November 28, 2013
Photographer: Jeanette Stafford
Summary Author: Jeanette Stafford
Folklore suggests that a bountiful crop of hawthorn berries (haws) in the autumn predicts a severe winter ahead. However, this year’s glut of berries and soft fruits is the result of unusually cold weather in the first half of the year. Thus, spring arrived several weeks late. Temperatures in the UK during March 2013 were about 6 F (3.3 C) below average, making it colder than the preceding three winter months and the coldest March in 50 years. The unusually cold air inhibited plant growth and delayed blossoming by around six weeks for some trees and plants, such as hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna).
Hawthorn or “may” usually flowers during the month of May, at least here in Scotland (at left). This year the hawthorn didn’t bloom until June, the latest I’ve ever observed. Once the risk of frost damage passed, blossoms were quite abundant. Now that the leaves have dropped, hawthorn trees are laden with crimson berries, a plentiful harvest for birds and other wildlife.
Unusually cold spells in the British Isles often occur when a climatic pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) experiences an extreme negative phase. March 2013 as well as the cold winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 all had acutely negative NAOs. Time will tell if cold conditions prevail during the coming winter. Should this in fact happen, those who espouse folklore may well feel vindicated. Top photo taken on October 14, 2013.
Photo details: Top - Camera Model: PENTAX K-5; Focal Length: 42.5mm (35mm equivalent: 64mm); Aperture: f/4.5; Exposure Time: 0.0080 s (1/125); ISO equiv: 100. Inset - same except: Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0016 s (1/640); ISO equiv: 200.