Winter Weather Folklore Checklist
October 27 2021
Is this nuts? I mean, is it crazy to try and figure out winter from the bumper crop of acorns or fat squirrels frantically gathering them for storage? How about all of the signals in our environment that people have been promoting as a hint to snowfall this winter?
Long before computer models, satellites, and Doppler Radar, people have been trying to predict the weather. There are many signs in our surroundings that can give clues to what might happen next. Many have come from farmers and watermen who needed to have an idea of what weather to expect for their livelihoods.
I have gathered over 45 examples of Weather Folklore, most relating to winter. They range from the color of wooly bear caterpillar, shape inside a persimmon seed, thickness of skin on local fruit and vegetables, animal behavior, and some weather conditions prior to winter.
If anything stands out from what you have seen so far, please let me know.
If you have Faith the Flakes, I wanted to add this ‘less scientific method’ to my Winter Outlook series.
Most Popular: Wooly Bear Caterpillars
Also known as wooly worms, they come in a variety of colors.
The ‘Folklore’ suggests that the width and even order of brown and black may foretell the pattern for cold and snow in the winter ahead. Then the thickness of the black sections relates to how cold and snowy that month will be.
Lighter color: Yellow Bear (Spilosoma virginica). These turn into a Virginian Tiger Moth
The striped caterpillars or classic Wooly Bears (Pyrrharctia isabella) turn into a Tiger Moth
The all black caterpillars (Hypercompe scribonia) turn into a Giant Leopard Moth
The wider the brown (middle) band on a woolly bear caterpillar, the milder the winter?
But what about an all black caterpillar? Does that mean we are in for a Polar Vortex followed by Ice Age conditions? I’ve even seen a few all light brown or blonde. Would that mean a snow free winter?
If we ‘follow the science’, the relative width of the black band varies with age, and has nothing whatsoever to do with weather (Wagner 2005).
But wait! Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, says there could, in fact, be a link between winter severity and the brown band of a woolly bear caterpillar. The width of the brown band does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. That is winter and spring, the previous year, when the caterpillar started crawling.
Note: These caterpillars can survive through the winter, producing their own antifreeze.
If we want to stick with the folklore, then here is a more elaborate break down of color patterns and winter.
This one is new to me, but people swear by it. Here’s the Folklore:
Cut open the seed from a persimmon, and the inside will have a shape like silverware.
If it looks like
- a knife, winter will be cold, cutting, and icy.
- a spoon represents lots of snow to shovel.
- a fork means a mild winter.
Missouri Department of Conservation Endorsed
I had to do some digging for this, but I found our friends in the MidWest really believe this.
The Weather Folklore List
Crops and Animals
If you check off the rest of that list, please consider using local farm grown produce. That would be more like to represent your area than importing and slicing open fruit or vegetables from a few counties or states away.
- “Onion skins very thin, Mild winter coming in;
- “Onion skins thick and tough, Coming winter cold and rough.”
- “If leaves fall from trees when still green, the winter will be mild.”
Tough Winter Ahead If:
- Apple skins are tough.
- Bees build their nests high in the trees.
- As high as the weeds grow, So will the bank of snow.
- Birds migrate early.
- Corn husks are thick and tight
- Berries and nuts are plentiful.
- Squirrels tails are very bushy.
Is This Nuts?
Again, not the acorns, but the fall harvest? Kim Lyons sent me this photo of excessive acorns. If you have noticed more than usual, then perhaps that might suggest a cold and snowy winter ahead.
PSA- Do Squirrels Have An Agenda?
I must remind you of this alert for them simply because we mentioned them.
GEICO Squirrels Commercial
I still think this is spot on!
Winter: Comparing Months and Seasons
- “If ant hills are high in July, Winter will be snowy.”
- “If a cold August follows a hot July, It foretells a winter hard and dry.”
- “For every fog in August, There will be a snowfall in winter.”
- “If the first week in August is unusually warm, The coming Winter will be snowy and long.”
- “Flowers bloomin’ in late Autumn, A sure sign of a bad winter comin’.”
- “When leaves fall early, Fall and winter will be mild;
- When leaves fall late, Winter will be severe.”
- “A Full Moon in October without frost, No frost ’till November’s Full Moon.”
- “A warm October, A cold February.”
- “Much rain in October, Much wind in December.”
- A warm November is the sign of a bad winter.
- Thunder in the fall foretells a cold winter.
- The nearer the New Moon to Christmas Day, the harder the winter.
- If there is thunder in winter, it will snow seven days later.
- *If in winter there is thunder, snow will fall in a week or under*
- A green Christmas; a white Easter.
- As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens. The coldest time of the year is mid January, about three weeks after the shortest day.
Follow Up: Baltimore at BWI
Some of these contradict each other, but I ask the related questions with you…
- 8 days with fog in August at BWI. Does that mean 8 snow events?
- However, the first week of August was cool, then the month as a whole was above average. Does that mean a mild winter?
- Leaves are falling a little late this year. Does that mean severe winter?
- October has been averaging more than 7 degrees above normal. Does that mean a cold February?
- It is Fall and we just had thunder this week. Does that mean a cold winter?
- Rainfall- has been below normal. However, I am writing this on October 27, after our first big storm of the month. Another is on the way this week and can send the total above normal for the month. Will that mean a windy December?
Flowers are blooming now.
My wife sent me this Iris this morning on her walk.
Other Weather Folklore
- “If the first snowfall lands on unfrozen ground, the winter will be mild.”
- The chill is on, near and far, in all the months that have an ‘R’
- Clear moon, frost soon. (In fall and winter)
- Evening red and morning gray speed the traveler on his way. Evening gray and morning red bring down rain or snow upon his head.
- It rains as long as it takes rain to come.
- A sun-shiny shower won’t last half an hour
- When a cow tries to scratch her ear it means a shower is very near.
- News and weather; they travel together.
- No weather is ill, if the wind is still.
- Rain before seven, quit by eleven.
- Rainbow in the east, sailors at peace. Rainbow in the west, sailors in distress.
- To talk of the weather is nothing but folly; when it rains on the hill, it suns in the valley.
- When halo rings the moon or sun, rain’s approaching on the run.
- When the dew is on the grass, rain will never come to pass.
- Whether it’s cold or whether it’s hot; we shall have weather, whether or not!
- Year of snow, fruit will grow.
- Yellow streaks in sunset sky, wind and daylong rain is nigh.
- Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors heed warning.
I have a few more reports before My Call For Snowfall- Winter Outlook. Stay tuned, and here first by getting on the email list.
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