A lot of folklore surrounds how we can predict the winter ahead. just think right here in PA we have the most famous prognosticator in Punxsutawney Phil. Most folklore is just fun and just not true. However, there are some patterns in nature that can help us figure out what is ahead.
It has been said, “A warm October leads to a cold February” we found from our data dating back to 1948, for our area this is not true. out of the top ten warmest October’s, only three following February’s were colder than average. Last year was really off the mark, we had the third warmest October which lead to the 3rd warmest February.
One that has been said recently is that “More acorns on the ground means a harsher winter” this is actually not true.
Dr. Marc Abrams, a professor of Forest Ecology and Tree Physiology at Penn State said, “In certain irregular cycles, 2, 3, or 5 years, certain oak trees produce an abundance of acorns.”
He went on to say, “This is actually to swamp out the predators so that they can eat all the acorns they want, but there will still be a lot left over to produce seedlings next spring.”
Now for the one we hear all the time… That wooly worms or caterpillars can forecast the winter ahead. It is said that if a wooly worm has a wider red band, the winter will be milder. If it is smaller, the winter will be harsh.
Wooly worms are actually Isabella Tiger Moths, and this myth came from Dr. Curran who studied them from 1948-1956 at the New York City’s Museum of Natural History.
After his findings, this quickly caught on. However, many studies have taken place after this and no evidence has been found that they can predict what to expect for winter.