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Snow Lore 101

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Snow Lore 101

Weather folklore remains one of the most popular topics readers ask about, especially in the weeks and months leading up to winter each year. This fall alone, we received hundreds of emails and comments, both here and on our Facebook page, from readers sharing their predictions for the coming season. Based on the shape inside persimmon seeds, the width of the stripes on woolly bear caterpillars, the behavior of insects, or the thickness of farm animals’ fur, would-be prognosticators come out of the woodwork every year to offer their pronouncements.

Over the years, we’ve listed many of the most widely known bits of folklore for predicting everything from a rainstorm to a hard winter. Now that winter is nearly upon us, though, the biggest question most people have is, “How much snow are we going to get?”

With that in mind, here’s a look at some folklore specific to snow:

Snow Lore

  • As many days old as is the moon on the first snow, there will be that many snowfalls by crop planting time.
  • If ant hills are high in July, winter will be snowy.
  • If the first week in August is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long.
  • For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall the following winter.
  • Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry will cause snow to gather in a hurry.
  • As high as the weeds grow, so will the bank of snow.
  • A green Christmas = a white Easter.
  • If the first snowfall lands on unfrozen ground, winter will be mild.
  • If there is thunder in winter, it will snow seven days later.
  • See how high the hornet’s nest, ’twill tell how high the snow will rest.
  • The higher muskrats’ holes are on the riverbank, the higher the snow will be.
  • A halo ’round the moon means ’twill rain or snow soon.

What are your favorite signs for predicting that a big snow is on the way?

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1 Aleta Sullivan { 12.28.17 at 11:20 am }

Old mountain saying: the fire is tromping snow. My granny in the North Georgia mountains used this when sparkles ignited in the air outside of the wood heater, just after opening the door to replenish wood. These just happened in central Mississippi. We’ll see if snow follows. It is predicted for us.

2 Geoff { 09.24.17 at 11:41 pm }

Handed down, over many generations: “If you see the birds a flockin’, in six weeks the snow comes a knockin’.” I’m usually pretty amazed by how accurate that ends up being. This was from a southern Minnesota perspective for forecasting the first snow of the year.

3 Drew Chandler { 08.28.17 at 4:35 pm }

What is the first date of snowfall for 2017?

4 Rooty-Kazootie { 01.06.17 at 2:56 pm }

My born & raised Bostonian Mom always said, “When it snows like sand, it will cover the land. If it’s big as a feather, it won’t last forever.” Works EVERY time!

5 Angela { 01.05.17 at 5:21 pm }

Found this page on a hunt to know: what does it mean when hundreds of robins are going crazy in our yard after a big snowstorm? Hundreds. Flitting all about the trees, landing on the deck railings to drink the melting snow, flying into our windows too. I’m guessing they were holed up during the storm and are excited to get out and find food and water today?

6 Gene { 01.30.16 at 5:21 am }

This is a winter snow guide from farmers almanac! Enjoy

7 mary knight { 01.29.16 at 11:14 am }

Here in Oklahoma, I’ve watched the small black birds that show up in late summer or fall. If they swarm in large numbers, but make no calling sounds, a cold dry front is coming. If they also make sounds, there will be some precipitation with it.

8 David Dalton { 01.28.16 at 8:17 pm }

My mother always said: If the flakes at the beginning of a storm are very tiny, you are in for a big one, If large, you will have flurries or a light accumulation
Both of these proved true in this Snowcopolyse (friday, sat, and sun of last week), and the one on wednesday before then. Large flakes wednesday evening resulted in less than an inch, and beginning friday, well, we on the east coast know about that one, which started as real tiny flakes for about 1 to 2 hours.

9 Samantha Gray { 01.28.16 at 6:54 pm }

In the winter months on Long Island people often say that a “snow sky” is a cloudy sky appearing to have a pink tinge. I’ve noticed that for years and it always snows when that happens.

10 donna { 01.27.16 at 10:31 pm }

my grandpa used to say..if you see a flock of birds flying but you never see the end of the group, it’s going to be a bad winter…so far i have seen 3 bigs groups without seeing an end to we on the east coast have seen 1 bad storm, 2 more to go before the warm weather starts in probably mid-may, cause around here april can have some chilly days.

