Monday, January 31, 2011

Frognostication

Many of you come to this blog for state-of-the-art weather predictions based on the latest technology. Others look for insights derived from decades of regional weather research. And I do appreciate your interest in the blog.

But sometimes insights come from sources other than high-resolution numerical models, Doppler radars, and other advanced technology. For example, it is well known that some animals sense upcoming storms or the character of future weather. How many times have you heard about birds finding shelter before a storm, or wild animals getting out of the way of imminent tsunamis? There is great forecasting potential in this innate understanding by nature's denizens.

Many of you are familiar with the most famous animal weather predictor of all, the well-known groundhog Punxsutawney Phil,who reveals the upcoming weather from his underground den in Gobbler's Knob, PA.

Let me be honest--I have my doubts about Phil's ability to predict weather anywhere and particularly the Northwest. Why would a creature that winters underground develop such skill? And could he possibly have any insights into the upcoming storms and temperatures on the other side of the continent? I doubt it and so should you.

There are real reasons to doubt the Northwest forecasting prowess of Punxsutawney Phil

Reliable animal-based prediction for us here in the Northwest could only come from a local resident and one that lives and survives exposed to the environment. And considering our issues with moisture, a wet environment at that.

Thus, it was with some excitement that I learned that a local group based in Snohomish have heavily researched the weather prediction ability of local frogs, and have garnered the aid of one frog in particular named "Snohomish Slew". Documented by Native American sources and confirmed by detailed verification of previous frog-based forecasts, these folks in Snohomish have demonstrated near perfect weather prediction skill using amphibian guidance. As documented in the picture below, the chosen frog is a keen observer.

Snohomish Slew taking a close look at the sky

All this research came to a head in Snohomish on Saturday, a day officially known as Ground Frog Day. Attendants of the honored frog oracle learned of his prediction through means they are not willing to reveal, but you can see the proceedings by viewing this video (click on the picture):


Some of you might be concerned that these priests of the great frog meteorologist resemble escapees from some retro Saint Patrick's day Bacchanalia, but I would give their appearance no notice--looks means little in the weather prediction business.

And what was the noble frog's forecast? Mild and breezy. The former condition is in direct contraction to the "modern" predictions based on La Nina statistical correlations with NW weather.

I for one would not bet against the frog in such matters.



23 comments:

Jim said...

I had to check my calendar to see if this was the last day of March...

PS: Slew is NOT my kin.

rainycity1 said...

Jim, that was my first reaction as well. ;-)

Request For Comments said...

Yea Professor Mass, your calendar is off by two months I think ;)

Richard said...

I don't know about frogs, but in the South I often saw garden snails climb bushes, posts, and walls and attach themselves, before storm events. They weren't always dead right -- sometimes the rains would be scattered or a ways off. Recently I saw photos from Australia of large clumps of snails anchored at the tops of fence posts, in the flooded regions, before the floods hit. Do the little dudes know something?

Mark said...

I was in central WA on the day of the Nisqually earthquake. I didn't feel the quake, but 20 minutes before the it occurred the animals of Crab Creek Coulee (Sandhill cranes, coyotes, others) went crazy with noise for about 30 seconds. I noticed the time, but only learned later that day of the earthquake and wondered.

windlover said...

I remember when I was little my dad used to tell us that if the horses grew an early, thick winter coat that the winter was going to be really cold. Didn't pay much attention then....I wonder if that holds true?

Andrew said...

Cliff, you must realize that the potentate who ascertains whether or not Phil sees his shadow has been gleaning long-term weather and climate predictions from prestigious academic weather & climate pundits from the beginning of the new year; of course, once the prediction is made, everyone forgets about it :-)

Soupman said...

I'm still hoping that we could have one of these forecasts here locally....at least once.

...Tonight: Snow and widespread blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. Some thunder is also possible. Low around 16. Wind chill values between -1 and 6. Blustery, with a north northwest wind around 29 mph, with gusts as high as 43 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 10 to 16 inches possible.

