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Published November 10, 2009, 05:40 AM

Schulz: Pig spleens predict a nasty winter

It may not be the most hygienic of weather-predicting methods, but one Jamestown man says he’s never been wrong. Norbert Schulz uses the width and height of pig spleens to determine if the up-coming winter will be mild and dry or cold and snowy. His outlook this year: buy a new shovel.

By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun

RURAL PINGREE, N.D. — It may not be the most hygienic of weather-predicting methods, but one Jamestown man says he’s never been wrong.

Norbert Schulz uses the width and height of pig spleens to determine if the up-coming winter will be mild and dry or cold and snowy. His outlook this year: buy a new shovel.

“It is a bad winter,” he said. “It’s going to turn real nasty.”

Schulz butchers about three pigs during the first weekend in November — a practice he’s done at his family farm near Pingree for more than 15 years. This year he butchered four. After he’s butchered them he reads the spleens to forecast the upcoming winter.

The spleen’s function is mostly related to the immune system and blood supply. In a human, the organ is shaped like a fist whereas in swine, the spleen is long, narrow and can vary in width from top to bottom.

The wider the spleen, the more turbulent the winter, Schulz said, pointing to the widest of the four organs, the one with a bell curve at the bottom.

“In March it looks even worse than it does (in January),” he said of the weather, standing between four carcasses hanging from hooks.

The 50- and 60-degree weather that’s warmed November won’t last through the month, Schulz said. Expect cold and snow before December, he said, and expect it through March.

“It’s just not going to quit,” he said.

The opinion isn’t a popular one, he said, although friends, neighbors and out-of-state media companies keep asking.

“I said ‘I hope I’m wrong’ but it just hasn’t been wrong,” he said.

As for flooding, Schulz said the spleens know temperatures, but the wisdom ends there.

“I’m not going to get that carried away,” he said.

Last year, Schulz predicted winter weather would last through mid-March.

Schulz was right about the weather, said John Wheeler, storm tracker meteorologist for WDAY in Fargo. Except the butcher was two weeks off.

Weather in the James-town area wasn’t calm until about April 1, Wheeler said.

“That doesn’t mean it’s completely goofy,” he said.

The forecast does, however, dispute the National Weather Service which says odds are, this winter will be milder than the winter of last year. The effects of the El Niño weather pattern usually mean a milder winter, said Todd Hamilton, meteorologist for NWS. Last year was a La Niña weather pattern, which typically means colder winter temperatures in North Dakota, he said.

Unlike alternative weather prediction methods like pig spleen reading, Farmer’s Almanacs or groundhogs on Feb. 2, the National Weather Service compares current upper air patterns to past ones. A computer then generates a prediction based on what happened when conditions were similar in the past.

But winter weather is still a game of chance this early in the season, said.

Wheeler agreed. He’s always skeptical of any prediction three to six months out.

“I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on any long-range forecast — including my own,” he said.

Despite the National Weather Service’s expectations, Schulz said the hogs have it right.

“I’m going to go into business selling shovels,” he said.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at kryan@jamestownsun.com

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