Does the Ghost of Winters Past Predict this Winter’s Future?

“Are ye the ghosts of fallen leaves, O flakes of snow, For which, through naked trees, the winds a-mourning go?” ― John Banister Tabb


“Gills Rock” photo by Charlie Most

It began in November with a sharp and sudden drop in temperatures. The waters of the Bay start to steam in response, rapidly giving up heat to the atmosphere. Quite soon thereafter, the waters of the Bay and inland lakes start to freeze shut. A dense, wet, custard-like  snowfall coats the northern half of the County with a thin, white blanket. Reports shared socially among silent sports fans mention that people are skiing on the golf course fairways.

On Friday, I notice that the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal is beginning to ice over and by Saturday evening, with open water diminishing rapidly, the remaining geese start to lament their losses. Hundreds of geese, honking in the darkness is an eerie chorus. You can hear them, but they remain invisible, crying out somewhere nearby, but out of sight.

Then, yesterday, just before dawn, it starts to snow and continues on and off throughout the day and into the night. Eventually, 3 or more inches of light fluffy base turn all of Door County into a Currier & Ives winter print. But this is still early December…

NOAA says that Wisconsin’s 2013-14 winter falls into the “equal chance” category, meaning that there is not a strong or reliable enough climate signal in this specific region to favor one category over the others, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation. When experts fail to provide definitive answers , perhaps a turn to the Farmer’s Almanac will explain why we are getting such an early shift in the weather. Will it hold steady?

“Winter temperatures will be above normal in the east and below normal in the western parts of the region, with above-normal precipitation and snowfall. The coldest periods will be in mid- and late December, in early January, and from late February into early March. The snowiest periods will occur in mid- and late December, early January, and early February,” says the Old Farmer’s 2014 Long-Range Weather Forecast for Green Bay, Wisconsin.

On this the first day of 2014, temperatures remain in the single digits and there is an unusually great base of fallen snow.

” Ski conditions are beautiful all over the county!” says Janelle Peotter in the latest Door County Cross Country Ski Trail Report. “Break out all those Christmas presents of new ski gloves, hats, ski wax and get skiing! It is a great way to burn off those holiday calories too!”


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