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Poor Will's Almanack: November 15 -21, 2011

Flickr Creative Commons user Bailyusa115
Fall sunset

Poor Will’s Almanack for the Second Week of Late Fall

With most of the leaves fallen, the countdown for spring is underway.

And a person might count in all sorts of ways.One method is to keep track of the number of precipitation days: across the central portion of the United States about 50 days of rain or snow usually lie between now and April.

Another gauge is the number cloudy days: in most of the country except along the west coast and the near the Great Lakes, there are almost never more than 75, rarely less than 60.

Or one could monitor the number of completely sunny days: there are usually about 30 between the final goldenrod and the first hepatica.

Another way to judge the advance of winter is an enumeration of cold fronts: there will be around 30 in all, 20 of which will coincide with changes in the phase of the moon. If you track these fronts on your barometer, graphing the ups and downs on a piece of paper, you will actually see them like waves finally bringing you to the warm shore of spring.

Even in the coldest spells of Deep Winter, the countdown can be made with a measurement of the depth of the sun's intrusion into your home through a south window. If you start today, you can watch the sun reach deeper and deeper inside until it slows and stops six weeks from now. The deeper it goes, the more dramatic its retreat after Christmas. If you mark its progress every few days with a pencil you will have a trail to follow next year, all the way to June.

Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the third week of Late Fall. In the meantime, watch the sun, the clouds, the rain and snow. They are stepping stones to spring.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.