’Country wisdom’ predicts lots of snow
By Amy L. Ashbridge
Can a caterpillar be trusted?
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the woolly bear caterpillar’s reddish-brown and black segments can predict how tough the winter will be.
"According to legend, the wider that middle brown section is, the milder the coming winter will be," the almanac’s website said. "Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter."
The brown usually indicates the amount of snow the winter will bring, while the black shows the cold, said Frank Ward, a weather ob[an error occurred while processing this directive]server in Walton for the National Weather Service.
Ward is also an earth science teacher at Walton Central School. He said there isn’t scientific evidence for the woolly bears, but there is folklore.
"What I’ve seen this year is a lot of brown," Ward said Thursday of the woolly bears.
He said if someone is using folklore to predict the weather, a mainly brown woolly bear could foretell a snowy winter.
Caterpillars aren’t the only animals that may predict wintry weather, Ward said.
He said gray squirrels and wasps also have tendencies that people watch.
Gray squirrels tend to get bushy tails before a heavy winter, and wasps build their nests high in trees, Ward said.He said he hadn’t seen any squirrels this year, but the wasps had been constructing nests fairly high.
Summer weather can also predict the winter, Ward said.
The number of foggy days during the summer can indicate the number of snowy days in winter, he said.
Last year, Ward said, foggy days only outnumbered snowy days by three.
"We had an awful lot of foggy days in September," Ward said.
The type of weather in the summer temperature and precipitation can predict the same things in the winter, he said.
"A hot, dry summer means a cold, wet winter," Ward said.
"According to all the old tales, we’re supposed to have a snowy winter," he said. "All the things say we’re going to get it."
Nature has a way of taking care of itself and animals, said Ladis Stockton in Oxford.
Stockton is a master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County but said she wasn’t speaking on behalf of the extension because what she observed was "country wisdom" and not science.
Apple and nut crops have been heavy this year, Stockton said.
"That usually means we’re going to be colder than normal and have more snow than normal," she said.
Corn husks had also been thick, Stockton said, which some say can predict cold weather with more snow early in the winter.
Thicker husks protect the corn, she said. Lots of nuts and apples give animals something to eat during cold, winter months, Stockton said.
"That’s really because of nature providing for the animals," she said.
Stockton said she’d only seen one woolly bear this year, and it was "very, very woolly" and deep brownish in color.
Farmer Patty Brunner in Hartwick said she hadn’t seen many woolly bears so far this year.
"I don’t put a whole lot of faith in it," Brunner said. "We get what we get."
The woolly bear and its two-toned stripes may be right, depending on who you ask.
According to the annual weather summary in the Old Farmer’s Almanac, winter will be colder than normal, with more snow than usual.
The coldest temperatures will be in the middle of December and in mid- and late January, the almanac’s website said.
Temperatures may be 7 or 8 degrees below normal, the website said.
Most of the snow will also come during December and January, it said.
November and March will have temperatures that are close to normal, the almanac’s website said, and February will be mild.
Even though March could have normal temperatures, according to the almanac, heavy snow may fall early that month.
Reports from the almanac are about 80 percent accurate, according to a news release.
The woolly bear is usually about 70 percent accurate in predicting winter weather, the almanac’s website said.
Brian Lovejoy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton, said it’s hard to predict weather patterns this far away from winter.
Climate predictions were only available as far as November and December, he said Thursday.
"For temperature, it’s supposed to be average," Lovejoy said. "For precipitation, it’s also supposed to be average."
Precipitation includes rain and snow.
Lovejoy said he didn’t look at woolly bears in his spare time and didn’t know how accurate the almanac was.
"I don’t ever read it," Lovejoy said. "I don’t take any real stock in any of that stuff."
He added, "I’ve never seen anything that’s going to predict this stuff accurately."
Amy Ashbridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 432-1000, Ext. 213 or (800) 721-1000, Ext. 213.