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Frost chances fall off as spring approaches

March 19-25, 2007
The light is everything. As I turned away from the lowland stream late this afternoon, and walked up through the Insect Garden and the old orchard, I looked back and caught the greens of the new grass clumps, the different shades of the young sweet flag leaves, all suddenly brilliant in the sun which had just emerged from behind a cloud. As in a vision, the greens stepped forward.
-Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons

The astronomical outlook
The Robin Chorus Moon, new at 10:43 p.m. (EDT) on March 18, waxes throughout the week, entering its second quarter at 2:16 p.m. March 25. Rising after dawn and setting in the middle of the night, the thin, waxing moon is overhead in the afternoon. Equinox occurs at 6:07 a.m. March 21.

A few hours after sundown, Orion lies in the far west beside Venus, the evening star. Bright Regulus and Saturn are in Leo overhead, and the Corona Borealis of summer is coming up over the eastern horizon.

The weather
The end of this month often brings dramatic changes. On March 30, for the first time since Oct. 22, there is a five-percent chance for highs to reach 80 degrees. On March 31, that chance doubles. On March 23, the odds for morning frost are about one in two, but on March 29, they fall to just one in four.

In the warmest years of all, frost can be gone until October or November (but an average season brings 20 more dawns below the freezing mark). Through March 28, cold afternoons in the 30s still happen one year in 10 or 15, but on March 29-30, chances for such cold drop to less than five percent for the first time since the end of October.

March 25-28 are the driest and sunniest days of the week, each bringing a 60-percent chance or better of a break in the clouds. March 29 is the day most likely to bring overcast conditions – the sun is absent on that date 65 percent of the time, and rain falls half the time. The likelihood of a thunderstorm is six times greater this week than it was last week. And tornado season usually begins now, to last through the summer. This region has an average of 12 twisters a year.

Two major weather systems, one arriving on April 2 and another coming in April 6, usually dominate the first week of next month, and these fronts bode a 40-percent chance for precipitation during that time. April 3 and 5 are some of the wettest days of the month, carrying a 60- and 70-percent chance for precipitation, respectively. Snow is most likely to fall (but only 10 to 20 percent of the time) on April 3-5.

There is a 20-percent chance for a high in the 80s as April arrives, and there is more than a 50-percent chance of an afternoon in the 60s or 70s. Still, the first quarter of the fourth month is its coldest quarter, and daily chances for frost remain steady at an average of 40 percent throughout the period.

The seasons
The final week of March brings May Apple and Toad Trillium Emerging Season on sunny slopes, and the first days of Leafing-Out Season for willows, mock orange and buckeyes. Forsythia Blossom Season starts at scattered locations.

If temperatures rise to the 60s for a few days, Middle Spring Wildflower Season arrives with bluebells, twinleaf, bloodroot, small-flowered bittercress and hepatica budding and then bursting into bloom. American Toad Calling Season coincides by March 31 with the first days of Duckling and Gosling Hatching Season.

If you can’t wait for Middle Spring to reach your location, drive south some weekend to find Daffodil Blooming Season in central Kentucky, full Pear Tree Blossom Season and Redbud Flowering Season in northern Tennessee, Azalea Blooming Season in South Carolina, Honeysuckle Blooming Season in northern Georgia and the full canopy of leaves in northern and central Florida.

Best times for fishing
The following weekly guide to lunar position shows when the moon is above (best times) or below (second-best times) the country, and therefore the period during which fish and game are typically most active.
Date – Best – Second-Best
March 19-24 Afternoons – Midnight to Dawn
March 25-31 Evenings – Mornings
Almanac literature
False Evidence Appearing Real
Part II
By Jeffery Goss Jr.
Springfield, Mo.
Last week, the Almanac published the first part of Jeffery’s memoir, in which he recalls moving to the country as a boy and hearing strange noises at night, finding what seemed to be fleas all over him, seeing strange lights in the bushes and even spotting an Unidentified Flying Object.
There were many eerie sights, sounds and happenings that first spring and summer in the country, but each spring and summer felt less eerie than the one before it.
That’s not to say the same things didn’t happen – the noises, the lights, the strange happenings – but once identified, they weren’t spooky.
The first summer, there was the sound of a pack of wolves many nights; in fact, there were a jungle of sounds in the woods. That first summer, I would think they were something extraordinary. Yet, each summer we would find out more and more about these things, and they were never quite as bizarre or alarming as they seemed.
Fear is sometimes said to be an acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real. So much of what we fear turns out, upon analysis, to be nothing. A good illustration of this is my first year at that country place, and subsequent years by comparison. The things which seemed spooky were, once identified, mundane.
The noise that sounded like an alarm clock and would wake me in the night was a type of locust or cricket-like insect in the tall grass outside my bedroom window. The small jumping insects in the house were not fleas at all, but the harmless microlepidopterans found in almost all country places in springtime. And the wolves’ nocturnal howls came from a family’s domesticated wolf dogs down the road.
The UFO and the electronic flashing lights that we observed that first spring both turned out to be sightings of the photinus, a large and very brilliant kind of firefly common to this area.
So many things that seem bizarre and inexplicable might turn out to be nothing so strange after all – if we knew what they really were.
Last week’s scrambler
In order to estimate your SCRAMBLER IQ, award yourself 15 points for each word unscrambled, adding a 50-point bonus for getting all of them correct. If you find a typo, add another 15 points to your IQ.
This week’s rhyming Scrambler