John Wheeler: Squirrel and muskrat predictions need to be calibrated and quantified
The activity of squirrels, the thickness of muskrat houses and many other “signs” of the upcoming winter’s severity are poor predictors.
FARGO — Most of us have very poor weather memories. We remember extreme weather, especially when it coincides with a particular life event such as wedding, or the birth of a child. But we are terrible at remembering a lot of the details and we are simply awful at recalling mundane weather. This is why anecdotal evidence of many kinds of natural weather predictors is not a reliable way to forecast.
The observed activity of squirrels, the observed thickness of muskrat houses and many other “signs” of the upcoming winter’s severity are poor predictors mainly because these observations are not scientifically measured nor are their relationships to winter severity scientifically measured. Instead, these things are usually just casual observations loosely related to vague observations of weather. During a cold snap in January, one may recall an observation of active squirrels in October. But without empirical testing, such relationships are useless as predictors.