Do large-scale weather patterns lead to season trends?

Generally, no. One might believe, for example, that a milder-than-normal winter might be followed by a warmer-than-usual spring and summer. Actually, meteorologists have found no such reliable patterns. In fact, many times a warm winter is followed by a cold spring, or vice versa. A good example of this is the winter of 1994 to

Can you stand an egg on end only on the spring equinox?

It is a common legend that an egg can be balanced on its end only on the spring equinox (March 21). Actually, there's nothing magical about gravity on the spring equinox that would allow an egg to stand on end—it can happen at any time of the year with patience and perseverance.

1995. In the northern United States that season, there was a lot less snow and ice, and urban areas such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, saved lots of money on road salt. However, the following spring was decidedly colder, and Minnesotans saw ice-covered lakes and ponds well into the month of May. Looking back farther in history, the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s saw severe extremes, with the United States experiencing many of its all-time record lows and highs in 1933, 1934, 1936, and 1937.

What are the "dog days" of summer?

The "dog days" of summer comprise a period of extremely hot, humid, and sultry weather that traditionally occurs in the northern hemisphere in July and August (traditionally, the days run from July 3 through August 11). The term comes from the dog star, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major. At this time of year, Sirius, the brightest visible star in the sky, rises in the east at the same time as the Sun. Ancient Egyptians believed that the heat of this brilliant star added to the Sun's heat to create hotter weather. Sirius was blamed for everything from the withering droughts to sickness to the discomfort that occurred during this time.

What are halcyon days?

This term is often used to refer to a time of peace or prosperity. Among sailors, it is the two-week period of calm weather before and after the shortest day of the year, approximately December 21. The phrase is taken from halcyon, the name the ancient Greeks gave to the kingfisher. According to legend, the halcyon built its nest on the surface of the ocean and was able to quiet the winds while its eggs were hatching.

What is Indian summer?

The term Indian summer dates back to at least 1778 and may relate to the way Native Americans availed themselves of the nice weather to increase their winter food supplies. It refers to a period of pleasant, dry, warm days from middle to late autumn that usually occur after the first killing frost.

What is a January thaw?

Mostly seen in the northeastern United States and in the United Kingdom, a January thaw is a brief mid-winter period—usually late in the month—in which temperatures moderate somewhat. The Midwest can also experience such thaws, occasionally with startling changes in temperature. For example, in January 1992, northwestern Iowa had a January thaw in which temperatures rose from -60°F (-51°C) to above freezing in just two weeks. While the change was a welcome one for many people, the thaw sadly melted the giant ice palace sculpture that had been on display for the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

How should one prepare when the weather forecast calls for the season's first freeze?

If you own a home, there are several things to do to prepare for the onset of winter. Make sure that your furnace is in good working order and that you have clean air filters. If you have a chimney and a wood-burning fireplace, have a professional chimney sweep clear it of inflammable creosote, a fire hazard responsible for many house fires annually in the United States. Also, check the chimney outside for any birds' nests, which are also a potential fire hazard. Outside, in the yard, drain garden hoses and check the sprinklers to make sure they are clear. Frozen hoses and sprinkler systems can cause pipes to burst.

 
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