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'Mean' winter forecast? North Dakotan has some spleenin' to do

RURAL PINGREE, N.D. - It's not the most traditional way of predicting the weather, but one Jamestown man boasts a near-perfect record stretching back decades.

Norbert Schulz, Jamestown
Norbert Schulz, Jamestown, holds a pig spleen he uses to make winter weather forecasts. He predicts this year's winter will be just as cold and snowy as last year's. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

RURAL PINGREE, N.D. - It's not the most traditional way of predicting the weather, but one Jamestown man boasts a near-perfect record stretching back decades.

Pig spleens and their height and width are how Norbert Schulz predicts the snowy season in North Dakota. This year, Schulz offered the same advice as years before: Buy a new shovel.

"It's going to be real nice here for a while; then she's going to turn real mean," Schulz said sizing up the spleen in his rural butcher shop.

He said the weather should continue to stay nice through Thanksgiving and then make a turn for cold and snow in December and January before it warms up again.

As for why to measure with the spleen, Schulz, 83, said it's something he learned from those before him.


"I got it from the old-timers. A lot of old-timers went by the pig spleen," Schulz said.

His son, Steven, 54, who runs the family farm now, is next in line for pig spleen predictions.

The spleen's function is to control the blood supply and help the immune system. Humans have a spleen shaped like a fist, while pigs have a long and narrow version.

"I just don't know, but the pig knows," he said.

Schulz has been using this method for decades, but only in the past 15 years or so has he been telling people about it. Now he said he receives phone calls from media outlets in Minnesota and Montana seeking his forecast.

"I don't know why, but I hit it right all the time," he said.

The number of spleens to predict from has dwindled over the years, but Schulz remains confident in his prediction.

"This I don't think is going to be that mean. Sure, we're going to get a bad shot, but then it's going to level off," he said in front of two hanging pig carcasses.


Last year, Schulz's forecast of snow and cold starting in November was off as it was the second-warmest November on record, said Rob Kupec, meteorologist with WDAY.

"Last year was a rough year," he said. "Everyone was a little off, including the climate prediction centers."

But the cold and snow starting in December was spot on, said Sam Walker, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

"In general, December of last year was the 16th-wettest winter for Bismarck and the fourth-snowiest December at Bismarck airport," Walker said. Only four days last December did not see snow.

Walker said he agrees with Schulz's prediction for this year, with the initial cold burst.

"Actually, it sounds fairly close," he said of Schulz's prediction.

Kupec agrees because the spleens' prediction resembles the La Nina pattern that will occur this winter.

"I think his forecast is an agreement with what the climate prediction center has been saying," he said.


Schulz himself is confident of his prediction method but said no one can stay perfect forever.

"That's the problem. I'm going to be wrong someday," he said.

The Jamestown Sun and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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