of snow in the hills brings out the inner long range weather forecaster of everyone in town as Rosslanders debate about how much snow we’ll get this ski season. After hearing a few tales in town on why it will or won’t be a snowy winter, I started checking up on some of the superstitions around weather forecasting.

The Farmer’s Almanac, with its own secret formula for weather prediction, probably has the best track record of any super long term forecaster out there. The closest forecast to Rossland, the “Northern portion of the US Intermountain weather area”, which includes the Spokane and Northern Idaho region, says this winter should be colder than normal with above average snowfall.

That theory fits with what a number of locals have been saying this year about the huckleberry crop. According to the local superstition, an above-average huckleberry crop is usually followed by above average snowfall. I haven’t been keeping track of the huckleberry crop this fall, but reliable sources say it was a good one.

One snowfall-predicting myth I have heard relies on the great prognostication skills of the woolly caterpillar. I had always heard that the thicker the wool on a woolly caterpillar, the colder and snowier the upcoming winter would be. Googling the subject took the theory to the next level; apparently, if the middle reddish brown band of the caterpillar is wider than the black bands then it will be a wetter or snowier season.

Be your own judge on which theory works best for you, or if you’ve got a better one, post a comment with your thoughts on predicting the winter ahead. All I know for now is that on a hike up to Violin Lake last week, I took this photo of a woolly caterpillar and he seems to think it’ll be a white one.

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