Winter Weather Folklore


Fall is here and speculation about the upcoming winter is running rampant. Some are asking, “Did you see the Wolly Worms? It looks like it will be a bad winter.” But how accurate is that old winter folklore?

Have you ever heard, a warm October will lead to a cold February? That is not the case in Altoona. We tracked every year back through 1948. Out of the top ten warmest Octobers, only three times was February colder than normal. The numbers just don’t back this tale.

We then looked into “For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall in winter.” For this, we went to DuBois and searched records from 1980 to 1996. In those seventeen years, only twice did this prove to be true.

Another old saying is, “If a cold August follows a hot July, it foretells a winter hard and dry.” In State College, from 1892 until 2016 this trend turned out to be semi-true. However we could only find three times where a hot July was followed by a cold August.

Then there is the line that states, “A rainy October, much wind in December.” Looking at the weather patterns in Johnstown, this holds true! Out of the ten wettest Octobers, six years had above average wind speeds in December. This year was the 7th wettest October, so we’ll see what happens in a few weeks.

Now for those Woolly Worms, people have long said the width of the red band can predict the winter. If the band is wide, winter will be mild. If it is smaller, get ready for a harsh winter. Dr. Curran of New York’s Museum of Natural History spent years trying to test the theory. He proved it to be true, but since then all other studies found that this was not the case. The idea still caught on and some towns celebrate with festivals around the insect, including one in Lewisburg, PA!

This weather folklore is fun, but if you would like a more scientific approach, don’t miss Chief Meteorologist Joe Murgo’s Wintercast Monday November 14th on WTAJ News at 5:30 p.m.

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