October 31, 2018

Long before computer models, satellites, and Doppler Radar people have been trying to predict the weather. There are many signs in our atmosphere and environment 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.

In the past two weeks I have had a few messages from hunters. They told me that the animals they ‘got’ and prepped had an extra thick layer of fat. This seemed to be a universal belief that these animals were preparing for a tough winter ahead. Does that mean lots of snow or just very cold?

Below are over 40 examples of Weather Folklore relating to winter.

Wooly Bear Caterpillars

Wooly Bear Caterpillar Winter


  • 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

I wanted to start with some depth into the most popular fall pastime. Collecting and comparing black and brown stripes on the woolly bears. Here’s how the folklore goes:

The wider the brown (middle) band on a woolly bear caterpillar, the milder the winter.

But I’ve also heard that the order of colors from head to tail will break down the winter by months December, January, and February. The thickness of the black sections relates to how cold and snowy that month will be. 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?

I hate to disappoint you, but 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.

The Weather Folklore List

Crops and Animals

  • “Onion skins very thin, Mild winter coming in;
  • Onion skins thick and tough, Coming winter cold and rough.”
  • “As high as the weeds grow, So will the bank of snow.”
  • The chill is on, near and far, in all the months that have an ‘R’

Tough Winter Ahead If:

  • Apple skins are tough.
  • Bees build their nests high in the trees.
  • Berries and nuts are plentiful.
  • Birds migrate early.
  • Corn husks are thick and tight
  • Squirrels tails are very bushy.


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. (2015 is starting that way)
  • Thunder in the fall foretells a cold winter. (We’ve had a few events in October)
  • 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.



    • “If the first snowfall lands on unfrozen ground, the winter will be mild.”
    • 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.


Winter Outlooks

Solar Cycle: When Sun Spots Are Low We Get More Snow

Will A Wet Summer Bring A Snowy Winter?

El Nino Modoki May Enhance Snow Chances

Winter Outlook From Two Different Farmers Almanacs

NOAA Winter 2018-2019 Outlook Explained: This Actually Supports Snow


Also see:

Cold Stuff

Normal First Frost/Freeze Dates

Maryland Winters: Snowfall by region and records



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FITF Gear: Store Open Early By Request

Snowstix- We Need You To Measure Snow Too

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