Winter Weather Forecast: Four Folklore Methods Commonly Used To Make Winter Predictions

Winter weather forecasts are usually made by certified meteorologists, who use a combination of computer models, patterns, and trends. However, folklore and old wives’ tales remain a popular method for predicting the severity of the upcoming winter season. As winter 2016-2017 approaches, there are numerous unconventional signs that might indicate the United States is in for a long, cold winter.

Animals and Bugs

Much like humans, animals and bugs spend weeks, if not months, preparing for the winter weather season. Although most of their activities and physical changes are expected, their appearance and behavior might predict the harshness and length of the upcoming winter.

Wooly worms, which are the larvae of the Isabella tiger moth, are black with a burnt orange colored band around the center of their body. According to folklore, the width of the stripe is directly related to the severity of the upcoming winter weather season.

As reported by About Education, a wider band suggests the winter will be mild. A narrow band, however, might indicate severe weather is on the way.

In the 1950s, the insect curator of the American Museum of Natural History conducted a study to determine the accuracy of wooly worm weather predictions.

Dr. C. H. Curran concluded the caterpillars’ appearance accurately predicted the severity of the winter weather season 80 percent of the time. However, as the results of his study were never replicated, it is unclear whether it was accurate.

Folklore also suggests the thickness of an animal’s fur and the amount of weight they gain in autumn might predict the harshness of the winter weather season.

According to the old wives’ tale, animals’ bodies adapt early in anticipation of cold weather. Therefore, they grow heavier coats and gain more weight to protect them from the harsh conditions.

As reported by Web Ecoist, animal behavior might also be used to make a winter weather forecast.

Rodents, including squirrels, generally begin gathering seeds and nuts before the winter season begins. However, according to folklore, they may begin collecting and storing food earlier than usual if the weather is expected to be specifically harsh.

In addition to gathering more food, rodents are likely to seek shelter inside structures, including storage sheds, campers, and residential homes. Early rodent infestations are often considered a sign that the animals are anticipating a severe winter season.

Every year, millions of birds migrate south for the winter. However, the timing of their migration might indicate the harshness of the upcoming winter weather season. If the migration begins early, it could predict unseasonably cold and severe weather is on the way. If the migration does not begin until November, the winter weather forecast could be exceptionally mild.

The behavior of stinging insects might also predict the severity of winter weather. According to folklore, the height of bee, hornet, and wasp nests varies according to the harshness of the upcoming winter weather season. The higher the nest, the deeper the snow is expected to be.

According to Unofficial Networks, a harsh winter season could also be predicted by observing the behavior of wild hogs, beavers, muskrats, and ants, which all build larger and stronger shelters in anticipation of severe weather.


According to folklore and old wives’ tales, the winter weather forecast could also be made based on the appearance of plants.

Many people believe the size and number of pine cones produced by conifer trees are directly related to the upcoming winter season. A higher than expected numbers of pine cones, which are exceptionally large, is considered proof that cold temperatures and severe weather are on the way.

A harsh winter might also be indicated by thicker acorn shells, apple skins, corn husks, and onion skins, as well as brighter autumn foliage.

Weather Patterns

Folklore and old wives’ tales also refer to weather patterns to predict severe winter weather. According to legend, heavy fog in August could indicate heavy snowfall during the winter season. Lightning in winter might indicate snow would begin within the next 10 days. In contrast, if the first snow falls on unfrozen ground, the winter season is expected to be mild.

The Old Farmers’ Almanac

Each year, the Old Farmers’ Almanac publishes its highly-anticipated long-range winter weather forecast. Although, according to the official website, the almanac’s forecasters use a combination of climatology, meteorology, and solar science, the forecasters have never released their specific formula.

Despite the fact that it is likely based on some degree folklore, The Old Farmers’ Almanac contends its winter weather predictions are 80 percent accurate.

The 2016-2017 winter weather season is several weeks away for a majority of the United States. However, predictions and long-term forecasts have already become a hot topic of discussion. The addition of some folklore and old wives’ tales simply adds another interesting layer to the conversation.

[Featured Image by PatriciaDz/Shutterstock]