11 M.Conroy { 01.27.16 at 9:07 pm }

Native Americans always knew. by how big, the, White mans , wood pile is,

12 Myrna { 01.27.16 at 7:41 pm }

I was told that the date of the first tracking snow (snow that is deep enough to see your tracks) is how many snowfalls that Winter. i.e. if the first snow is on the 3rd day of the month, it will snow 3 more times that Winter, with enough snowfall to see your tracks.

13 Kathy Hill { 01.27.16 at 11:47 am }

I have heard that if it thunders in Janurary it will flood in July.I also have seen this happen several times.

14 Darcel Hunter { 01.27.16 at 10:22 am }

They say, an abundance of acorns means a harsh winter. There were tons of acorns last year, more than we have ever gotten in Northern California. So far we have had the much needed rain that California needs.

15 Ronnie Thomas { 01.22.16 at 7:16 pm }

Pigs gathering sticks…really? A narrow orange band on the wooley worm indicates heavy snow, while, wide band indicates bitter cold winter. Dismissed this theory as that I have seen many of both in the same season…of course, could have had a little of both.

16 Ronnie Thomas { 01.22.16 at 7:07 pm }

God gave the animals immaculate instincts…If you observe a very large amount of song birds feeding frantically, this could be a sign of snow or ice. Just an observation over the past decades.

17 Neil Wisler { 01.12.16 at 10:41 pm }

Have any of them proven to be true? Have any of these calims been investigated?

18 Thomas Wayne { 11.22.15 at 8:23 am }

Also, “a green January, a full cemetery” and “green Christmas/full graveyard” were things the elders used to say around here; and “if you get your April in February, you’ll get your February in April.”

19 Thomas Wayne { 11.22.15 at 8:22 am }

Help me out: My dad used to call snow that only stuck to the tops of the grass (here in Ohio) “rabbit tide,” and to this day I do not know why.

20 nason { 03.02.15 at 9:12 am }

What does it mean when it thunders while it’s snowing?

21 Tam { 02.26.15 at 6:56 pm }

I watch our evergreens. The more pinecone it produces the more terrible winter we are gonna have. However, being from Ontario Canada,you can bet we are going to see a lot of snow and blistering cold. Meh. We just deal with it. And when Tim Hortons introduces the annual Roll up the Rim, we know Spring is around the corner. Eventually.

22 Jenny Taylor { 02.26.15 at 6:15 pm }

My grandfather used to say that if the snow didn’t melt all over and there were patches lingering it was waiting on more.

23 vicki spleas { 02.26.15 at 4:15 pm }

Lots of birds in the yard looking for food

24 Debi Thornton { 02.26.15 at 3:56 pm }

Thunder in February frost in May.

25 Lorraine Peckham { 02.26.15 at 3:45 pm }

The saying I was raised with is,Snow calling Snow.The longer the Snow laid in the ground,the longer it was calling for Snow again.I have said this saying many times my self . True or not,I love the old saying’s,they had a purpose .

26 A Harbinger of Frost | suzansays { 10.04.14 at 8:54 am }

[…] snowfall this winter.  Our morning fogs came in September this year, not August. But, according to Snow Lore 101, we should see snow 4 ft high.   […]

27 R. Land { 05.13.14 at 10:07 pm }

When are the 3 ice kings may. These are the last frost days

28 Kyle King { 12.07.13 at 2:49 am }

I’ve always been told to watch the persimmon trees if there alot of persimmons then alot of snow if there’s fewer then less snow

29 Margaet Prior Boyer { 12.20.12 at 3:16 pm }

My dad, Ed. Prior was usually always right in that from the date of first snow on the ground count backwards to the last new moon. However many days is how many snows there will be during the winter.

30 Lou Lipschitz { 01.16.12 at 4:49 pm }

If a squirrels tail is really bushy, then expect a cold winter.

