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20 Signs Of A Hard Winter Ahead

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20 Signs Of A Hard Winter Ahead

Before there were weather apps for your smartphone, Doppler radar, or the National Weather Service, people looked to the signs of nature to prepare for what’s to come. A wonderful friend of Farmers’ Almanac’s Editor, Ray Geiger’s, Cleveland weather guru Dick Goddard put together a laundry list of 20 signs of nature that can predict a harsh winter ahead. We featured these in the 1978 Farmers’ Almanac, and it is still relevant today.

20 Signs of A Hard Winter

Here are the signs of a hard winter to come according to folklore:

  1. Thicker-Than-Normal Corn Husks.
  2. Woodpeckers Sharing a Tree.
  3. The Early Arrival of the Snowy owl.
  4. The Early Departure of Geese and Ducks.
  5. The Early Migration of the Monarch butterfly.
  6. Thick Hair on the Nape of a Cow’s Neck.
  7. Heavy and Numerous Fogs During August.
  8. Raccoons With Thick Tails and Bright Bands.
  9. Mice Chewing Furiously To Get Into Your Home.
  10. The Early Arrival of Crickets on the Hearth.
  11. Spiders Spinning Larger-Than-Usual Webs and Entering the House in Great Numbers.
  12. Pigs Gathering Sticks.
  13. Ants Marching in a Line Rather Than Meandering.
  14. Early Seclusion of Bees Within the Hive.
  15. Unusual Abundance of Acorns.
  16. Muskrats Burrowing Holes High on the River Bank.
  17. “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.”
  18. The Size of the Orange Band on the Woollybear (or Woollyworm) Caterpillar. According to folklore, if the caterpillar’s orange band is narrow, the winter will be snowy; conversely, a wide orange band means a mild winter. All black caterpillars are not Woollybears. And fuzzier-than-normal woollybear caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.
  19. Squirrels Gathering Nuts Early to Fortify Against a Hard Winter.
  20. Frequent Halos or Rings Around the Sun or Moon Forecasts Numerous Snowfalls.

What signs of a hard winter are you seeing in your back yard?


1 Luck Of The Draw | Leading A Horticulture { 11.12.16 at 4:17 am }

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9 Anne { 11.18.09 at 2:57 pm }

Here is SLC UT I have never had so many spiders migrate into my house during fall. I can’t say I like it! But wonder if it means a harder winter.

10 Mary { 11.08.09 at 3:12 pm }

We have had an abundance of acorns dropping here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania starting early fall. My dad remarks he can’t remember the last time his 30-year old oak dropped so profusely. The squirrels can’t keep up. Are we in for a rough winter? And the trees are holding their leaves.

11 Sasha { 10.09.09 at 6:14 pm }

Acorns acorns acorns… I live in Northern Ca. and this year we have acorns larger than I have ever seen. Big whoppers that really are loud on the deck when they fall from our Oak trees. I think that there are more acorns than usual as well. The crickets are very noisey at night and I don’t remember ever hearing them that loud. I noticed that someone else wrote this but we also have seen many mother deer with twins, I can’t recall seeing a mom with just one baby. Should be an interesting winter!

12 margaret yagoda { 09.28.09 at 11:23 am }

We are in New London Ohio and are surrounded by oak trees. The acorns are falling on our camper making it sound like bombs going off! This is the first time I have ever experienced this. Walking is impossible!

13 Chas { 09.22.09 at 6:30 pm }

6 min until its fall!!!!!!!!

14 Chas { 09.22.09 at 6:15 pm }

To John : Goose never migrate in nebraska.

15 Mike M { 09.20.09 at 1:21 pm }

All summer I was noticing that all of the pine trees around my area just north of Boston are absolutely laden with pine cones right at the very top of the tree. I’ve never seen this many pine cones before. Early on they were difficult to see because they were green but I first noticed them because the extra weight was making those upper limbs droop. Now that they’re turning brown they’re easy to see.

Does it mean anything about what the tree ‘thinks’ is coming or only a response to the cool damp weather we had for most of the summer around here? (It’s been cool and dry around here lately though)

16 John Pearson { 09.17.09 at 11:08 pm }

Checking in from East Tennessee.
1. Seeing lots of black hairy caterpillars. No orange visible–solid black.
2. Excessive abundance of acorns this year. All of the oaks around the house are bombarding the roof and deck. Things that go bump in the night.

3. Squirells are busy all day long gathering the abundance of acorns.

4. Excessive spiderwebs.

5. As of today, the geese are still around.

17 Chas { 09.17.09 at 7:01 pm }

Major cooldown next week, do not know how long it would last…..and I still see Monarch butterflies. The warmness in the north is caused by what?

18 debbie young { 09.16.09 at 5:20 pm }

i’ve seen big black wooly worms here in S.E. Texas and you could’nt see through them do’es this mean our winter will be colder and harder than usual?
please help me

19 mountainsister { 09.16.09 at 12:22 am }

The humans in WV are really out there cutting wood. Lots of cool foggy mornings and an abundance of acorns. My bears are mating again this season. I think it will be a bad winter especially since my snow tires are almost bald.

