October 11, 2011

Mother Nature’s Creatures Predict Winter Weather




     A couple of weeks ago I spent a Sunday doing laundry. As I explained to my husband, if we are functioning according to Mother Nature’s dryer (the sun), and Mother Nature only provides that dryer on a Sunday, then, unfortunately, we end up doing laundry on the Lord’s Day.

     In today’s world meteorologists make use of complicated equipment, such as satellites, to forecast the weather.

     Even before this equipment was developed people had an interest in the weather. This included (and is) farmers, sailors and others, whose livelihood depended on it.

     Mother Nature provides signals used by many persons to predict upcoming weather. Today we celebrate some of these signals. Most notably, here in Pennsylvania, is Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog who predicts the weather for the final six weeks of the winter season.

     On the opposite end of the spectrum is the wooly worm, which is used during autumn to predict the severity of the upcoming winter. The 15th annual Woolly Worm Festival held in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania, predicted that the 2011-2012 winter is going to be severe with deep, deep snow.

     I wondered at the fifteen percent inaccuracy of the wooly worm. Could that percentage be reduced by counterchecking with other winter predictors? If so, what other predictors exist?


     It is said that seeing caterpillars late in the fall predicts a mild winter.** It isn’t late fall yet, but I haven’t seen other caterpillars. However, I haven’t been looking, either.

     Americans watch hornets to predict upcoming winter weather. An American saying states When hornets build nests near the ground a harsh winter is expected.** Does anyone want to check the hornet nests? I certainly don’t. Ouch!

     Moving away from insects, the behavior and characteristics of some mammals and rodents are also reputed to be winter weather predictors.

      As I sat on my patio reading the newspaper and working on posts on my laptop, I observed squirrels scooting about. I’ve read that the plushness of the squirrel tail and the degree of food storage it plans are indicators of the severity of the winter—the more plush and the more acorns indicate more severe winter weather.

     The squirrel is easy to observe. Rabbits can be observed easily, too. Are they fat in October and November? The fatter they are, the worse the winter weather-will be—expect it to be longer and colder.***

     The Koyukon Indians from Chalkyitsik predict winter’s snowfall is predicted by measuring the width of the footprints of snowshoe hares. Wide footprints in the fall indicate extra-furry hind feet, signaling heavy snowfalls to come.*

   Also observe the pigs and how they gather straw and leaves. The more they collect, the worse the upcoming winter season will be.***

     Mole holes are less observable. However, the depth of the hole they dig indicates the severity of an upcoming winter: a one-foot deep hole—mild; a two-foot deep hole, less mild, and a two-and-a-half foot hole—expect severe weather.***

     Are you willing to measure the depth of the mole hole? If so, let me know what the measurement is.

     We have black bears here in the Appalachian Mountain foothills—where I live, albeit in the northern end of the mountain chain. And yes, I’ve been visited by the black bear on numerous occasions.

     Kutchin Indians predict the severity of a coming winter by examining the black bear’s hibernation site. Prior to a mild winter, the bears will make their sleeping places close to the den opening; if a cold winter is ahead, bears will sleep far away from the opening.*

     Who will volunteer to find a black bear den to test this? Not I.

     Then there are indicators from the waterways. There was an Indian who trapped fish in the Black River country for about 70 years. The old man set fish traps on creeks and noticed each fall he would catch fish earlier during years when the creeks froze up early. When there was a late freeze-up, the fish came out later than usual.*

     Conclusion: if you want indicators of the severity of the coming winter watch Mother Nature’s critters carefully: it’s likely they will provide clues.

To read more on the wooly worm click on Wooly Worms Predict the 2011 PA. Winter Weather







Punxsutawney Phil 2011: How Much More Winter?

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1 Comment »

  1. hello today is a wonderful day

    Comment by fsndmk;dfmkdsn — February 1, 2012 @ 11:22 am | Reply

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