31 Giny Bagwell Gi { 02.09.11 at 6:49 pm }

I love snow! I hope you all are right about about a lot of robins in your yard means snow’s coming. This afternoon I counted TWENTY ONE robins in my backyard at the same time and the front yard was full also. Local weather calling for snow tonight in Greensboro.

32 Joycee { 02.06.11 at 10:49 am }

Lynie, I always heard that if you see a fuzzy black caterpiller that means snow and the more you see the more snow you’ll have. I guess everyone has there own folklore that someone goes by. We watch the birds but this year they have been confused. You can see robins in abundance in the trees here in the Heartland. Don’t know what to make of it.

33 Chris Wight { 02.03.11 at 10:07 am }

One of my favorite indicators of big snow is that many kinds of birds leave the area. Where do they go? Surely it is someplace where they can get to berries and other food readily. They will return when they can feast in your area once again.

34 Pat Fox { 01.20.11 at 3:05 pm }

A friend of mine told me that her grandmother always said that if the snow lays on the ground here in SC for three days, there will be more snow soon. I believe that might be true….it snowed pretty heavily in SC statewide on December 26. Then again on January 10, so much that it stayed on the ground for over five days….we’ll see what happens next.

35 Jef Narog { 01.19.11 at 6:44 pm }

From Sherry Thornton: If the oak trees produce a lot of acorns, there will be a hard winter. This is absolutely true. I have a 150-year-old oak tree in my yard, and every time it produces a bumper crop of acorns, we get a LOT of snow. We got more acorns from this tree than ever before this year, and we’ve had record snowfall here in Connecticut.

36 Betty Hopkins { 01.16.11 at 12:39 pm }

I would like to know what a solid white wolly worm means cause I have seen several of them in the fall this past year.

37 Tami { 01.14.11 at 2:08 pm }

What does a twirling of the snow like a tornado in an open field mean…

38 Karen Renfroe-Gielgens { 01.13.11 at 10:25 pm }

I always watch to see how high up in the trees the squirrels make their nests. If they are at the top of the tree you can be sure snow will come that winter. It hasn’t failed me yet. We live in Seattle, Wa.

39 Leanne { 01.13.11 at 6:23 pm }

We raise sheep and if we’re going to have a significant snow fall they’re on their feet all day eating. They never rest.
We just recently had snow but it was only 1 1/2 inches and I don’t recall seeing them panic.

40 Cherie A. Dodds { 01.13.11 at 3:55 pm }

I have always been told ” Thunder in January, snow in February”. Hasn’t me failed yet.

41 Shelly Fair { 01.13.11 at 1:32 pm }

If you hear the sound of feet tromping (like walking in the snow) from the wood burning in the fire place, it’s fixin to snow!

42 shiloah { 01.12.11 at 9:36 pm }

Just the other day when my husband took out our birdseed there were 18 deer in our backyard feeding and feeding for hours.. the next day it snowed 9 inches…they would normally come and stay a while then leave..They are born with that instinct God gave them..

43 Audrey, NY { 01.12.11 at 8:05 pm }

The thickness of the onion skins determines the severity of winter. Thick skin, alot of snow and cold. Thin skin, mild winter

44 cindy { 01.12.11 at 7:00 pm }

LOL (Robin Hood) I’ve always been told that the earlier the squirrels start to gather their winters bounty the snowier it will be, but the wild life here in Kansas has been very strange and hard to read this season, as the robins are still abundant as I speak, used to be we did’nt see them until the first sign of spring and we have 8ins. of snow on the ground, they did’nt fly south this year I hav’nt seen anything like it before.

45 Joan { 01.12.11 at 4:29 pm }

If catapillars have thick rings, look for a cold winter

46 julie { 01.12.11 at 3:11 pm }

We know there is going to be bad weather by just looking out our kitchen window at the bird feeders. The birds flock to them for a feast every time before the bad weather hits!

47 sherri lange { 01.12.11 at 2:45 pm }

If an elephant can walk on a pond before Christmas, a mouse won’t be able to after the New Year.

48 Gardener { 01.12.11 at 1:33 pm }

The thing I find amazing is that animals in general can tell when the weather is changing. I just wish I were better at understanding them all!

