The Western Star
Last Thursday’s “Grandma Says” dealt with a popular spring weather expression that I’ve been hearing all my life: “Ash before oak, we’re in for a soak; oak before ash, only a splash.”
Then came the message from Lalia, whose dad grew up hearing something quite different:
“If the ash comes out before the oak, it will be a summer of heat and smoke; if the oak comes out before the ash, expect a summer of rain and splash.”
I suspected that these weather expressions were different because they originated in different locations. So I turned to you to find out which of the two you were familiar with.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Grandma’s version is quite well known across much of New Brunswick, western mainland N.S. and P.E.I. Overall, Cape Breton and Newfoundland residents were more familiar with Lalia’s dad’s version of the weather rhyme.
Lalia also noted that one of her friends from Louisiana grew up hearing her dad’s version, while another acquaintance of hers, from England, heard it Grandma’s way.
It appears Grandma wasn’t the first to turn to these trees for a long-range forecast. Scientists at the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology in England have records that date back to the 18th century. According to their data, the race between oak and ash was far more equal in the 1800s. In the 1900s, the oak was ahead 60 per cent of the time. More recently, the oak has charged ahead, budding before the ash almost 90 per cent of the time.
Perhaps the science behind the rhyme will help us get to the root of this one!
Experts believe the race has become unequal because of climate change.
Warm springs advance oak much more than ash and as a result of changes in the climate, there’s the chance of seeing ash before oak diminish further.
According to Dr. Kate Lewthwaite, an expert on climate change, “with every one-degree rise in temperature, oak has a four-day advantage over ash. Ash appears to be more responsive to the length of the day in spring, while oak is more responsive to temperature.”
So, in the case of the budding trees, it seems to be more of a reaction than a forecast … But don’t tell Grandma that!
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.