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