20 Tina { 09.11.09 at 4:55 pm }

We live in Central Texas. The “earlier” of our Native Pecan trees are beginning to lose their leaves, and the leaves on our Bur Oak are showing signs of age.

21 Sharon { 09.10.09 at 11:44 pm }

I live in East TN. and I have noticed the squirrels are taking more walnuts this year than last, for sure. Also have been seeing more spider webs and more spiders than usual. I very well remember the squirrels were so busy, they were bumping heads trying to hide nuts in the fall of 1992, and then on March 13, 1993 we were hit with a blizzard. It rained, turned to thick ice on roads, and then snowed, and drifted deeper in some areas. I didn’t drive for 9 days, the temperature stayed below 32 at night so the snow stayed awhile. The kids could only play in it 15 min. at a time, because it was so very cold. First the snow had to melt, then the ice, the ice was 3 inches thick on the roads. Just stay safe, and watch the news.

22 Chas { 09.10.09 at 7:14 pm }

also seen alot of baby robins in july and baby b jays in august/september,grackles in july

23 Chas { 09.09.09 at 8:59 pm }

TOO MUCH ACORNS. More than usual amounts of geese flying south. Heavy fog this month. Big webs. 1-2 Bees alone

24 Jim Gibbons { 08.29.09 at 2:47 pm }

We have had canadian geese around most of the summer. Also, the desert Quail have had lots of little ones.

Heard from Al Gore?

25 Michelle { 08.20.09 at 11:58 pm }

In Salt Lake City today, August 20th, 2009, and my husband and I saw lots of geese already heading south. I guess we’re in for a hard winter this year.

26 barbara kennedy { 08.18.09 at 6:38 pm }

today is august 18, 2009. wondering if we are going to have an early winter. seeing monarch migration for the past week, abundance of green acorns falling, and squirrels are very busy. we are in the sierra foothills about 45 miles NE of sacramento, ca.

27 kate suss { 07.14.09 at 9:09 pm }

I have seen many does with fawns the last few weeks and they ALL have twins,I have never seen this before.Is it because we had such a cold winter here in the northeast or this winter is going to be worse?

28 as you know { 07.09.09 at 5:27 pm }

As you all know…the winter of 2008 was TERRIBLE in the Mid West…ice storms that nearly distroyed Kentucky and parts of Indiana. Yeah…I’m gonna watch what nature does this year, soI’ll be better prepared!!

29 Kimber { 12.01.08 at 3:18 pm }

Well I am all confused, cause I have seen hornet nests built both up high, and down low. But then I have also seen the wooly worm in solid black and with the fat orange stripe. What is the winter of 2008 really gonna be like this year?

30 Rhonda { 11.06.08 at 4:02 am }

I’m in Southern California and we are having a huge increase in crickets. This fall we are having 2-3 a night in the house and hundreds outside. It is the same for our whole neighborhood. I hope it means a wet winter as we could really use it here.

31 Yvonne { 11.05.08 at 9:47 pm }

East Tennessee. I live partly in a forest. I Have had a hot dry summer, well year rather. My Oak trees have hardly put out acorns. I suppose it’s due to the drought. Although the humming birds did leave in mid September. I have a cloud of Lady Bugs that are moving into my attic and finding their way into my house. Could that be a sign of a hard winter?

32 Jean { 11.04.08 at 11:43 am }

I live in Rhode Island and this has been a very mild Fall so far. The first time I can remember no leaves on the ground for Halloween. Theyt just started dropping last week and the tress are still full. Not the ususal mess of leaves in the street we usually have by end of October. I am looking out my window now an an expanse of color witrh 69 dwgree temperatures predicted for today and low 60’s the rest of the week. We have had 1 mild frost so far, nothing substantial. If that is any predictor for winter, I’ll place MY money on a mild winter here at lrast.

33 Cold in SC { 11.02.08 at 1:33 pm }

Here in the Upstate of SC we have been experienceing warm days and freezing nights already. It was extremely dry this past summer. The monarch all was migrating in july, not sure if that is normal for them. The pecan trees all are wieghted down with pecans, breaking the limbs. The acorns are huge and falling like hail outta the sky. I have found 3 wolly bears and all 3 were solid white, no orange or brown to them at all and fat as my thumb. The squirrels are all gathering pecans, but not burying them just putting them under tuffs of grass. I haven’t seen as many geese as we normally have around here. I say we are in for one heck of a winter. We are over due for it, like Shannon from ATL said it’s been a while since we have had a good snow. I say it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for the winter ahead.

34 Lance Uppercut { 10.17.08 at 10:41 am }

Re Claptrap:

A huge part of science has to do with the observation of nature. You can learn a lot from being in touch with the land and a wholesale discounting of behavioral cues displayed by the animal/insect kingdom is flawed logic.

