Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.
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When we get to the end of January, we are about halfway between the winter solstice of December and the vernal equinox of March. This midwinter time is marked by many interesting phenomena. For the first time in about three months, sunset is now at 5 p.m. and will continue to get later. The sun rises earlier each day and the present 9 1/2 hours of daylight will rapidly expand to 10. And more is happening with the Northland nature.
The snowfall amount was only about 2 inches, not much as far as Northland snows go. But it covered all the earlier snowpack and I wanted to get out and take a look at the new messages in this fresh snow. The snow cover is the backdrop of so many winter wildlife stories. Coming here each day, I find that there is always a new story. When no new snow falls for several days, the tracks get a bit harder to decipher. And so, with this present snow blanket, all the old news is covered and the news awaits me.
It is always interesting and delightful when a rare bird shows up in the region, especially in the winter. So when I received word of an ivory gull in Canal Park, I joined many other birders and nature watchers to observe this bird so far from its normal range.
December gave us a different final month of the year than what we are used to. We recorded an average temperature about 26 degrees Fahrenheit. That's more than 10 degrees above the normal of nearly 15 F. A closer look at this recording tells us that we had quite a difference in the first half of the month compared to the second half. While the initial weeks gave a reading of slightly above freezing, 33 F, we settled more into winter with 19 F for the rest of December. (Though much colder, this second-half temperature was still above normal.)
Looking back at December of 2015, we would especially note the weather. The mild temperatures for the whole month were so far above normal as to make this December one of the warmest ones ever recorded at the National Weather Service in Duluth, continuing a trend of previous months. Other weather conditions were also of interest. Precipitation, also far above normal, was often rain, but we did receive greater than the usual amount of snowfall as well. No records were set with the warm temperatures, but they did get set with precipitation.
Maybe it’s because of the winter holidays. Maybe it’s because the deciduous plants that surround us are devoid of leaves and looking a bit bland in their gray, cold winter...
Early December has been quite a different month from what we usually live with. Though we’ve had mild days during the month in the past, they are normally followed by...
The mild weather conditions of this December continue. Temperatures in the 30s and 40s, not just once but several times, are not what we expect. Even the low temperatures of the day are often above the normal high temperature. The snowfall that came to us on Dec. 1 was anticipated and appreciated by many. Though the snow fell in the calendar month of December, it was more of a November snow. The water content of this snowfall was very high. Five inches of it yielded about 1 inch of water.
As we enter the last month of the year, I pause to look back at November. During the first weeks, the month seemed to act like early fall. Not only were snow and ice absent, so were the colder temperatures. At the end of the first three weeks of November, 50 degrees or warmer was recorded at the National Weather Service in Duluth for no less than 12 days. And many times the low temperatures remained above freezing. That changed as we got into the last week of the month. Freeze-up, a bit later than normal, was happening.
For the first two-thirds of November, the month felt more like that of October. Temperatures were much above normal; we recorded 50 degrees or warmer during 12 of the first 18 days. And so, we had no snow or ice cover. But things began to change, not with snow and cold, but with rain and wind. Once the 2-inch rain and winds subsided, I went out to visit the swamps and ponds. This is a regular November ritual for me. I always want to see how high the level is on these small bodies of water before the freeze-up. And thanks to these rains, they all are holding plenty.