What's it going to be, El or La?

So, what's it going to be? An unseasonably warm winter or teeth-chattering cold with lots of snow?
It depends on whom you listen to.
The Farmer's Almanac, which has been prognosticating on weather since 1818 using "mathematical and astronomical" formulas, predicts a colder than average winter from the Continental Divide east to the Appalachians. West of the Rockies, in mid-Atlantic states and in the Southeast everything is predicted to be "near-normal."
Is that normal-normal or the new-normal, as some would have it?
And if you're in the Great Lakes, Midwest and up toward New England, brace for colder than average winter days and more precipitation than you usually shovel. The Pacific Northwest, according to the new Farmer's Almanac, will be snowy, snowy and snowy.
On their map, they predict the region of the upper Plains including Colorado as what will be "teeth-chattering cold, plentiful snow."
This is contrary to the winter predictions made by the Old Farmer's Almanac, which takes its cue from such things as animal signals, chicken bones, pig spleens and other lore of the like. In its 227th edition, the almanac that George Washington took to the outhouse predicts this year's winter will have above-normal temperatures almost everywhere, except in the Southwest which will be slightly more chilly than usual.
The Old Almanac is expecting a mild El Niño, which it says will "prevent cold air from lingering in the North." Precipitation will be above normal mostly, but snowfall will be below average. The good news, for winter enthusiasts in our area, is they are predicting "snowier-than-normal exceptions" for the interior West and portions of the midsection.
Not to be out-guessed, the government has to have its say. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asks, and answers, the question: El Niño or La Niña?
"La" equals colder. "El" equals warmer. NOAA says El Niño is likely, meaning "early predictions call for a warmer than average winter across the United States."
Good news again for this area. While the folks at NOAA may take the Old Farmer's Almanac to their $4,579 government-purchased toilet, their similar prediction to the old Almanac is purely coincidental. NOAA says that while the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies will see below average snowfall, Colorado and parts of Utah are expected to see above average precipitation. Warmer temps will prevail through December, but after that you better wear your boots to outhouse.
NOAA, being the good government agency it is and not wanting to stick its neck out too far, adds a disclaimer that essentially says predictions made a few days out from a storm are much more reliable than predictions made further out. This is the old "stick your head out the car window and tell me if it's raining" method.
I doubt you'll find any pig spleens at NOAA, but let's hope they get it right. We could use the snow this winter.

It's that time of year when our roadways become clogged with gawkers, stoppers, lookers and squawkers. That's right, it's leaf-changing time in the Rockies. The Urban Dictionary defines a "leaf peeper" as "someone who goes on vacation to watch leaves." That took a lot of thought.
Around here, we call leaf peepers our gift to the shoulder season!
There's probably solid science as to how to follow your longitudinal lines from north to south in order to keep up with the peak changes in colors. I saw one hotel in Ouray predict on social media that our colors will peak around the third week of September. Maybe they had rooms to fill that week.
If your glass is half full, you're more likely than most to hope for an elongated leaf-changing season, with leaf peepers aplenty, before we get fully into the fall season, with cooler days, chilly nights and frost on the pumpkin.
Speaking of science and pumpkins, what do you get when you divide the circumference of your jack-o-lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin Pi, of course.

I'm off later this week to go to Austin, Texas to babysit my granddaughter for three days. My son Ross and daughter-in-law Kelly are heading out for a few days to pretend they aren't tethered to a 17-month old cyclone with legs.
At first we were going to go get little Olivia and bring her here for a week. This plan quickly went awry after Beecher spent a day with parents and toddler a few weeks ago. Our granddaughter, it turns out, has a "go" switch that is stuck in the 'on' position all day long, and only flips to 'off' when she tells you it's time for bed.
Her dad, Ross, was the same way at that age, so our empathy for Kelly is real and strong. Ross was the only kid we ever saw who was so fidgety that he often fell down while sitting on the floor.
I'm sure I'll do fine. Even though I haven't been in a house with a toddler for an extended period of time since a bear cub climbed through a kitchen window several years ago, my sweet Olivia can't possibly run me in circles.
If you're the betting kind, don't bet on the old guy being the last one left standing.

You'll see in Mark Johnson's column on page 5 that he is hanging up his column spot in the Plaindealer. Mark has shared his travels through life, the West, relationships and religion for seven years. We're grateful for his monthly contributions and will greatly miss his work.
This means we have a column spot open once a month. The pay is low (zero), and the hours are what you make it. If you have an interest in the spot and feel you can and want to contribute, send me an email.

Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at atodd@ouraynews.com.