Sep 14, 2009 10:44 PM by Jeannette Hynes

Look to nature for winter weather forecast

Merle Lord has been looking to nature for weather forecasts for decades.  He grew up on a farm in Georgia, and says the clouds, sun, and moon were always clues as to whether or not it was time to cut the hay. 

Now living in Canon City, Lord continues to look to nature to see what the weather will do. 

"If the horses are running for no reason, no one is chasing them or anything, then in 24 hours, expect a big change in the weather," says Lord.

His favorite weather predictor is called the wooly worm.  He says around September, he sees them in his yard.  He hasn't seen them yet, but his friends in Penrose have.

"They have a pretty thick coat, so it most likely will be a cold winter." says Lord.

For precipitation, he checks skunk cabbage - a plant with fuzzy leaves and a long, thin stalk at the top.  Lord says however tall the plant grows up to the seed pod is how deep the snow will get in any one snowfall.  The skunk cabbage outside of Canon City were showing between two and three feet of snow.

"We're going to have a good winter," says Lord.

The 2010 Farmer's Almanac also has a frigid forecast.  The Colorado area, it says, should expect a very cold and snowy winter, with plenty of chances for storms.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientist Klaus Wolter says he doesn't put much stock in the Farmer's Almanac when it comes to Colorado weather predictions.  Wolter says he's putting together his forecast to come out in late October, and believes a lot of it will depend on how El Niño acts in the next few weeks.

Eric Petersen, meteorologist for NOAA's National Weather Service in Pueblo, is also working on a winter weather forecast, but what he sees so far, is an increased chance of above-normal temperatures and normal precipitation.

Lord says he respects the science behind predicting weather, but he still enjoys checking the signs from nature.

"These signs are not something that are human made.  They've been on earth a long time," says Lord.



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