What is your favorite month of the year? Only 2% of Americans will answer February, probably those who have a birthday that falls in the month or a strong affinity to Lunar New Year or Mardi Gras. I believe that February gets such a bad rap because it is the middle of winter. January has the residue of Christmas and New Year, March contains the first day of spring, but February is deep, cold, endless winter.
Enter the mid-winter festival.
In America, we call this Groundhog Day, Catholics refer to it as Candlemas, and for the ancient Celts, it was Imbolc. All celebrations for one reason or another but if we are honest, the fact that February 4th falls midway between the first day of winter (winter solstice) and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) is reason enough to celebrate. Astronomical winter in the Northern Hemisphere is half over!
It doesn’t help that the jet stream often covers our state in a deep blue-purple swath or that International Falls actually went to court for the official trademark title: “Icebox of America”. Yes, by some people’s calendar, winter lasts six months here.
By the astronomical calendar, the winter solstice will occur at 10:19pm Central Time on December 21, 2019. This means in very real planetary terms that the South Pole of the earth is tilted toward the Sun and the Sun will be at its southernmost position in our sky, the Tropic of Capricorn.
But for those of us living in Minneapolis on the 45th northern parallel, which is halfway between the North Pole and the equator, winter has already arrived. As of Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport measured 9.2 inches of snow. We got an additional 2 inches last night and they expect another 4+ inches of snow tonight. Continue reading →
No matter what the groundhog says, we are only halfway through winter. It is still 7 weeks to the vernal equinox and the astronomical start of spring. I have heard it said that there is no bad weather, only bad gear. These people have clearly never dealt with -55°F windchill.
Like most Minnesotans, I have multiples of all my winter outerwear: parkas, boots, hats, and gloves. I even have a sense of the temperature rating of my socks. You do not wear the same ones in 20°F as you do in -20°F. All cold climate residents will tell you, layering is the key to staying warm. Continue reading →