Garden Gate: Prognosticators see average summer for Alaska

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, this summer will see temperatures one to two degrees below normal, on average, with above-normal precipitation. (Marion Owen photo)

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!

— Mark Twain

It’s time for our annual check-in with the Farmers’ Almanac, mostly to discover how accurate their weather predictions are holding up and what we have to look forward to.

I also tip-toe around other categories in the almanac to find informational oddities. I’m never disappointed. For example, did you know that March 14 is a good day for cutting hair to retard growth, quit smoking, wash windows and potty train your child? See for yourself. They have a variety of planning calendars (www.farmersalmanac.com/calendar/).

Let’s take a look at the Annual Weather Summary, which covers November 2011 to October 2012. As you read this, think back over the last several months.

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, “Winter season temperatures will be above normal, on average, in the north but below normal in central areas and much colder than normal in the southern portions of the state.” I wonder, is Kodiak Island considered in the southern portion of the state, or would that be Southeast?

This next prediction pretty much nailed it on the head: “The coldest periods will occur in early to mid-December, mid-January, early February, and mid-March.”

Then they talk about precipitation, followed by the snowfall prediction. “Snowfall will be above normal in the northern and eastern parts of the state and near or below normal in the south and west.”

Well, I don’t know about your memory, but in the 28 years I’ve lived in Kodiak, this winter seems to be the Winter of Snow. 

Here’s what Mr. Almanac says: “The snowiest periods will be in early to mid-November, mid-January, mid-February, and late March.”

What we can look forward to?

For this spring: “April and May will be cooler than normal, with precipitation near normal in the north and below normal in the south.” And this summer: “Summer season temperatures will be one to two degrees below normal, on average, with above-normal precipitation. The warmest temperatures will occur in mid-June, early July, and mid- to late July.”

Oh, my. Better get the snorkels out for my lettuce seedlings.

The rest of the year (at least until late fall) can be summed up in one word: normal. “September and October temperatures will be below normal in the northern portions of the state and below normal across central and southern portions. Precipitation and snowfall will be below normal.

So who makes these weather forecasts? Caleb Weatherbee is the official forecaster for the Farmers’ Almanac. His name is actually a pseudonym that has been passed down through generations of almanac prognosticators (I love that word) and has been used to conceal the true identity of the men and women behind their predictions. The Farmers’ Almanac, which claims 80 to 85 percent accuracy, bases its predictions on a secret mathematical formula using the position of the planets, tidal action of the moon, and sunspots.

Speaking of planets and such things, on May 20, an annular eclipse of the sun will occur. This rare eclipse, when the sun and moon are exactly in line, will visible across the Western U.S. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include Alaska. The eclipse’s closest approach to us is a swath across the North Pacific south of Adak.

What makes this eclipse so special is that because the sun and moon are exactly in line, and the apparent size of the moon is smaller than that of the Sun, the sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the outline of the moon.

Finally, if you have friends or family visiting Alaska this summer, you might find this statement by the Farmers’ Almanac interesting: “If you have ever yearned to visit our vast 49th state, you can certainly see (by our five weather summaries) that it can offer an extremely wide variety of weather conditions. Your best bet, if you desire sunny, clear skies and not-too-cold conditions, seems to be in the late spring or early summer. From midsummer into the fall, clouds predominate, and are quickly followed by an increase in precipitation.

“Along with the wide variations in the climate, visitors to Alaska can enjoy the unusual length of daylight during the late spring and early summer. A trip to the Arctic north can even give you a glimpse of the midnight sun. And, with clear skies, a glance to the north should give you a glimpse of the beautiful aurora borealis (northern lights). The late artist Bob Ross (whose how-to-paint show continues to be a viewing staple on many PBS television stations) used to often say, ‘God had a good day when he made Alaska.’

In addition to having a good day, may you have a great week.

Marion Owen will be teaching an organic gardening class at Kodiak College starting April 5. You can read Marion’s latest blog postings at http://marionowen.wordpress.com. She also has her own Facebook page. Archived copies of her columns are posted at www.kodiak

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