Folks put stock in all sorts of ways to predict weather and climate. I prefer the National Weather Service, personally, where I can get direct reports on and discussions of the actual modelling work that drives most modern weather forecasting. Scientist that I am, I prefer getting as close to the raw data as I can. I’ve found NWS reports to be more accurate and more reality-based than most other sources (most of whom draw from NWS anyway, so why not use the source?).
Beyond that, there are plenty of natural signs that can be observed, though their accuracy is hard to judge. So far, the last few weeks have given every indication of an early spring, including the following observations of natural events happening earlier than the last few years for which we have records:
– Woodcocks returning to our pasture and performing their mating ritual (Feb 21, 09; March 6, 08; Feb 27, 07). If you’ve never seen and heard this, it’s one of the unknown highlights of rural America. We’re considering having a woodcock party here one evening when they’re really at their peak.
– Large flocks of snow geese heading northwest (Feb 17, 09; Feb 23, 08; Feb 22, 07).
– Spring peepers active (Feb 25, 09; March 1, 08; March 8, 07).
– Turkey vulture arrival (Feb 25, 09; March 2, 08; no data 07).
– The first crocus flower blooming (Feb 26, 09; March 10, 08; March 4, 07).
Looking back at recent weather records, we have not had an unusually warm late winter that might drive this; the 90-day temperature records for St. Louis average out to near-perfectly normal. So does the natural world somehow know something we don’t, or are we headed for a false spring like the devastating April freeze in 2007? It’s worth noting that we’ve had unusually harsh winters in 2007 and 2008, which may give our records a false basis for comparison (i.e. this spring isn’t necessarily early overall, just as compared to the last few).
We’re moving forward with early items like lettuce, onions, radishes, and more, and will just have to see if the gamble pays off or if we get wiped out like we did in last spring’s lingering wet, cool, conditions. Thus does the farm season begin, by watching the geese and watching the soil thermometer.