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Can’t Take the Heat? Think About Winter!

Here are some tools you can use to make your own predictions for the upcoming winter.

Winter is only a few months away and, judging by your comments and questions on our winter forecast page, many of you are anxious for the coming winter. After all, our long-range forecasts (judged to be 80%–85% accurate by readers who have tracked it) have helped savvy weather watchers plan for winter for over 200 years.

Did you also know you can head outside and try to figure out for yourself whether or not your area will have a tough winter in the coming year? Weather folklore is a constant topic of interest around here, and there are literally dozens, maybe even hundreds, of bits of lore out there about signs of a harsh winter ahead.

We’ve shared most of these before, but here are just a few things you can look at to judge whether or not that a long, cold winter is on the way:

Folklore Says These Signs From Nature Foretell The Winter Ahead

Here’s the shortlist of our “20 Signs of A Hard Winter Ahead.”

Plants: Are the cornhusks thicker than normal? Is there an unusual abundance of acorns, or are they earlier than usual? Cut open a (locally-grown) persimmon seed. What do you see? A knife shape means a cold, icy winter, with wind that cuts like a knife, is on the way. A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape represents a shovel for all of the snow you’ll be getting.

Farm Animals: Inspect the hair on the nape of the cow’s neck. Is it thicker than usual? Are the pigs gathering sticks?

Wild Animals: Do the raccoons have extra-thick tails with bright bands? Are the mice more insistent about sneaking into your home? Are the squirrels gathering nuts earlier than usual? Look to see how high the muskrats’ holes are on the riverbank. The higher the burrow, the higher the snow will be.

Birds: Are woodpeckers sharing trees? Has the snowy owl arrived early in your area? Are geese and ducks flying south earlier than normal?

Insects: Have the Monarch butterflies migrated early? Are ants marching in a line, rather than meandering? Have the bees secluded themselves in their hives earlier than normal? How high is the hornet’s nest? According to lore, this “‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.” Find a woolly bear caterpillar. Is it especially fat and fuzzy? Is the orange band in the middle particularly narrow? Are the crickets coming inside? Are spiders spinning larger than usual webs or entering your house in greater numbers?

Other Signs: Heavy and numerous fogs during the month of August are said to presage a hard winter. Likewise, frequent halos or rings around the Sun or Moon.

Surprising Health Benefits of Cold Weather

Let us know in the comments section below if you’ve noticed any of these signs of a hard winter!

Farmers' Almanac - Itch
Jaime McLeod

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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Maureen

Lots of early morning fog in central Illinois

Sandra Daeschler

Live outside of Buffalo N.y and noticed for about one week now that suddenly when my Himilayan cats fur was very thin or thinner, its coming in thick very fast ! This usually does not happan until Fall. Maybe a early fall for 2012?

sue

Can anyone tell me why so many geese are heading south right now? I have lived in Oregon my entire life and I have never seen this before?

Kris

I have noticed the squirrels are hiding their nuts in weird places. They have put them on my window sills in the corners and on my roof behind the chimney. My Mom says the have been doing it at her house too. We live in northern Illinois. The wooly worms have a thin orange stripe. Makes me wonder!!!

Weatherfan

There has been lots of crickets coming into my house, and have been seeing large spider webs form on the corners of certain areas outside. I saw a few squirrels with rather bushy tails running around gathering. I have rarely seen any butterflies, and the only ones that I did spot was a yellow one and brown one, but no monarchs at all. Weeds have grown ridiculously tall (3-4 ft) in some areas, and bees have been absent for a while, but were building nests above ground the last time I saw them. First week of August, except the first, was very hot as well. All signs are pointing toward a hard winter for my area! 🙂
– Gastonia, NC

Sharon

I really enjoy this topic, I even look for it every year. So far this year in south east TN. I have seen more spiders than usual, we have had 19 fogs here, thus far, and the squirrels are very busy and hiding walnuts in odd places. I have to wait until later to find wooly worms, the dreaded color is “all black”. All black means long, cold, winter. The wooly worms are different by county and state so it’s nice you say west N.C. that’s a clue of your county and he said “all black”, so I am neighbor to west N. C. It should be interesting to what I find. If I can I will send another post. Thanks for your views, I read them all!

liz

Well, I have been checking my fall clothing for size, putting away the planters and just darn it, it’s been just too dry and hot and can’t wait till the cool weather gets here! Is that a sign? lol

Miss Maggie

I have not seen the woolly worms yet. I am in Kentucky, Northern section, and we have already had numerous fogs, record breaking humidity, squirrels are working overtime here as well. I do not have any animals to check the fur on however. I feel like we will get a BIG bunch of snow this Winter. I look forward to it.

