Glorious Autumn

October 23, 1992

For many weeks now, country folk as well as visiting city slickers and suburbanites have been engaging in a peculiar seasonal ritual -- trying to predict the severity of winter by examining the fur color of woolly bears.

The trouble is, of course, that the more woolly bears one collects, the more mixed the signals usually get. Observing the foraging habits of squirrels gives no more reliable hint of forthcoming weather, either.

Unseasonably chilly nights -- like the ones we have experienced this week -- thus acquire quite a bit of significance in the minds of those who think we are in for a harsh winter. They got some support from a senior forecaster at the National Weather Service, who declared recently that the long spell of warmer than normal temperatures over North America began a major reversal in late March. That would explain the past few weeks of relatively low daytime temperatures; that would also explain why the past summer's weather was so mild.

But wait! The weather maven also thinks the Baltimore area is in for a cold winter because Alaska has experienced much earlier heavy snowfalls than is normal. Once the frigid Alaskan air begins blowing toward the Chesapeake, watch out! It's been quite a number of years since the Baltimore area has had a memorable snow storm, so perhaps a big one will be headed our way this winter.

Meanwhile, we are still in the middle of another glorious autumn. The foliage is at its peak, apple cider has a nice tartness to it and a crackling fire feels so good after a brisk walk outside. This is a great time to observe birds -- or just aimlessly wander through empty corn fields. After Halloween and Thanksgiving, some serious thought can be given to the coming winter's weather; now it's best just to think about the many joys and surprises of this splendid time of year.

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