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Almanac: Winter weather will come early

October 18, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- The recent chilly weather could be a harbinger of things to come.

That is if you believe the 2010 edition of the Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanac.

The almanac -- which has been published for 214 years -- predicts that winter weather will come early and last until late March in the Hagerstown area.

Also, El Niño has been brewing in the central Pacific Ocean since the beginning of summer, according to a press release from William O'Toole, the almanac's weather forecaster. El Niño -- which usually peaks around Christmas -- is an abnormal warming of the waters and affects weather across the globe, often resulting in unusual weather patterns, O'Toole said.

O'Toole, a retired math and computer science professor from Mount St. Mary's University, uses a forecasting system that measures the time of day that the moon changes its phases.

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The closer the time of the change of the moon's phases to noon, the more likely precipitation will occur, O'Toole said in a telephone interview Sunday.

O'Toole said the system has been accurate in the past, but sunspots, which make forecasting tricky, have been increasing in recent history.

Although last winter, the area received about half as much snowfall as O'Toole predicted, he said the almanac's forecasts are 70 percent to 75 percent accurate.

The almanac's winter forecast says that while there will be "brief interruptions for milder periods," the general trend of cooler-than-normal temperatures that have prevailed during 2009 will continue.

"Several times from October into early November, there will be a few days of Indian summer weather, but then winter will begin in earnest in the middle of November," O'Toole said in the release.

O'Toole also throws in some weather lore to help make his forecast.

Yellow jackets have been numerous and aggressive this year, hornet's nests are large and built high above the ground, and there has been a bumper crop of acorns, all observations the "old-timers" consider indicators for a harsh winter, O'Toole said.

O'Toole said Sunday that the skins of acorns have been thicker this year.

"It's as if they are putting up a defensive barrier," O'Toole said.

The almanac says all months from November to March will be colder than normal, and February will be normal. December, February and March will have below-average precipitation, November and January will be close to average and January will be the snowiest month, according to the forecast.

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