Barara

Hickory Nuts are breaking limbs, they are so heavy. Hummingbirds cannot get enough to eat,filling feeders everyday, It seems we will be right on the line living in NW Arkansas, close to MO.????????? Butterflys everywhere, spiders are in abundance,but NO FOGS yet

Mike Manton

I live in Cleveland Ohio and i have been noticing a lot of halos around the moon and sun of lately. When i drive the roads at night i do run into a lot of ground fog around the area. The other sign i see that could be a sign of a snowy at the very least winter is that Lake Erie is over 75 degress in most areas and the last time i saw that was in 2002 or something like that and when that happen most places around Cleveland got 100 plus inches of snow….

To me it looks like it could be a long winter for most people in the NE Ohio.. Note to all of you i was a trained weather observer/Tech in the US Navy…

Dawn V.

Well, my siberian husky blows her coat 2x a year at the change of the seasons. She started to do that about a week and a half ago. And we have had lots of leaves falling off the trees. Even saw a leaf on the road that had turned color already. We live in Allegan, MI. We have had many foggy days in August so far also.

crackers

I live in Central Indiana and have not noticed the squirrels gathering nuts nor extreme amounts of acorns. I have seen a couple of woolly worms and they were a light brown color all the way across. Have not seen many crickets, not even in the garage. No more spiders then usual. But we are predicted to be in the battle zone and obviously if everyone south of us has all the factors the signs of a cold and snowy winter then that is what we will get. None of the signs are present here and the shucks on the corn are easy to pull off.

Lesile

Well, I do not know what to make of anything. My husband is usually pretty good at prediction the weather here in N.E Arkansas. From what I see from the prediction indicators, the ants are walking in straight lines and carrying their eggs, I guess. They are carrying something. I have thrown more cricket out in the past two months than I have in a very long time. I usually dont get crickets in my house..The spider webs have not been particurlarly big. Just alot of them, everywhere. Some trees are starting to turn already. Ihave a plum in the front yard that is turning.The heat has been just oppressive this summer. I dont think I have ever seen a wooly catapillar. We had the big ice storm in 2009 and two pretty big snow events this year in Jan and Feb And it was extremely cold for a long time this past winter. Then summer came on and we have very little blooming in the spring because it was just too hot. So, anyone got a guess for me?

trudy

I’ve noticed a lot of fog almost every morning in Aug. Have to start getting wood.

Joe

I live in west central Indiana. Hornets are build ing their round paper-like nest in bushes 4 feet off the ground. That’s a good sign, means not much snow. Around here,, If the squirrels build their nest high in the trees and out on the branches,, it’s a mild winter coming. If they build them low in the tree and close to the trunk—Bad winter. Been to darn hot for them to start building them yet around here.

Brad

I live in the NorthWest and there is crickets everywhere! We normally don’t have any to speak of, and the spiders are everywhere. Also the bee’s are staying very close to there hives unlike usually around here. My cat is starting to get some very thick fur, thicker than I have ever seen on him before (I’ve had him for 4yrs). So I really hope winter is going to be cold and VERY snowy this year, I’m waiting.

zach

i live in seattle washington i have seen big spider webs and just a week ago i was camping a mouse ran under are tent i killed by punching it when i saw it had thick fur coat

Gail

I live in central AL. and have noticed more spiders in my home (not webs so much) and the squirrels also seem to be busy. No acorns yet, but the ants are in a strait line. The heat here has been oppressive bring on the the cold temps!

MB

I did see a wooly bear caterpillar the other day and he had a very thin orange stripe. My horses are already starting to grow their winter coats – I just noticed some fuzz coming in on their necks yesterday, it’s light but it’s really early. The spiders here (I live in the Pacific NW) that usually come out in mid-August/September started coming out in July. The squirrels definitely seem very busy already! Also, the Canadian geese are coming through the area now. If only we knew what they all seem to know!

