Terry’s Take: Tis the season for Indian Summer

Posted on: 11:26 pm, October 17, 2013, by

Terry Swails Weather Blog

The sun is shining bright under a turquoise sky. A warm breeze rustles the leaves and jack-o-lanterns guard the stoop. In the fall, it seems that almost any beautiful day such as this is referred to as “Indian Summer”. While the term is commonly used many are unaware that there are standards that need to be met for true Indian Summer conditions. Here’s the necessary criteria according to the experts:

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  • As well as being warm, the atmosphere during Indian summer is hazy or smoky, there is no wind, the barometer is standing high, and the nights are clear and chilly.
  • A moving, cool, shallow polar air mass is converting into a deep, warm, stagnant anticyclone (high pressure) system, which has the effect of causing the haze and large swing in temperature between day and night.
  • The time of occurrence is important: The warm days must follow a spell of cold weather which technically includes a good hard frost.
  • The conditions described above must occur between St. Martin’s Day (November 11) and November 20. For over 200 years, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has adhered to the saying, “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.”

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Why is Indian Summer called Indian summer? There are many theories. Some say it comes from the early Algonquian Native Americans, who believed that the condition was caused by a warm wind sent from the court of their southwestern god, Cautantowwit.

According to the Farmers Almanac, the most probable origin of the term goes back to the very early settlers in New England. Each year they would welcome the arrival of a cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. “Indian summer,” the settlers called it.

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Whatever the case, Indian Summer is always a pleasant experience, especially when one considers what lurks ahead!

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