THE 2012-2013 WEATHER PREDCTION
FROM THE WOOLLY WORM & ACCUWEATHER
Two weeks ago when my friend Mary visited me she brought with her disastrous news: the 2012-2013 winter weather will be severe.
She’d seen a wooly worm. And it was all black.
JUST WHAT IS A WOOLLY WORM?
In our neck of the woods (Southwestern Pennsylvania) the woolly worm is an autumn insect that can tell us what to expect in the coming winter weather. What we refer to as the woolly worm is more accurately called the Banded Woolly Bear, the larval stage of the moth Pyrrharctia isabella. It’s common name, woolly bear, refers to its long, thick, fur-like hairs called setae
- seta is a biological term derived from the Latin word for bristle- or hair-like structures on living organisms (setae is plural).4
The woolly bear is a copper color with varying bands of black that supposedly tell a story. This insect is found in many cold regions, including the Arctic. The banded woolly bear larva emerges from an egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form. During the winter it literally freezes solid. First its heart stops beating, then its gut freezes, then its blood, followed by the rest of the body. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues.
- A cryoprotectant is a substance that is used to protect biological tissue from freezing damage (i.e. that due to ice formation). Arctic and Antarctic insects, fish and amphibians create cryoprotectants (antifreeze compounds and antifreeze proteins) in their bodies to minimize freezing damage during cold winter periods. Insects most often use sugars or polvols as cryoprotectants… in order to be biologically viable they must (1) easily penetrate cells, and (2) not be toxic to the cell.5
When spring arrives the woolly bear thaws out, emerges to pupate—the life stage when it evolves from a larva to a moth. During this time it is protected from predators by a hard protective coating. Once the completed moth emerges from its pupa it has only days to find a mate before it dies.
It’s no wonder that I’ve never spotted a Pyrrharctia isabella. I’ll have to be on the outlook for one this next spring.
HOW TO READ THE WOOLLY BEAR (WORM) PREDICTIONS
Back to the woolly worm, (or woolly bear) and what it tells us about the upcoming winter.
The woolly bear communicates its information to us via the number and width of its black stripes. To see an all-black insect is to expect an extraordinarily hard, cold, snowy season.
THE WOOLLY BEAR PREDICTS THE 2012-2013 WINTER WEATHER
Mary’s sighting was, therefore, a warning to be prepared.
However—a few days later I spotted a woolly bear. It had two very thin stripes on each end, indicating two very short harsh periods of winter at each end of the season. Ah, I felt better, but how did it tie in with Mary’s sighting?
This week I spotted another woolly bear. It posed while I shot it as it slowly crawled across my silver sneaker that was temporarily abandoned on my back porch. It had no black stripes—zero, nil. A mild winter all the way through the season.
It seems as if the woolly bears cannot get their act together, that they are confused or don’t want us to know what’s to come.
Then I saw a map of the predicted upcoming 2012-2013 winter season for Southwestern Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the Ligonier Valley is on the line separating above normal snowfall east of us and normal weather west of us—where the blue color meets the olive color.
It seems the woolly bears can make a choice which way to predict, or they are predicting the weather on different sides of the street.
Below is the Accuweather prediction for the winter 2-12-2013 season. Note that Southwestern Pennsylvania isn’t really Mid-Atlantic (too far west) nor is it Northern US (just on the southern border):
…if Accuweather is correct this winter should be a flip of last year’s. They’re predicting The CO, UT, and the Mid-Atlantic to have above average snowfall and the Northern US and PNW to have below average snow and above average temps.
Plus they expect winter to come earlier this year than last with a lot of snow in January and February rather than the abundance of spring storms we saw last year.
But then, what do Accuweather and the wooly bear really know????
Wooly Worms Predict the 2011 PA. Winter Weather: http://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/wooly-worms-predict-the-2011-pa-winter-weather/
Accu.Weather Makes Its 2011-2012 Winter Forecast: http://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/accu-weather-makes-its-2011-2012-winter-forecast/#more-3709
Pyrrharctia isabella picture4