Sharon

Hmmmm…I haven’t noticed any of these signs. I am in MI…and the geese are still hanging around and are plentiful. My goats still have their summer cool coats….I’ll know what to expect when they start to grow their winter undercoats…the earlier they do, the sooner winter arrives….the thicker their coats…the colder it will be……they have always been spot on as far as predicting winter weather…in fact they are better at it then Farmers Almanac (sorry FA, but they haven’t been wrong in all the years I’ve had them….that is 100% accuracy) 🙂

Debbie

It is going to be a hard, cold winter with alot of moisture people…so those of you that burn wood in the winter…get extra. The geese/ducks have been flying South since the middle of July….all outside animals have started to thicken their fur…Squirrels are gathering nut galore…and bees/wasps/hornets are making their hives in the ground as well. Keep plenty of extra fuel on hand and emergency supplies…it’s going to be a hard one!!!

c

the birds i.e. ducks, geese seem to be leaving south florida due to the heat

fentress

Of the “signs” mentioned above, what I have noticed most is the CRICKETS everywhere. We don’t typically have many crickets here in N. Kentucky.

martha

Oh no ! It has been sooooo foggy in southern CA in July and now everyday in August so far. The week ahead looks like no change. Personally, I like it far better than the usual high heat, but if it means a tough winter, well, cold is okay just no El Nino please. The 60 days of heavy rains in ’96 caused collapsed roofs . hills sliding down hills, hills themselves sliding onto roads……….Please, mother nature, no more rain storms.

Marsha

Oh and if I’m inside, in the air conditioning, I want to turn it off, because it feels like it should be “fall”…. it’s rather gloomy and looks cold/cool, but then I walk outside and it’s in the high 80’s or 90’s. The fall smells are in the air too

Marsha

I live in western PA… In July we had a lot of fog and an extreme amount of heat (as most of the US has). I think we are in for more blizzards, much earlier than last… a hard winter

Linda Castle

Today is only the 6th of Augest, and in a half hours time I counted over a dozen flocks of geese flying south. I am in Michigan, near Lansing.

Erica

South central MI, been foggy the last few days, Hoping not to have a hard winter with tons of snow this year, considering I plowed my driveway 3 times in 24 hours and it’s not small…

Denise

I live in Northwest Pa. and have noticed alot of spiders and huge webs alot coming in the house and the ground hogs very fat the leaves are also starting to change and getting alot of fog havent seen any ants yet

Jim Raye

I live in Eastport, Maine and this has been the hottest summer I can ever remember. The hornets have built their nests in the ground this year. The have gone underneath the tree trunks in my extended lawn. Cannot weedwhack around the trees. To many nests.

Me

In RI the acorns have been falling for a while now, there are tons of them this year. And the squirrels are already building huge nests in the trees. As for the geese, they still walk up the street every morning! Very few bees in this area.

Steve White

I live in Yacolt, WA. Several mornings we have had heavy fog in the morning. Lived here for sometime now and have never seen it foggy in August. Normaly we get fog in late Sept or early Oct.

LovetheSeasons

I live in Central PA and have noticed the crab apples dropping, some leaves turning and the crows calling and making is sure sound like fall! I’ve seen the geese flying south and ants in a line. Also the spiders are moving in and making their webs larger. I’ve been collecting flower seeds for next year’s gardens along with some dried wild flowers for fall decorating. Even though it’s 90 outside, it sure acts like fall.

Eleaor Ruddiman

I live in the S.W. of Washington State. We have some foggy mornings some times the fog hides the hills around us. This the 2,3, 4th of Aug. only one catatapilar with wide orange band. Early mornings very chilly,had to turn on the furnace a few times. Late evening very cool. The cat is getting thicker hair now.

