Backyard Almanac

Phenology with local naturalist Larry Weber every Friday morning at 8:20 on Northland Morning. Have a question for Larry Weber? Email us and you might hear his answer on the show!


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©Lisa Johnson. All rights reserved.

All around us are signs of spring - kinda.

Meteorological winter ends Sunday, Daylight Saving Time starts Sunday, March 14 and the vernal equinox is Saturday, March 20.

But it's hard to predict what will happen in a month that's famous for blizzards and 70˚ days in the same four-week period.

Twelve days of an average temp of  -12˚.

250 straight hours of temps that never got above -2˚.

And while we only got two measly record temps out of the cold snap, on the 13th and 14th, Larry Weber says it was still pretty impressive.

Not only does he enthuse "I wouldn't have wanted to miss it!", Larry knows that when we're sweating through an afternoon on the beach or looking for some shade to park a lawn chair, these days will be the stuff of stories and legend.

©Lisa Johnson

Larry Weber calls the 213 hours out of 216 we'll spend below zero "fascinating."

©Lisa Johnson. All rights reserved.

For Larry Weber, winter is about to arrive.

Air temperatures won't break zero through the end of the weekend, overnight lows will be in the double digits below, and the windchill index will hover around that strange point where the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales reach agreement: -40.

But there is a silver lining: Larry point out that these cold snaps usually only last about four days.  So that's a mere 100 hours of "polar vortex."


There's romance in the air if you're a wolf, coyote, fox, or squirrel.

If you're a groundhog, you want to be left strictly alone on Tuesday - no exceptions.

And for the rest of us who pay attention to such things, we're about halfway through that period of time between the December solstice (December 21; shortest day of the year) and the vernal equinox (March 21; day and night are of equal length).

Copyright JR Kelsey. Used with permission.

Last week, Larry Weber told us we were in the running for the warmest January on record, surpassing the old record set back in 2006.

Today ... alas.  But despite the cold, we're still short on precipitation and snow, and that's already challenging this year's John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

Copyright JR Kelsey. Used with permission.

So far, January has been cloudy and warm.  In fact, Larry says if we keep it up, we're on pace to break the old record for the warmest January on record set back in 2006!

But the clouds mean sound is amplified.  The warmish temperatures mean you can walk slooooowly and really take in what you're seeing.

And Larry is encouraging folks to follow the example of Duluth's JR Kelsey and get out there and take photographs!

Otter photo Jason Mandich. Used with permission.

Maybe we're not quite at the point where we're crediting Mother Nature with actively looking out for us, but for those searching for rhyme, rime, or reason in these strange and terrifying times ... it's right outside.  

December may give us the shortest days of the year, but it's packing a whole lot into those short days.

MN State Climatology Office/MN DNR

In October and November, the first half of the month differed dramatically from the second half.

In fact, October and November saw record-breaking warm temperatures and we only missed them yesterday by a degree or so.

Sunsets continue early until December 15, sunrises don't start getting earlier until early January, and the Geminid meteor shower and the conjunction will be only other people's social media images if the clouds don't break up.

©Lisa Johnson

So far, December is following the pattern set by October and November: quiet and dry, thawing during the day and freezing up overnight.

Starting Monday, the dark month earns its nickname with 4:20pm sunsets - the earliest of the year - for about a week.  And then ... they start getting later again.

Could spring be far behind?  It's probably too soon to ask that.

Naoki Takebayashi/Flickr

As we wrap up the month of November, we're also saying goodbye to meteorological autumn.

Copyright JR Kelsey. Used with permission.

Thaw during the day ... freeze overnight.

Welcome to "normal November." 

In other news, once upon a time, says Larry Weber (and Laura Erickson), say, 30 years ago or so,  evening grosbeaks were common Northland visitors.

And then ... they were gone.

The good news is, they're starting to come back.

Hartley Nature Center/Facebook

Larry Weber says he got it wrong last week.

He said the warm temps would probably mean that we'd get summer, autumn, and winter all in one month.

Turns out, we got them all in ONE WEEK.