49 Robert { 01.12.11 at 1:30 pm }

I’ve read that you can predict the harshness of the winter by the thickness of berries on Holly trees. My trees were virtually red this year and we’ve hard 4 snows already and a record number of days below freezing in December…in North Carolina! Certainly unusual…

50 Michael Manicone { 01.12.11 at 1:17 pm }

It may snow if the sky appears to “glow” as the sun shines through the haziness of the moisture in the air.

51 Sheridan Crawford { 01.12.11 at 1:05 pm }

I have some to notice that if it snows enough to plow the driveway and I do indeed plow, it will snow twice as much in the next 8 hours. I have also noticed that after I plow a second time, it will rain for 2-3 days then freeze hard for 2-3 days after that – whereupon I will sand the driveway, then it will snow and rain on top of that…

52 Sport Weddel { 01.12.11 at 12:22 pm }

My Grandpa once told me toungue in cheek that it was going to be an expecially harsh winter because the cows had longer hair on the North sides of their bodies!!!

53 Jane Hanlon { 01.12.11 at 11:43 am }

I’ve always heard whatever day the 1st snow comes on is however many snows we’ll have for the winter. I’ve also heard the redder the skies, greater the chance of snow that’s coming soon! Happy 2011, ya’all! Oh, and I just found out yesterday that there’s only 1 state that hasn’t had any snow this year. That state is Florida. Imagine that.

54 Robin Hood { 01.12.11 at 11:35 am }

My Dad used to say.”son, if you see snow on the ground it snowed and if the ground is wet you can bet it either rained or that dang neighbors dog has been over here again”

55 Shanda { 01.12.11 at 11:32 am }

When we see the birds gathering, we know it is going to snow. the more the birds the more snow will arr.ive

56 Rolph Kullander { 01.12.11 at 10:36 am }

The first snow of the year, big enough to track a rabbit, the day of the month tells you how many snows there will be big enough to track a rabbit.

57 Lynie { 01.12.11 at 10:35 am }

My Grand Father told me when I was growing up on his farm that in the fall if you see a fuzzy catapillar with a wide black band is will be a milder winter. If there is a very small black band…….very, very, cold winter!!!! I miss my Grand Father.

58 Cullen Wharton { 01.12.11 at 10:19 am }

My grandfather use to tell if it starts to snow to stop and look at the snow falling and see which direction it coming from. If it coming from the east then we have a large amount.

59 Jo West { 01.12.11 at 9:57 am }

My Dad used to tell us that if you see large flocks of birds feeding in the front yard a big snow is on the way.

60 Terry D Stout { 01.12.11 at 9:46 am }

“little snow, big snow; big snow, little snow” I am in northeastern Washington State. Fourty years ago and old man who taught me a lot about the north country told me that. It is a rule of thumb that has rarely fooled me.

61 CA { 01.12.11 at 9:38 am }

If the amount of acorns an oak produces indicates a mild or hard winter then look out. The acorn mast was the heaviest I’ve ever seen here in S.W. Mich. Then again I did find a blonde wooly bear caterpillar.

62 Phil Hoge { 01.12.11 at 9:37 am }

We watch for the increased activity of the hawks. They are always very active before a major weather system arrives. It usually occurs about 24 hour ahead of the change. They can predict snow in Winter or rain in Summer with great accuracy.

63 Richard Fitzgerald { 01.12.11 at 9:26 am }

An old friend of mine said, “If there a mackerel sky, it will rain or snow withi the next 48 hours.”

64 Jeff Fortney { 01.12.11 at 9:11 am }

Take what the prognosticators say and reverse it .

65 Debby Hall { 01.12.11 at 5:27 am }

Horses and cows know it is going to be cold and get their thick winter coats early.

66 Sherry Thornton { 01.11.11 at 12:00 pm }

If the oak trees produce a lot of acorns, there will be a hard winter.

67 Mary Lou Bonnifield { 01.11.11 at 10:53 am }

There is a saying here in South Central Minnesota “little snow, big snow; big snow, little snow”. Meaning little snow flakes indicate there will be a large snowfall, large flakes indicate a small snowfall.

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