Shannon

I am in Central Texas, we go inside at night and have spider webs built on the vehicles by the time we leave in the morning! In the back acreage there are huge spider webs going from tree to tree, which is very unusual for around here! And, spiders are in the house this year like crazy! Crickets are everywhere inside and out and ants are on the move a lot more than usual.

boB

My great-grandfather passed down something my Dad always told me. When you see your first Katydid in the summer, you will see your first frost 90 days from then. I have kept track of this for the last 30+ years and it is surprisingly accurate. This year, I am predicting Oct.4 here in Palmyra, Tennessee.

starleneo

I have notice the ants in straight lines moving eggs lots of them. Everything here in Central IL is a month ahead of it self. Spider webs inside and out. The squrriels have eaten all my apples this year and has started eating my red tomatoes. The acorns i have noticed is all caps and nothing more. The trees are starting to turn the crab apples are falling already. Haven’t checked the persimmons yet and I haven’t seen the wooly worms yet.

Jerri

We live in the north Ga. mountains and I have notice the spider webs this summer are huge and had a problem with spider webs on my truck and in it.

snowlover

Now I’m going to bump into something walking with my head down looking for ants. How amazing! I’ve never heard of that one. I too live in Richmond, VA and I have noticed the leaves slowly changing. It’s kind of weird because although it’s almost 100 degrees outside; I still feel Autumn in the air! Thanks for the article. I’m one of those who enjoy reading about how wonderful nature is to give us signs. God is good. Afterall; we didn’t always have Meterologists! 🙂

blinkey

I live in scott cou ty Va. Spider webs everywhere. What we call jar flies seems like they are early this year. Ants everywhere, they are just wandering around. Walk out in the morning and spider webs hit you in the face. I beleive we will Have a warmer weather this year. Last winter we had power outages everywhere, some lasted as long as two weeks as well as in West Va.

DOG

There are many variations of the Persimmon seed theory as to which means what. I suppose it is where you live and traditions passed down.

Cheryl

I live in Northern California, I haven’t noticed the ants so much but the spider situation is out of control. The webs and the amounts of spiders this summer are huge. I’ve also noticed a large amount that I’ve never seen before. Very trippy. I even had a web in my car that freaked me out.

Nancy

Here in Mt. Pine, Ark. we have noticed squirrels gathering bird seed, and several wooley caterpillars, plus lots of spider webs around the windows, and more crickets than usual everywhere. Plus our goats aren’t losing their hair like last year. Seems thicker than normal.

Beverly

We do not have any acorns producing here in Ky, the ants have been meandering, the geese are still on the lake. The spiders have not started coming in, yet are still in the windows. I have only seen 1 wooly worm and it was solid white, kinda weird and haven’t seen any mice yet but with the dogs and cats probably won’t, thank goodness. I am ready for cooler weather but not ready to see summer end.

Cynthia

I live in Southern California and you predictions for the weather have been on the money for the summer here. I boast on it and the weathermen can’t hold a candle to you guys.
I have not noticed the changes that you have posted for an early winter and although there is no snow here and coming from the Midwest, I long for cooler weather and the “smells” of the seasons change. I will take some rain though cold winds.
Keep up the good work!

steve davis

I live in Cumberland Md an I had notice the ants marching in lines ,lots of foggy mornings.

Shirley

I was told that the ring on the wolly catapillar told of their age.

Kimberly

I am from Kentucky, I have noticed that the squirrels are working over time it seems and the mice are everywhere this year. The spider webs are huge this year, I have never seen them this big! Hope to see winter soon its too hot!!

Heather

I’m in central Florida, originally from Pittsburgh, PA and I love winter. Last winter’s unusual freezing temps at the beginning of the year here sent most Floridians into a tailspin, but I was in heaven and felt like I was home again. I was hoping for another long and what people around here would think is a blustery winter. The crickets have been coming into our house in droves and this house rarely gets insects in it. The spiderwebs have been massive outside in the citrus, oak and magnolia trees, but the most telling to me – I have a sappling chestnut tree from my grandparent’s yard in PA. I took it from the ground when it was just a fallen chestnut, brought it home in a bucket with some soil from the yard just to see if it would germinate and amazingly it grew despite the dramatic climate change. I was worried this year when the leaves started changing a week ago and browning. My uncle said several of his chestnut trees had begun to change already in PA.

Lisa

I live in CT, and in the 32 years I have lived on my land, this Spring was very different. The summer has been very different. No mosquito’s, few ants, huge spiders, fewer birds than ever. This Spring I had thousands of pine cones on my yard, thousands. I have been seeing the big woodpeckers and hear an owl in the evening. No migrating geese yet. Deer and bunnies are abundant, as well as wild turkeys.

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