October 31, 2023
Is this nuts? A method for suggesting winter snow or me proclaiming my preference? I am a meteorologist and love snow. I have never hidden that in my career and will look for signals of snow in all areas. That starts with the science and transcends to what we see here: Folklore. I can’t discount the methods of farmers and folklore handed down over the centuries from people whose livelihoods depended on the land and weather.
As a dad and snowboarder partial to winter weather, I respect the impact across society while personally enjoying playing outdoors with my boys or anyone who will join me. The tag #FITF stands for Faith in the Flakes. It is a motto my older son and I came up with in the winter of 2009-2010 based on a missed storm and always believing there will be one coming our way soon. I will link to that story at the bottom of this report.
We are not in snow season yet (as I write this at the end of October), but there have been centuries of farmers and ancestors who have studied the land for signals of the winter ahead. These include crops, critters, and prior weather. I have gathered all I could find and share them every Fall. I wanted to focus on the Top 20 with much MORE included. You will find everything from squirrels and acorns to onions. Birds, bees, woolly bear caterpillars, farm animals, and critters trying to get into your house. These are in no particular order.
Top 20 Signs For A Harsh Winter
Let’s define harsh in general terms, not your preference. I’ve realized some people who love snow like me may actually determine a winter ‘harsh’ when it is mild and lacks in snow. For the purpose of this post, we are referring to a winter with cold temps and plentiful snow.
1. Frequent Halos or Rings Around the Sun or Moon Forecasts Numerous Snowfalls
This is when a deck of cirrus clouds arrives ahead of a storm. Bright light refracts to form a circular, colorful ring around the sun or moon usually without 36 hours of a storm. It can be a solar halo in the day, but to view at night, the moon must be larger than 1/2 fully illuminated or nearly full. I must add that this can happen any time of the year ahead of an approaching storm, but in winter temps must also be cold enough for snow.
The folklore suggests seeing many of these in the Fall can foretell more in the Winter. That may be the earliest hint of atmospheric memory.
2. Abundance of Acorns (well above normal)
This can be subjective, but I have seen A LOT OF NUTS this year. Punny, but true!
3. Squirrels Gathering Nuts Early to Fortify Against a Hard Winter
This goes hand in hand with the abundance of nuts and even the notion that the squirrels are fatter or have bushier tails as well.
PSA – Do Squirrels Have An Agenda?
I must remind you of this alert for them simply because we mentioned them.
Classic GEICO Squirrels Commercial
I still think this is spot on!
4. Numerous and or Thick Fogs During August
Baltimore’s BWI reported fog on six days this year in August. I used this as a reference for central Maryland, and it is not completely indicative for the entire Mid-Atlantic region but rather a suggestion.
Two years ago, in 2021, there were seven days with fog in August at BWI. The following winter had 6 days with measurable snow and a few more days with snow that didn’t stick. Note that March 17 storm brought snow all day but the airport was too warm for stickage.
5. Woodpeckers Sharing a Tree
It is thought that two or more woodpeckers in the same tree is a sign that the winter ahead will be cold and snowy. Perhaps they are starting a family, or planning to huddle together for heat?
This amazing photo was captured by my friend Konstantine Mamalis. I’ve shared another photo from him here. But I encourage you to view his amazing collection online (after completing this article).
Find him here, and I recommend following him on Instagram: www.konstantinem.com
6. Snowy Owl Shows Up EARLY
It is a little early for our region to see this, but perhaps within a week of Thanksgiving?
Another Konstantine special
7. Early Departure of Geese and Ducks
We could use the input from our Eastern Shore ‘watermen and women.’
This amazing photo was captured by the talented Lori Martin.
8. EARLY Seclusion of Bees Within the Hive
This is when they gathered all they could then stay in and fully get to work!
9. “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.”
Once you’ve seen a hornet nest you want stay away. Spot one really high and have some ease it’s farther away AND perhaps a signal of them expecting at last one big snowstorm in the winter ahead.
10. EARLY Migration of the Monarch Butterfly
Have you noticed this?
The monarch butterfly or simply monarch (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae) in the family Nymphalidae. Other common names, depending on region, include milkweed, common tiger, wanderer, and black-veined brown.#NationalGeographic #butterfly pic.twitter.com/VSEDasqOjV
— Amir Ali Nemati (@AmirAliNemati07) October 22, 2022
11. Crickets EARLY on Hearth
12. Thicker-Than-Normal Onions or Corn Husks
Farmers, please let us know how this crop compares to last year.
13. Thick Hair on the Nape of a Cow’s Neck
We met Leila’s cow this summer when logging our interview for Maryland Trek 9.
14. Raccoons With Thick Tails and Bright Bands
I try to NOT leave trash out for the raccoons to get close.
15. Mice Chewing Furiously To Get Into Your Home
This means the rodents are working hard to find a warm and secure place to lay low all winter.
16. Spiders Spinning Larger-Than-Usual Webs and Entering the House in Great Numbers
I have seen an abundance of spiders in my basement and opted to NOT share a photo with you. You’re welcome.
17. Pigs Gathering Sticks
I didn’t know they did this. Again, we need to implore the help of farmers.
18. Ants Marching in a Line Rather Than Meandering
A solid line of ants mans they dedicate their time to maximizing the use of that food source.
19. Muskrats Burrowing Holes High on the River Bank
This can apply to groundhogs as well.
20. Woolly Bear Caterpillars AND Persimmon Seeds
Both of these were covered in separate reports.
Explore more about Woolly Bear Caterpillar Stripes. Click the image for that full report.
Explore more about Persimmon Seeds. Click the image for that full report.
MORE WEATHER FOLKLORE STUFF
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.” *Baltimore had 10 DAYS with Fog in August.
- “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.
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 see it here first by getting on the email list.
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Normals And Records: Maryland and Baltimore Climate History
Faith in the Flakes Gear