35 Shannon { 10.17.08 at 12:08 am }

I live 30 min. outside Atlanta and have a huge yard with ancient oaks.
There is a major bumper crop of acorns on the ground everwhere – and an unusually large population of squirrels that have sprung up. We haven’t had a really hard snow in more than 10 years – I think we’re over due down here.
For those of you who are sceptic’s: when it’s overcast, don’t you think “its going to rain”? If you have studied anything about our world’s past weather then you know that there are cycles and signs. You are foolish just to dismiss it. The animals plan ahead – don’t you? Even bugs plan ahead. Just because you can’t sense what they sense doesn’t mean its not for real.
Remember the tsunami? All the animals ran for higher ground/
remember those elephants that
saved those tourists?
I think I’m going to take nature’s hint and plan ahead.

36 Charlie H. { 10.09.08 at 12:27 pm }

Doug the Sceptic (sic),

Some people take a leap of faith with these things and you should not be so dismissive. People of science are disproved all the time.

I’d also advise in these difficult economic times that you not bet a year’s salary on anything outside of the sun rising in the east.

I did enjoy your use of the word “claptrap” however. For those who would like a definition:

“Absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas.”

37 Doug the sceptic { 10.09.08 at 12:11 pm }

Please tell me you are kidding. For example, squirrels gathering their nuts early? Really? Squirrels will gather nuts whenever they are available. If the nuts are early, it has nothing to do with future weather; it has everything to do with the weather up to this point.

Anyone who believes this claptrap needs to have their head examined. You can no more predict the weather using these techniques than by reading the leaves left in your tea cup.

If you don’t believe me, keep track of this junk and the subsequent weather for a decade, then go back and see how accurate they predicted the weather. I’ll bet a year’s salary that there is no correlation.

No wonder this country cannot keep up, we substitute premonition for scientific reason.

38 Hannah { 10.06.08 at 6:56 pm }

We cut open a persimmon plant here in Oklahoma this year….and it showed a “shovel” which means a harsh winter with heavy and wet snow.

A “fork” means a mild winter with light powdery snow

A “knife” means an icy winter with cutting winds.

Also, we have seen a lot of squirrels gathering their nuts early….and they have built their nests low in the trees which predicts that winter will be bad.

39 keith { 10.01.08 at 6:58 pm }

9 persimmons 7 spoons 1 knife and a snow shovel and woolly bears seen like a dozen or so all were black as coal unusually thick to been bow hunting the last two weeks under a hickory tree so many nuts very thick husk and i watch squirrels all day there thick tails follow them around as they burry all those hickory nuts and the spider webs are numerous and large fog was nearly a daily occurrence in aug (and i dont live near a river lol) and all the peach and apple orchards said there having a bumper crop one longtime farmer said this is the most peaches per tree hes seen in his 38 years of experience doves nearly all flew south befor the season even open o and sun spot are at a fifty year low over 200 spotless days so far thats remarkable with 3 months left in the year a cooler world wide the last 4 months and the pacific ocean as cold as its been in years so write out of your mouth “numbing cold” keith in mo

40 Cindy { 09.22.08 at 11:55 am }

Eastern Oklahoma the persimmons have spoons, the maple tree leaves are turning red and falling and yes the crickets are on the move.

41 Jenny { 09.16.08 at 10:42 pm }

I am English and grew up in England. We were always told thaat an overabundance of berries on trees and bushes heralded a harder than usual Winter. I am noticing this in Michigan this year. Has any one else heard of this? My husband doesn’t believe me but it seems to fall under the category of an abundance of acorns which you write about here.

42 Miss Britt { 09.15.08 at 8:45 pm }

I live in MO and I’ve already seen numerous geese flying south, and there’s been so much fog lately. Some trees are already starting to change…

43 Grantit { 09.05.08 at 5:14 pm }

Cricket are moving in the garage to keep warm.

44 nolalove { 09.02.08 at 7:42 pm }

Hi from Kentucky. I live right outside of Louisville and I’ve noticed leaves already on the ground. It’s been hot & humid here, so I think the leaves are dying & not turning to fall. We haven’t had a good rain in close to a month. My father though noticed today that we have fuzzy; solid black caterpillars in our yard. Not sure what this means, but I think the almanac stated this part of the country (southeast) is suppose to have a regular/mild winter. We are overdue a hard, wet winter. We usually get one every 4-5 years. This past winter we didn’t get cold weather or noticeable snow amount til mid Feb to mid March. Bad winters here consist of regular snow falls of 8″ plus.

45 Jim Buchanan { 09.02.08 at 3:38 pm }

I drove through the Poconos and No. NJ over the weekend and saw some color in trees in both places. I believe this can be attributed to the cool nights and bright days we’ve had in the past few weeks. Whether it predicts an early Fall/Winter, I don’t know.

46 Theresa Warner { 09.02.08 at 11:51 am }

We also have seen Heavy fog in August this year. I can`t remember when that has happened in the past.

47 Theresa Warner { 09.02.08 at 11:48 am }

Here is South East Ohio, we have seen the Geese Flying South in a V formation the last week or 2 in August.

48 melissa kearby { 09.01.08 at 8:05 pm }

its just now september and i noticed already ducks flying south.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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