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Washington Voices

Animals can give clues to impending weather

Thu., Sept. 29, 2011

Fall officially began last Friday and I’m already receiving questions of when the snow will start flying. I’ll answer this question in more detail in the coming weeks, but at this point, it may be another good year for skiers and snowboarders. As mentioned last week, we have a weak La Niña, the cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event, in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

Many people believe that animals are good predictors of upcoming winters. We haven’t noticed anything unusual yet, but according to folklore, when squirrels tuck away their winter food supplies high in the trees by early October, it’s supposed to mean that a long, cold winter is ahead. However, when squirrels eat nuts on the trees rather than storing them for winter, the weather should be unusually mild during November through March. Keep watching those squirrels and let me know if you see any unusual activity. By the way, prior to the big snowy years, many people did notice the squirrels tucking away their winter food around this time.

In my many years of weather forecasting, it seems to me that animals, and humans, are sensitive to upcoming changes to overall weather patterns.

For example, when I resided in California, my mother would complain of aching hands before a major cooldown or a large rainstorm. She could detect these changes about two to three days in advance and her accuracy was uncanny. She still lives in the Sacramento area, so I’m on my own up here.

I would also notice that my pets would become unusually hyper in advance of a major weather change. Other dog and cat owners would point out the same tendencies, especially just ahead of a thunderstorm’s arrival. On the other hand, when cats are friendly and purr and cuddle, it’s usually a sign of high pressure and fair weather.

Birds have been related to weather changes for thousands of years. They may indeed have something to crow about. According to weather folklore, when birds stop singing, rain and thunder are on the way. The same conditions will occur if birds huddle on the wires, or together in the trees.

By contrast, however, when birds flock together on the ground, it supposedly means that fair weather is in store. The rains are ending and they are going after the worms brought towards the surface.

When it comes to livestock, sheep are the best weather forecasters. If they scatter about and climb the hills, fair weather will persist. However, if they huddle together like flocks of birds, bad weather is usually on the way.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@

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