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The arrival of waxwings - exotic crested birds from Siberia - is traditionally the harbinger of an icy winter. This year enormous flocks, thousands strong, have spread across Scotland and East Anglia.
The influx has coincided with predictions from several weather forecasting services that Britain will soon be gripped by a big freeze, reminiscent of 1963.
Holly and rowan trees laden with red berries - another portent in folklore of sub-zero conditions - have been widely remarked upon. Bookmakers have shortened the odds on a white Christmas.
Is this collective seasonal nostalgia, or a warning that we should swaddle ourselves in scarves, long johns and thermal underwear? Either way, the advent of satellite technology, computer modelling of atmospheric conditions and global weather stations have done nothing to dampen speculation about the vagaries of our climate.
In the face of repeated warnings about global warming, the desire to outsmart the professional meteorologists remains tempting. There is no shortage of ancient precedents which supposedly foretell periods of bitter cold. Some are obscure, some implausible and some blindingly obvious. Cats on the mat with their backs to the fire are meant, for example, to be a sign of cold weather approaching.
Continue reading here www.guardian.co.uk...