Rod said...

Love your blog, Cliff!

Just out of curiosity, did you like the movie "Groundhog Day"?

Zathras said...

As a kid, I'd get excited to see unusually banded Woolly Bear caterpillars in the fall. I seem to remember thinking the ones with wider black bands were the harbingers of snowier winters, but it is supposed to be the wider brown band.

Seems like the caterpillars where I live now are fewer and unusually scrawny--and the winters have been mild, ha!

C.P.O. said...

People in Snohomish are weird. But, good for them. The frog's probably right.

mle_ii said...

Well, I was wondering about all the geese flying North that my daughter and I saw on Sunday. Do they help us predict any weather changes?

Ben said...

No offense to others, but I don't understand people that are disappointed about a lack of snow and cold. Its one of the reason I like living in Seattle.

After living for 4 years in Montreal, you will be cured of wishing for snow and cold for a long while! The winters suck - 4-5 months without seeing grass.

Zathras said...

If the upper ridge bought us more days like today I'd agree--but wait til Thursday and Friday...the ridge sags south, it will be grey and gloomy again, probably turn back to rain in the passes, yuck.

You're right of course about month after month of living with snow on the ground, I do not envy the folks in the upper midwest where it looks like there is a huge expanse of something like a 20" snowdepth
http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/snow_model/images/full/National/nsm_depth/201102/nsm_depth_2011020105_National.jpg

And if you watch the animations, the snow has been there all winter...

larchitech said...

It's hard to tell from the video but it looks like Snohomish Slew is a non-native bull frog who probably moved here from Arkansas as I did 20+ years ago. Too many water moccasins down there.

Michelle said...

For those who want a Northwest groundhog, you could always set out on skis to find one: http://mvsta.blogspot.com/2011/01/groundhog-day-ski-to-find-wilber.html

Dennis said...

And don't forget to add Wiarton Willie (the albino groundhog) and his successor Wee Wiarton Willie to your list of prognosticating critters. Quite a scandal in 1999 when his handlers staged a fake funeral for him. Check the sordid story out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiarton_Willie Oh, and Wiarton Willie's prognostication success rate was about 35% which was about as good as anything else.

HarrisonCZ7 said...

Seems like our turning point was that week in January when we were going to get 3 to 4 back to back to back snow storms. Not even one panned out...well maybe one. But since then, things have better eerily quiet. I have a hunch the end of Feb. into March and April may be pretty crazy around here. The pattern has to break eventually. I want a good ole neutral year...maybe next year?

Don Carter said...

KING-FM used to make pretty good forecasts based on the seagulls on the Denneys sign across the street from their studios.

Paul T said...

Crazy like a fox! Poking fun at P. Phil while leaving open the possibility of animals sensing some phenomena better than our current instruments.

fieryfroggiegirl said...

article aside, I will say that the photo is not real...total photoshop. I actually have the original photo of that frog on the post. I did a side by side comparison. I did enjoy the article though, and as a former Snohomish resident, I will defend us and say we are NOT weird. And in support of the blog, I will also say that what a silly groundhog predicts on the East Coast is not reliable to what happens with the habitat in the great Pac NW. Long Live the Ground Frog!

Marc S said...

The video link and prediction "mild and breezy" is from 2010, not 2011. Although this year's prediction is fairly similar: "the six week future looks fair with wind in your hair, and you can leave your feet bare as spring will be here."

Kevin Purcell said...

Do smaller (mesoscale?) frogs provide better resolution in the forecast?

Do ensembles of frogs (or groundhogs) provide estimates of the uncertainty of the forecast?

Do herds of horses to predict the snowpack or other climatological variables in the winter?

Do the NWS issue a nowcast when looking for the groundhogs shadow (it would seem to be an reliable indicator of the presence of the sun?).

Clearly there are whole new depths of zo├Âmeteorology just waiting to be plumbed.